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Evaluating the media: Is lobbying legitimate?

PR geekiness - the tools & techniques to gain insights from PR exposure

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Is lobbying legitimate?

This morning I was at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations which was hosting a practitioner's roundtable discussion on the legitimacy of lobbying. This discussion was being led by Lionel Zetter, the CIPR President elect, and from the lobbying firm Political Wizard. Central to the issue was the apparent widespread misconception of lobbists aims and methods. It is a fascinating area and one which poses particular challenges regarding its justification. How one measures success of a public affairs campaign is tied up with its objectives and whether these can be measured.

In this regard public affairs campaigns are no different to PR campaigns. In my ear I can hear ringing the comment “you are what you measure” (KD Payne), a comment which I am convinced is foreign to many in public affairs.

On a broader level the discussion dealt with the risks facing the discipline and its reputation from scandals and associated misconceptions of what the sector has to offer. There was an acknowledgement that public affairs is only an option for those with money and Andy Sawford, from Connect Public Affairs raised the point that the industry can benefit from rejecting its ‘Godfatherly’ overtones. This was followed by Donna Castle from the British Lung Foundation saying that money is often not an issue and that much can be achieved with next to no budget.

On the matter of self regulation, Simon Nayyar, from Edleman suggested that the sector could do worse than model itself on the service perception of the legal profession, where the contribution is often more highly valued.

Lionel Zetter said that we may only be one scandal away from full legislative regulation and that this would be a retrograde step. Personally I would like to uphold the comments by Donna Castle and suggest to organisations that if they have a strategy and an issue to support which they believe public affairs can contribute towards, they can achieve an awful lot themselves, irrespective of the budget.

To end I feel there is an educational message-that with basic guidance many can present an effective public affairs campaign using the tactics set out in books like ‘Public Affairs in Practice’ (Thompson and John, CIPR, 2006).


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