The similarities of lobbying and public relations as conceptual advocacy.


By informing people through advocacy, the similarities between public relations and lobbying become visible through the analysis of conceptual theory between the two.

After dissembling the term lobbying with the many definitions, the practice stands with tall importance as one of the oldest forms of PR in American history. Communicating for an outlet to shape legislation, lobbying as a form of advocacy helps shape the political framework and freshen the constitution on behalf of another person or organisation. It is visible that in both lobbying and public relations, there are similarities between the terms beneath the theory behind their practice, especially ‘advocacy’.

In-depth analysis of the word advocacy is portrayed to be an enactment of purposive efforts to change policy and the primacy of enacting change on behalf of others. It is also seen to be a way of publicly representing an idea to a targeted market whereby it will be implemented to look favorably upon. In my opinion, this shows that the two concepts behind the inner workings of both Lobbying and Public relations – providing the definition of ‘advocacy’ stays the same – are interchangeable. When the two concepts are broken down, they have a similar framework in regard to representation and persuasive intent.

In further analysis of linkage between lobbyist strategies to a Public relation’s practitioner, it is important to dig deep into the concept between the two practices. My first example is Broom and Smiths role models of the public relations practitioner and Burke’s seven motivational dynamics of a practitioner. When analysing both Smiths role models and Burke’s seven motivational dynamics, we see that they are enacted and personified in the process of lobbying. Visible linkages between the two are present, not only through the use of advocacy but also strategy.

My own perception of lobbying was always very simplistic. As a British student, I was not exposed to lobbying as the average American. Political diversity is so vast between the two countries, it took me two years of American politics to actually understand the more in depth process of lobbying as it is not used as much in the UK, or at least it is not as renowned by the general public. Even then, my understanding was still very condensed, therefore I would not have found similarities between public relations and lobbying.

For me, lobbying is a process whereby someone targets a particular member of governance and political policy, and tries to emit change on behalf of an organization with a particular idea. I was always led to believe that their was a financial incentive behind the process as a beneficiary to the organisation, which later when I became more educated, was not always the case. Further correlating this alongside my own view and concept behind public relations, my first thought was – How can the two be the same, when public relations has no direct audience like lobbying (Government officials) and when public relations is generally unpaid as an indirect form of uncontrolled publicity. After all, lobbying is probably one of the most controlled and planned practices when influencing a favorable opinion.

As my perception was very simplistic, I do not think that I was wrong. What I was missing was the conceptual strategy behind the two – advocacy. Now I see that both are similar in many ways. They are advocating an idea, they are advocating information that they want people to believe and associate positive connotations of. They are both creating awareness in order to influence opinion change.

The special interest group ‘mothers against drunk driving’ (MADD), will hire a lobbyist to exert influence on the government to persuade a congressman to vote or implement policy change on behalf of its members. Additional delineating of this process shows an advocacy of policy change on behalf of the members with similar interests. Now if we look at this as a corporate example by a public relations practitioner, we have British Petroleum (BP) in 2008. After a major oil spill, their ethical reputation is almost diminished. The practitioner will analyze what has happened and look at current perceptions of the public and the best way to change that perception. They will then develop a story and a media kit in order to promote why BP are not an unethical company on behalf of the organizational stakeholders. They will then use this to exert influence on the public. This advocacy will not be to implement policy or change any political framework; instead it is to change the public’s perception of the company and their ethical reputation through purposeful persuasion via a median, very similar to lobbying.

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