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Public Relations vs Lobbying: Understanding the difference

lobbying-1Public relations, lobbying, public affairs, and communications consulting –terms that can be efficiently used to describe businesses that are considered relative in scope. Although many believe that the work of a public relations agency and a lobbyist is the same; in reality they are two different areas. Since there is a fine line between them, it is crucial to realise the differentiating factors and understand them.

What is lobbying

Lobbying is defined as the process to influence an elected official on a public policy matter. It has been observed that lobbyists work directly with the elected officials and their staff to conceptualise, create and promote the passage of legislation at domestic, state and federal levels.

One can say that lobbyists are professionals who work for a series of customers on in-house employees of a non-profit, labour union, corporation, trade association or any other interest group. Volunteers can also be lobbyists who support a specific issue and spend time to advocate it.

Lobbying is highly regulated while the activities are tracked and carefully managed. There are particular laws that the lobbyists need to report their actions.

prWhat is Public Relations

Considered as a broad term, PR is described as a profession that stresses upon the use of different communication mediums to attain different targets for clients. A PR firm is likely to promote products or services (often referred to as marketing communication) to share information about the performance of an enterprise to its employees, build brand awareness to benefit the stakeholders, both external and internal.

A public relations agency leverages a series of tactics and tools to attain the goals of a brand/business/individual leveraging earned and paid media, social media and other variants of digital communications, etc.

A PR firm bears great resemblance to a marketing agency, although it isn’t directly engaged in the product sale. It focusses more upon boosting the image of a brand/business. For instance, a marketing professional helps a fast food company to boost sales, a public relations agency helps a business maintain its positive image. While PR and marketing are driven by the aim to secure more clients, a top PR agency emphasises upon the company instead of its products/services.

public-relations-vs-lobbyingWhy PR and lobbying is treated as same

One of the most common reason why PR and lobbying are often confused is because of many practitioners from both the domain work in close coordination with each other. It has been seen that when PR practitioners work on behalf of their client’s company, the line between the functioning of a PR firm and a lobbyist gets blurred.

This is one of the reasons why PR pros face scrutiny and specific laws are being developed so that it helps the companies collaborate with PR firms and lobbyists. Although their jobs are believed to be similar, both aims to meet different targets.

Also Read: How Public Relations will look like by 2020

1 Comment
  1. I would say that lobbying is a fast-growing field that is closely connected to PR, for the role of a lobbyist is to influence legislators, using the art of persuasion, on behalf of an organization’s point of view on various issues. Lobbyists aim to influence the policy making of the institutions to produce policies and legislation that are beneficial to their employers. 

    Since lobbying is about communicating with policy-makers, it is always beneficial to familiarize oneself with the political scene.

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