Freedom of speech has always been important to the American people, especially as its a way we communicate to our elected officials what we think is working and what we think is not. One way we make our voices known is often by lobbying. Although in recent years, lobbying has been looked down on, it’s an important tool to let our elected officials know what we want to see put into action. It can also add a measure of fairness by letting minority voices be heard, despite the majority’s influence. In some cases, it can bring injustice to light. Even companies use it, especially those that need government relations work or crisis communications. Often transportation, public safety, banking, or other areas heavily regulated by the government tend to have lobbyists.
What is Lobbying?
Lobbying is simply a group of people trying to sway decisions that are made by government officials, especially ones that pass or decide on laws and people who work in agencies that regulate a sector of business or public affairs. It can be as organized as a corporation using a lobbying firm to advocacy groups who are few in number, but have strong convictions. They can often be part of the government official’s constituency, but often may be in the opposing constituency. Indeed, in 2013, there were over 12,000 lobbyists who actively lobbied and were unique (not part of the same group) and registered.
And, strange as it may seem, governments can often regulate influential group lobbying — there are always a few groups that are ever present.
What Are Lobbying Firms?
Lobbying firms are companies that specialize in a certain area. For proper compensation, they represent clients to lawmakers and government officials who regulate policy or agencies. For example, in 2014, pharmaceutical and health products led industries in the most spent in lobbying costs. They spent over $230 million, with business associations and insurance companies coming in second and third place. Many of these pharmaceutical companies probably paid lobbying firms to take care of their business, instead of sending representatives themselves. The National Association of Realtors and Blue Cross/Blue Shield spent over $55 million and $20 million respectively on their lobbying costs that year.
Interestingly, also in 2014, The Center for Responsive Politics released a report that showed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent the most on lobbying costs with almost $125 million spent!
The line often gets blurred between lobbying firms and public affairs firms. However, lobbying firms usually have a narrower vision and end goal than public affairs or public relations firms. In some cases though, a lobbying firm can be a subdivision of a larger public relations firm and they work closely together. Generally speaking though, lobbying generally focuses on government relations, while public relations often branches out to different businesses and associations.
Hiring a lobbying firm could be a great move for your business or advocacy group, especially if you feel strongly and need the manpower of a whole firm behind your cause. Although they may cost a bit more to hire, they’re sure to be worth it, especially if you feel underrepresented or like your voice isn’t being heard.