It comes plain and simple: lobbying never gives a brand, individual or organisation a great reputation. Evidently, it’s the word itself that pushes forth a connotation of manipulation and lies. So instead of encouraging distaste and mistrust within their publics, ‘the vast majority of practitioners…are conducting public affairs, rather than lobbying as a single public affairs technique’ (Köppl & Wippersberg 2014, p.34).
Although distasteful to much of a nation’s public, it is evident however that ‘lobbying is a very important component in the overall [Public Affairs Government Relations] activity’ (Baysinger & Woodman 1982, p.32). Globally the use of public affairs, government relations or lobbying (whichever is your most preferred word relating to this profession) is painstakingly evident and has successfully supported and propelled organisations into a greater stratosphere of recognition and popularity, both components being vitally important in influencing legislation within government.
A public affairs and/or public relations organisation that successfully displays the potential of a PR campaign is Faiss Foley Warren Public Relations & Government Affairs, who ‘took client Pardee Homes’ Project Playhouse fundraising campaign to another level’ (McGarry 2011) in 2011 by integrating media relations into their campaign. By integrating this accessible medium as a means of communication, Faiss Foley Warren helped their client garner ‘1,515 hits on YouTube. Pardee Homes’ Facebook fans jumped from 146 to 1,047 Project Playhouse has raised $50,000 for HomeAid Southern Nevada since 2007 $26,000 of which was raised [in 2011]’ (2011).
It is obvious enough that media relations and public affairs happily travel down the same road to reach the best result, unfortunately however is the time it is taking for countries across the globe to reach this realisation. Although ‘today’s public affairs activity differs significantly from the traditional lobbying and public affairs activities of the past’ (Baysinger & Woodman 1982, p.40), it is still in primary stages across the globe and within the minds and opinions of the public whose attitude toward lobbying specifically is still quite distasteful. It is thanks (arguably) to this apprehension toward public affairs that legislation surrounding the newly legal requirement to register your public affairs firm on official public record has begun. By introducing registration requirements, greater trust has been built by ‘separating actors and establishing different levels of transparency’ (Köppl & Wippersberg 2014, p.36).Transparency of course, is key to appealing to the minds and trust of publics, and the best means of communication to reaching and maintaining relationships built on trust and confidence is through media relations.
Adams (Adams 1995, p.8) documents the value of media relations within public relations and specifically public affairs campaigns, stating:
‘If today’s public affairs officers don’t think the news media play a crucial role in the success of their programs, they’d need only be reminded of numerous cases where companies either misunderstood or underestimated the media’s importance or simply didn’t care, whether because of corporate culture or a total reliance on “old breed” lobbying methods’.
Although you cannot manipulate the media or journalists to meet your needs to interests, it must always be remembered that ‘high visibility can have a wildfire effect on legislation’ (1995, p.8) whether it be controlled or uncontrolled mediums. The value of such power and traction within your desired publics can arguably make the risks calculated enough for comfort. Six important steps in gaining traction via media relations are; 1. ‘assess your organizational culture/structure’, 2. ‘assess and understand the news media’, 3. ‘train your management and other spokespeople’, 4. ‘establish your organisation’s source credibility by developing informative and relevant background materials’, 5. ‘establish accessibility and visibility of management and other spokespersons’, and 6. ‘establish feedback for your program’ (1995, p.9).
Although seemingly common sense to many of us, these steps as recommended by Adams (1995) show how important arranging the foundations of a communication plan or campaign are in successfully executing media relations and developing mutually beneficial relationships within the media and your desired publics.