Many posts have discussed non-lobbying lobbying, or unlobbying. Thomas Edsall writes at The New York Times:
If you look at the numbers, it may seem that lobbying is in decline, but it isn’t; it’s just taking different forms. What was once straightforward lobbying has become, in effect, a full service PR-advertising-social media operation, very little of which is covered by federal regulation.
In a field buffeted by the economic meltdown of 2008, the current legislative standstill on Capitol Hill, the emergence of high-tech competitors and the passage of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (which subjects registered lobbyists to a stringent regulatory regime including the threat of criminal sanctions and prison time), this shift in the influence industry poses a broader question. Are the days of the glad-handing lobbyist, carrying an envelope of PAC checks and the proposed wording of a client’s legislative amendment, numbered?
Carter Eskew, a founding partner of the Glover Park Group, which lobbies and provides a host of other services to clients, raised this question in a conversation with me.
Looking to future sources of new revenue, Eskew has concluded that “ ‘relationship lobbying’ is dead, or at least not where the growth will be.” The traditional lobbyist, he argues, is no longer the éminence grise of days past but instead has been reduced to serving as a conduit for campaign contributions from corporate and trade association PACs to candidates.These comments overstate the case. On many low-profile or technical issues, traditional lobbying is essential. Lobbyists spend a great deal of time dealing with staffers or executive-branch officials about the fine print of obscure laws or rules. These efforts usually do not involve PR campaigns but instead depend on the knowledge and expertise of the lobbyists.
Still, the article makes good points about the new world of public affairs, which now encompasses social media.
Ed Rogers, who worked on the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, is currently a registered lobbyist and chairman of the BGR Group (formerly Barbour Griffith & Rogers). BGR, in addition to straightforward lobbying, has a web-based practice and a public relations arm. Rogers noted in an interview that the Internet is changing the nature of lobbying. Now “it’s essential to manage the Google hole, what’s Google got about you, you have to inject content, enhance the good and dilute the bad.” The same assertive approach, Rogers argues, applies to YouTube videos and Wikipedia entries.