Public affairs and lobbying 1. WHAT IS PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND WHO ENGAGES IN IT? IS IT THE SAME THING AS LOBBYING? Public affairs is a term used to describe an organisation’s relationship with stakeholders, it is a combination of media monitoring and thorough research. Practitioners can work either ‘in house’ for a company, as an advisor for a political consultancy working with a number of clients, for a trade association or union, a political or issues based organisation (interest or pressure groups) or for a government agency.
Public affairs, also known as lobbying or government affairs, is the process of making a combined effort designed to achieve some political result, usually from government agencies in producing legislation. It could also apply to raising the profile of a particular cause, or getting the go-ahead for a major project. 2. WHAT ARE ‘LANGUAGE FRAMES’, ‘NARRATIVES’ AND ‘DISCOURSES’ IN THE POLICY SPHERE? WHY SHOULD PUBLIC AFFAIRS PRACTITIONERS PAY ATTENTION TO THESE CONCEPTS.? Public practitioners should pay attention to these concepts as they are all communication related techniques.
It is in reality storytelling, the art of communicating the message you wish to convey. For lobbyists to frame the language used to make their policies appeal more significant, the narrative used is an account, report, or story, of events and the discourse is choice of appropriate vocabulary, tone and level of formality in a given situation. Lobbyists frame messages in such a way as to achieve certain focus. ‘lobbyists attempt to focus attention on issues, facts, and appeals that will lead to acceptance of their client’s point of view’ (Grunig and Hunt, 1984).
Public affairs practitioners should pay attention to these concepts as strategic storytelling makes messages memorable, and give lasting impact. Lobbyists need the element of persuasion, fact wrapped in an emotion. Representatives of the global foods industry and environmental activist groups during introduction of genetically modified food crops; these parties used competing versions of what was essentially the same narratives to gain the support of regulators and the public at large in the various market and non-market arenas in which these groups compete.
As two American observers of lobbying put it, ‘The public-affairs profession is engaged in the development, creation, packaging and marketing of ideas and opinions, rather than products or services’ (Berkowitz and Feulner,1996). 3. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY LOBBYING SCANDELS SINCE THE 1990’S IN BRITISH POLITICS. SHOULD LOBBYISTS IN THE UK AND IRELAND BE MORE TIGHTLY CONTROLLED? WOULD YOU FAVOUR STATUTORY REGULATION SIMILAR TO THAT WHICH EXISTS IN THE US FOR THE UK AND IRISH LOBBYING INDUSTRIES? EXPLAIN THE REASONS FOR YOUR VIEW?
In Westminster, Stormont and the Dial; the current situation of self-regulation must be made more effective and the introduction of more rigorous scrutiny and external validation. A lobbyist is an activist usually paid by an interest group to promote their positions to assemblies. A lobbyist can also work to change public opinion through advertising campaigns or by influencing ‘opinion leaders’ or authorities, thus creating a climate for the change that his or her employer desires. Government policy has proven through the many scandals have to be heavily shaped by money, and not the vote.
It is very easy for a lobbyist to stray into bribery – the most direct way to influence legislation, obviously, is to bribe enough law makers to ensure that the bill you support passes. In the US for the most part, lobbyists and lobbying are heavily regulated, any kind of a suspicion of the sale of legislation or the sale of influence will become a potentially detrimental issue for any of the public officials who are involved; so much so that a member of congress can and has been jailed.
San Diego, California, Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham was sentenced to more than eight years for conspiracy to commit bribery and several other charges. He took favors from a defense contractor, including a yacht to live aboard in Washington. 4. IN RESPONSE TO THE FUEL PRICE CAMPAIGN OF 2000 TONY BLAIR SAID “NO GOVERNMENT, INDEED NO COUNTRY CAN RETAIN CREDIBILITY IN ITS DEMOCRATIC PROCESS OR ITS ECONOMIC POLICY-MAKING WERE IT TO GIVE IN TO SUCH PROTESTS. ” IS PRESSURE GROUP-GRASS ROOTS CAMPAIGNING A LEGITIMATE PUBLIC AFFAIRS ACTIVITY?
SHOULD GOVERNMENT CHANGE POLICIES BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE PROTEST ABOUT THEM? Grassroots advocacy is the engagement of people (citizens, supporters, members) in campaigning efforts. Grassroots advocacy is also referred to as grassroots lobbying to distinguish it from direct lobbying, which is the act of meeting directly with elected officials and their staff, often using professional lobbyists. Grassroots advocacy is an extremely important component in achieving the goals of a group’s issue campaign. It communicates to elected officials the issue positions taken by their own constituents.
A “group” can be an association, union, advocacy organization, business chamber, or simply a community of people who share the same goals. At the very heart of a democratic public sphere is a media system that is independent of government control and is both free and plural. Extracts from The New Standard. Mar. 21, 2006 – Frustrated by what some see as the government’s inaction on the Darfur genocide, a growing grassroots movement is pressuring the White House and Congress to do more to prevent further atrocities.
From Portland, Oregon to Nashville, Tennessee, dozens of non-profit, faith-based, and student groups have launched public awareness campaigns about the Sudanese government-backed, ethnically polarized violence. In addition to pushing government and educational institutions to wield their economic leverage by divesting their funds from Sudan, some call on policymakers to fund and orchestrate international military intervention in the war-torn region.
Activists say that the current crisis in Darfur is an opportunity for the US to respond decisively to genocide before its too late – in contrast to the massive Rwandan genocide of the 1990s. Alex Meixner, legislative coordinator for the Save Darfur Coalition, said: “I’d like to think this is the first step toward the US being quickly responsible to these events as they’re happening and not just afterwards. Grassroots lobbying is growing in the United States, but it’s certainly not a new phenomenon. Today, the term mostly refers to community activists who are pushing for political and social change without the support that larger political groups usually have. Grassroots can also attempt to transform the policy and practice of information and communication media around the world. The governments should listen to the views of the people.