Skip links


Lobbying: Getting Voices Heard

As some PR students approach graduation, finding a job becomes a top priority, but have they considered all jobs involving PR? Lobbying is a job that people don’t often link to the PR profession; however, lobbying creates a whole new world of possibilities for PR students and professionals looking for the right career.

The word “lobbyist” seems to frighten many people, but most of these professionals get their start practicing public relations. A simple definition of lobbyist from USLegal Definitions is “someone who seeks to promote, oppose, or otherwise influence the outcome of a decisionmaker.” Lobbying incorporates many of the same traits as public relations. In order to become a lobbyist, one must build the communication skills required to represent a group’s or an individual’s causes. For lobbyists, meeting and talking to new people are daily occurrences, and making contacts is a must. Knowing the right person helps a lobbyist meet the right legislator who wants to push his cause in Congress.

Lobbyists present information during legislative sessions on the benefits of certain bills favorable to the company or organization that hired them. However, many people may not notice the results that lobbyists achieve while on Capitol Hill.

According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Toyota currently uses its large lobbying team to assist in damage control. The car company hired more lobbyists to assist the 32 already working with legislators, and their efforts appear to be paying off.

With more lobbying in Washington, D.C., Toyota saved millions on recall efforts. The article states, “… company officials boasted of saving more than $100 million on recall and safety efforts by the government, internal documents show. The documents reviewed by the Associated Press list savings achieved by putting off safety regulations, avoiding investigations of defects and slowing industry mandates.”

While these efforts may not seem to be ethical and have come back to hurt the company’s reputation, a lobbying team for a large company, such as Toyota, can save money and work to the company’s advantage.

As Toyota uses its lobbying efforts to slow down legislation on Capitol Hill, lobbyists generally seem to have a reputation of being unethical while other professionals receive little criticism. Obviously, there will be some people in every profession with an unethical mind-set, but what makes lobbying the target for most criticism? Large fees and unethical practices could be to blame, but some organizations use their lobbying for the greater good.

In an article titled “Lobbying for Good,” Mary Pftizer and Kyle Peterson highlight ways that some corporations are using lobbying to make changes, and they are seeing results.Mary Kay Inc. is one of the organizations mentioned in the article that used lobbying to influence the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2006.

Pftizer and Peterson go on to say that because Mary Kay is a corporation, it is better equipped with the tools and skills to make changes, unlike nonprofits. The article states, “Corporations need to forge tighter relationships with nonprofits. One of the problems with many corporate-nonprofit relationships is that companies simply donate money and then outsource the problem solving to the nonprofits.”

For the most part, lobbyists are very expensive to hire. With large companies paying millions per year to have their voices heard by legislators, nonprofits have a hard time paying the steep costs for experienced lobbyists.

Recently, Dan Eggen’s article in The Washington Post featured a man who is trying to give a voice to people who need to be heard but can’t afford an expensive lobbying firm. Paul Kanitra founded Keys to the Capitol, a lobbying firm more concerned with the cause instead of the paycheck.

The firm provides “basic and transparent services starting at just $995 per month,” according to the Keys to the Capitol website. “Our entire practice is structured to provide a voice to those who have been silent for too long.”

Kanitra doesn’t make the average lobbyist’s salary, but he doesn’t mind. He has only had nine clients so far during a “soft launch” phase, but is hoping to become a full-scale lobbying and public relations firm.

With groups such as Keys to the Capitol attempting to change lobbying in D.C., lobbyists could earn a better reputation. It only takes a few to give a bad name for all, but with the right mind-set and ethical practices, lobbying will not disappoint PR professionals and citizens who once thought of lobbying as something to fear.

Return to top of page