Lobbying must highlight its ‘purpose’ credentials to attract a new generation

Google ‘public affairs’ in the news and see what you get back. Now Google ‘lobbying’ in the news and compare the two.

Call yourself a lobbyist - and be proud of it, writes Naomi Harris
Call yourself a lobbyist - and be proud of it, writes Naomi Harris

Your first search will bring you articles about hires and mergers, mainly in the trade press, while your second will give you articles about ‘dark arts’ and cynical deregulation, from across the world.

Let’s face it, we lobbyists have an image problem – and it is having more of an impact than we recognise.

If people generally do not think well of lobbyists, the market for our services will be constrained and new, talented people will be discouraged from working in our industry.

You may say to yourself: ‘So what? Lobbying is such an outdated word and does not reflect what I do, so it does not matter. I’m a public affairs professional.’

But people see through this ruse. If you work in public affairs, much of the time you are a lobbyist.

We have to listen to what people are saying about us and face up to the challenge. This is the advice we would give to a client if they were in a similar situation.

The real answer is to be proud of being a lobbyist, and to stick up for the good that lobbying can do.

Yes, we help businesses break into new markets and increase their market shares. And yes, we have helped raise our clients’ profiles.

But our jobs have purpose beyond profit.

Lobbying can contribute positively to society, the environment and business. Lobbyists have helped to increase competition in markets and reduce bills.

We have enhanced regulation to defend the most vulnerable from being ripped off and we have promoted policies to protect the environment.

Lobbying is also fascinating work.

The people you get to work with are interesting and fun. If you are asked what you do at a party and you say you are a lobbyist, you will get a reaction and the opportunity to talk about what you do.

Accountants and lawyers do not get the same response.

So be proud to call yourself a lobbyist and prepared talk about the value we create. We are worth the effort.

Naomi Harris is a director at WA Communications

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