Public relations and lobbying mix for success
Northern Nevada firms that combine the craft of public relations with the art of influencing lawmakers from city halls to national capitols say their business is growing rapidly.
While the mix of PR and lobbying isn’t for everyone some public relations professionals specifically avoid public affairs work it’s a powerful combination for companies that pursue the combination.
In fact, R&R Partners looks to its strengths in public relations and advertising as a significant competitive advantages as it ramps up a lobbying operation in Washington, D.C., says Pete Ernaut, the Reno-based president of the agency’s government and public affairs division.
Most of the firm’s competitors, he notes, are rooted in law firms or are stand-alone public affairs firms. R&R will pitch its national public affairs work as a one-stop shop that can bring a unified message to numerous audiences.
“We’re on the cutting edge of where this is headed,” Ernaut says.
Already, R&R has posted 300 percent growth over the past three years with statehouse lobbying operations in Arizona, Utah and Nevada.
Reno’s Innerwest Advertising & Public Relations and the public-affairs firm IW Strategies two affiliated, but separate firms have seen “unbelievable” growth on both sides of the business in the past two years, says Innerwest President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Morgan.
Much of the growth, he says, came from the companies’ abilities to offer wider palette of services to clients who want to simultaneously shape public opinion and win the approval of lawmakers.
“If we can convert an advertising client to an IW Strategies client, it makes a lot of sense,” Morgan says. “Both businesses are all about relationships. They’re professional services businesses.”
In fact, he expects the two companies to maintain parallel growth tracks as IW Strategies President Chris Barrett also generates advertising and PR clients for Innerwest.
Rose-Glenn Group, another company that works in both fields, focuses its efforts on local issues, largely those involving land-use decisions.
“Being involved in public affairs has been an integral part of our business as it related to helping developers get through the public process,” says Valerie Glenn, chairman, president and CEO of the Reno-based firm.
She calls the firm’s work “balancing the room” an effort to let members of city councils and county commissions know that there are two sides to an issue.
And commonly, she says, the public affairs work leads to advertising or public relations contracts with the agency.
“For the past eight or 10 years, it’s been a very integral part of our business with some of our clients,” says Glenn.
While R&R has operated in the public-affairs arena since its founding more than 30 years ago, it sharply increased its lobbying business in late 2004 when it purchased the consulting practice of Ernaut, a former three-term state assemblyman, as well as the Las Vegas-based lobbying firm Brown & Partners.
Its client lists ranges from Coeur d’Alene Mining Corporation and the Nevada Mining Association to the Nevada Court Reports Association and the Center for Basque Studies.
The company markets what Ernaut calls “a killer instinct” in its lobbying effort.
“We hate to lose,” he says.
The alliance of Innerwest and IW Strategies, meanwhile, developed in late 2002 when Barrett, a veteran political guru for Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and his business interests, set up shop with Morgan, a longtime friend.
IW Strategies’ client list includes Vidler Water Co., Wal-Mart, and Lennar Homes.
“We look to create a broader front for them,” says Morgan. “Businesses don’t have the time to get involved in the public-policy side of what they do.”
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