In-Person Lobbying Is Here to Stay

Updated: Jan 31

Digital advocacy has grown during the pandemic, but being in the room still matters.


By Dan Ekstein

This op-ed was first published by Roll Call on August 11, 2021. Thank you to Roll Call for distributing our thoughts.

 

More than seven months after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, added security fencing has come down. The COVID-19 pandemic continues, but congressional and executive branch offices have begun to welcome back visitors.


Despite the return to in-person meetings, there are rumblings about the demise of traditional government affairs work. A recent Public Affairs Council report said, “In-person meetings with federal policymakers will become more rare.” The council’s survey found that 54 percent of government affairs executives believe the pandemic will bring about a decline in traditional lobbying and an increase in digital advocacy.


Not so fast.


Importantly, that percentage was down 7 points, from 61 percent in 2020. There is little doubt that digital advocacy, remote fly-ins and Zoom check-ins with legislative staff are here to stay, but in-person government affairs work will still be integral to policy success. Make no mistake: Washington will soon undergo a reawakening of in-person advocacy.


Digital tools are just an introduction. Think of it this way: About 45 million Americans use dating apps. While research shows that relationships that started online are stronger, these unions did not exist only on the screen. At some point, a couple cemented their relationship over dinner and a movie because it’s rare, if not impossible, to find a committed partner using only the screen.

 

To read the full op-ed, visit Roll Call.

Dan Ekstein is partner and chief business development officer at Sagac Public Affairs, a national firm that provides high-impact communications, market research, fundraising and issue advocacy solutions to hundreds of political, nonprofit and corporate organizations. Ekstein is an advocacy industry leader in the implementation of comprehensive strategies for politicial finance operations. The firm’s clients represent more than one-third of all federal qualified funds raised each election cycle by corporate and trade association PACs.