Category Archives: Lobbying

Call for papers

A special issue of Journal of Public Affairs is in the making. Please see the call.

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Framing “the Public Interest”

We have just completed a successful post conference on lobbying and democracy at ICA in Prague, when the first result of our common project in the network on public affairs and lobbying in EUPRERA hits the streets. We aimed to create a good fit between the journal name (Journal of Public Interest Communications) and the paper title (“Framing ‘the Public Interest’: Comparing Public Lobbying Campaigns in Four European States“). Working with a great team of scholars on this: Ketil Raknes, Ian Somerville, Chiara Valentini, Charlotte Stachel, Irina Lock, Scott Davidson, and Peter Seele, we empirically corroborate the claim that lobbyists appeal to the public interest to strengthen their proposals. Four case studies are used, cutting across different European cultural clusters and political systems.

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Lobbying and Democracy

What is the role of communication in relation to lobbying and democracy? Will be putting together a postconference at the 2018 conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) in Prague. A CFP is issued with a deadline of December 15 for abstract submission. The best papers from the conference will appear in a special issue of Journal of Public Affairs. The postconference is sponsored by The Department of Marketing Communication and PR, Charles University in Prague; The Public Diplomacy Interest Group of ICA (main ICA sponsor); The Public Relations Division of ICA, The Political Communication Division of ICA; and The Network for Public affairs and Lobbying of the European Public Relations Research and Education Association (EUPRERA).

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Lobbying and democracy

Next year, the International Communication Association (ICA) will be in Prague. A post-conference on lobbying and democracy was approved today. A call for papers will be issued in due time. The post-conference is sponsored by the Department of Marketing Communication and PR, Charles University in Prague; the Public Diplomacy Interest Group of ICA, as well as Public Relations Division and the Political Communication Division of ICA, and the Network for Public affairs and Lobbying of the European Public Relations Research and Education Association (EUPRERA).

Organizations that conduct lobbying include business associations, companies, non- governmental organizations (NGOs), public affairs consultancies, labour unions and foundations. Since they are trying to shape public policy without running for office, this have important normative implications for how democratic systems function. How does this influence the one-person-one-vote democratic principle?

Critics often question the contribution to democracy, and whether or not lobbying is yet another tool for society’s most resourceful. Research on lobbying has produced a number of tomes that shed light on the importance of, for instance, lobbyists’ resources and their use of different tactics (e.g., Baumgartner & Leech, 1998; Berry, 1977; Chari, Hogan, & Murphy, 2010/2012; Drutman, 2015; Heinz, Laumann, Nelson, & Salisbury, 1993; Nownes, 2006). A conclusion from the research is that financial resources and human capital are important components for organizations and their ability to succeed with lobbying efforts.

With a few noteworthy exceptions, however (e.g., Baumgartner, Berry, Hojnacki, Kimball, & Leech, 2009; Godwin, Ainsworth, & Godwin, 2013), there has been little attention devoted to how lobbyists actually communicate. Thus, this post-conference invites contributions addressing the topic of lobbying and democracy, and the role communication plays in this regard.

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San Diego O’Hoy!


Setting sails for San Diego in May. Got two papers and a panel accepted. The first of the papers has Alex Buhmann (BI – Norwegian Business School) as lead author and is a review of how Habermas has been used in public relations over the years. Two crucial points emanate: First, the work of Habermas has much unused analytical potential, specifically with regards to issues of public deliberation and legitimacy in public relations. Second, there are few references to his newer publications something that suggests that public relations scholars are missing out on crucial turns in the theories of Habermas.

The second paper and the panel focus on lobbying. The paper is written together with Ketil Raknes (Kristiania U College) and continues our work on rhetorical lobbying strategies relying on appeals to the common good. The panel uses framing theory to zone in on the challenge organizations that lobby in the public domain face: Why should anyone care for their private interests? The typical strategy is to argue that the latter matches the public’s interests. Everyone is better off if the lobbyist’s proposal is accepted.

The panel I am chairing consists of the following contributions:

  • Defining the Public Interest Ketil Raknes; Kristiania U College, Norway
  • When “Public Interest” Co-Matches “Private Benefits:” The Peculiar Interplay between Part-Time Politicians and Vested Interests in Switzerland’s Direct Democracy  Irina Lock & Peter Seele; Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland
  •  Democracy, Pluralism and Political Discourse: Lobbying and the Public Interest Ian Somerville & Scott Davidson; University of Leicester, UK
  • How Do Organizations Discursively Frame Community Issues Through Lobbying Campaigns? – An Italian Case Study Chiara Valentini; Aarhus U, Denmark

Dejan Vercic from the U of Ljubljana, Slovenia has graciously accepted to be a respondent.

Buhmann, A., & Ihlen, Ø. (2017, May). The fate of Habermas’ theory in public relations: A quantitative review of three decades of public relations research. Paper presented at the 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, San Diego, US.

Ihlen, Ø., & Raknes, K. (2017, May). “Everyone will be better off”: Rhetorical strategies in public lobbying campaigns. Paper presented at the 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, San Diego, US.


ICA is on

Lobbyism is one of the most contentious practices within the larger field of public relations, regularly attracting media scorn. At the same time, scholars have called for more research that develops ethical and societal perspectives on lobbying. Today, in Fukuoka in Japan, Melissa Dodd, Magda Piezcka, Ketil Raknes and myself presented a panel unpacking the arguments regarding the place of lobbying within public relations and democratic societies. Great fun!

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