October 15, 2015

Public affairs and lobbying, public relations and communications consulting are all terms that are used to describe businesses that are relatively close in scope. So how do you tell them apart? We are glad you asked.


Lobbying is generally defined as “seeking to influence an elected official on a matter of public policy.” Lobbyists work directly with elected officials and their staffs to conceptualize, craft and promote (or block) the passage of legislation at the local, state or federal levels. Lobbyists can be professionals who work for a range of clients or in-house employees of a trade association, nonprofit, labor union, corporation or other interest group. Lobbyists may also be volunteers who simply feel strongly enough about a particular issue to spend time advocating for it.

Public Relations

Public relations is a very broad term describing a profession that focuses on using communication to achieve a wide variety of goals. A PR practitioner may promote products or services (also known as marketing communication), communicate about the performance of a company to its employees (internal communication), advocate for public policy (also known as public affairs … more on that later) or communicate with the investment community regarding the performance of publicly traded companies (investor relations). PR practitioners use a variety of tactics and tools to achieve their objectives including earned and paid media, social media and other forms of digital communications, staging events, coalition building and the like.

Public Affairs

Public affairs describes the interconnected disciplines of public relations and lobbying. It combines all the tools of PR – media relations, advertising, digital communications, coalition building and grassroots organization – to achieve a specific public policy objective. Such an objective could be the passage or blockage of legislation, promulgation of a regulation or issuance of a permit. Public affairs professionals work hand-in-glove with lobbyists to build public support for their client’s position. It’s often said that lobbyists work inside the building (a city hall, state capital or US Capitol), while public affairs professionals work outside the building (in the media, online and on “Main Street”), creating understanding and public support for a particular public policy decision.

At Hubbell Communications, we specialize in an array of political, reputational, and business crisis and management services. Our professional public relations team diligently serves clients across industries in establishing and executing effective campaign strategies, even in the final hour. Contact us today to set up your free consultation.