Washington Spending on Public Affairs to Outpace Government Relations

Traditional Advocacy Vital but Value of Non-Traditional Tools Surge

Please click here to read the 2016 Washington Insiders Survey.

November 3, 2016 (WASHINGTON) – For the second year in a row, Washington Insiders’ say that they anticipate more rapid growth in spending on “public affairs” — digital, grassroots/grass tops and public/media relations — than on “government relations” — direct lobbying, advocacy advertising, and political contributions, according to the second annual Washington Insider survey released today by Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications (RBSC). The survey of 202 Washington Insiders was conducted by the Prime Group from Oct. 5 – Oct 15, 2016 and designed to gauge the trends in current and anticipated Washington public affairs spending.

“There is an increased demand for integrated public affairs programs that incorporate traditional government relations along with public relations, grassroots and digital components,” said Larry Rasky, chairman and CEO of Rasky Baerlein.  “These findings are an important barometer as Washington readies itself for post-election activity and 2017.”

Among the key findings:

  • Washington Insiders anticipate greater growth in spending on digital tools and public/media relations than traditional government relations in 2017. In fact, over 40 percent of Washington insiders will divert their public affairs spending away from traditional non digital activities to fund digital advocacy areas.
  • Increased use of social media, digital/technology capabilities, and grassroots efforts are the three most often mentioned trends anticipated over the next five years.
  • Traditional government relations continues to be seen as the most cost-effective way to impact public policymaking at the federal level, though down by 11 percentage points (85 percent to 74 percent) while advocacy advertising is expected to increase in importance by 8 percentage points over last year.
  • Forty percent (40%) of Washington Insiders believe that 2017 will likely see Congressional action on infrastructure legislation, 22 percent on Merrick Garland’s nomination and only 8 percent expect action on tax reform.

“Washington Insiders are adapting to a new public affairs environment,” said Greg Schneiders, Founder and CEO, Prime Group.  “It should not be a surprise that they are reallocating resources to achieve their public policy objectives.”

Congress is slated to return to Washington the week after next week’s election in order to tackle remaining to do items during the end of year “lame duck” session and gear up for the incoming new administration. The survey found that a majority of respondents believe that Congress will pass spending legislation but accomplish little else.

For purposes of the survey advocacy areas were defined as: congressional and executive branch lobbying; public and media relations; PAC spending and other political contributions; grassroots and grass tops; and advocacy advertising.  Washington Insiders are lawyers, lobbyists, association executives, academics and think tank experts involved in politics and public policy who serve as proxies for current policy makers.  The first survey was conducted in October 2015.