Transparent lobbying is part of democracy

The rules of lobbying have been mostly unwritten in Finland. The market of influencing has been mostly dominated by lobbying organisations, but in recent years the situation has been changing. PR agencies have developed their influencing services and it seems there has been growing demand for it. It has become a natural part of services the agencies offer to their clients.

The lobbying work of PR agencies has been debated by other players in the market. Their concern is that the agencies have a number of different customers and who they are is not publicly known. Therefore, it is time to briefly open the policies that PR agencies adapt in their work.

Finnish PR Agencies (MTL Viestintätoimistot) represent 30 communications agencies in Finland. The association has clearly stated that it supports setting up and defining a lobbyist register in the legislation. The register is a welcome reform that clarifies current practices of influence. In addition, it should be noted that the register does not change the current practice of the PR agencies, as, according to the MTL’s Code of Conduct, in all influencing situations the lobbyists must disclose for whom they work.

Last year, Assistant Professor Emilia Korkea-aho and researcher Paul Tiensuu made a survey of similar registers in various countries. They considered that the best practice they found is the ‘Irish model’, where the lobbyist regularly registers who has met, when, where and on whose assignment. Finnish PR Agencies consider this a good starting point for preparing legislation.

Right from the start, it is good to take care that the register will cover all those doing influencing work. Further, it should become a free system. This way, in addition to professional lobbyists, non-governmental organizations, associations and small businesses have equal opportunities to influence. Transparent lobbying is part of democracy.

Alpo Räinä
Finnish PR Agencies