Interest Groups & Advocacy

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 552–578 | Cite as

Buying media-savviness? Interest groups as clients of public affairs consultants

  • Juho VesaEmail author
  • Aasa Karimo
Original Article


Public relations agencies are on the rise, and studies have shown that also membership-based interest groups use their services. These agencies employ public affairs consultants who help their clients influence public policy, and their use may have important consequences for interest group systems. As we know little about why interest groups use public affairs consultants and what kind of groups use them the most, we surveyed nationwide interest groups in Finland. We argue that groups use consultants especially when they face challenges with their advocacy strategies. The results show that the more important media strategies are in their advocacy work, the more groups use public affairs consultants. Business groups are more likely to use public affairs consultants than other kinds of groups. When groups’ resources are held constant, more recently established groups use more money on consultants than older groups. We conclude that consultant use may deepen existing biases in interest group politics by strengthening the business groups’ position. The results also imply that media strategies have become especially challenging for groups in the current complex media environment.


Public affairs Public relations Consultants Membership-based groups Advocacy strategies Media strategy 



This research was funded by the Academy of Finland (grant nr. 309934), the Kone Foundation (postdoctoral grant for Vesa), and the Finnish Government’s Analysis, Assessment and Research Activities (‘KAMU’ project). We would like to thank Anu Kantola (the principal investigator of the ‘KAMU’ project), Mika Vehka for his assistance in conducting the survey, Helena Blomberg and Christian Kroll for helping to translate the survey into Swedish, the three anonymous reviewers for their excellent comments, and everyone else who helped with the survey, gave us information, or commented on earlier versions of the article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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