Lobbying becomes digital: How to manage public affairs activities in times of crisis management

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the management of interest representation (EU lobbying) is already showing its effects: videoconference meetings, regulatory changes made through Telegram and WhatsApp, real-time rumors via social media, and webinars that crowd the digital agenda.


On the institutional front, a form of digital democracy is allowed by article 73 of the “Cura Italia Decree,” which gives local and city councils the ability to meet remotely until the emergency ends.


Pursuant to article 73, the Councils of Municipalities, Provinces and Metropolitan Cities, and Municipal Councils can meet via videoconference in compliance with the criteria of transparency and traceability previously established by the president of the board or the mayor. Systems used must allow the participants to be identified with certainty and guarantee the performance of necessary functions. Regularity and adequate publicity of the sessions must be ensured.

The European Parliament held a remote plenary session on March 26, 2020 with remote voting. At a national level, we are still far from finding a solution during this emergency during which government action is necessary. The Italian Parliament risks coming across as an institution unprepared to make the changes required to combat COVID-19.

At the same time, new opportunities to influence public decision-making processes are emerging on the stakeholders’ front (citizens, interest groups, businesses, etc.). For advocacy and lobbying actions, these actors can count on approaches and tools that are largely unpublished and are part of a wider methodology called “digital lobbying.”

Since its foundation, Adl Consulting has supported the digital lobbying and decision-making methodology using innovative tools. The COVID-19 emergency, an example from a Crisis Management textbook, is showing the need to understand public affairs and advocacy activities as a digitized corporate function for “top-management.”

In recent weeks we have been witnessing the overcoming of the classic (and limiting) interpretations of the role of lobbyists in the company. They have transformed from “simple emissaries” of the company’s interests to managers who can contribute to corporate governance by supporting rapid decisions based on verifiable data and information through the sharing of knowledge with key figures within the organization. We trust that a positive legacy of this experience will push us in the direction to change our mindset and consolidate this new approach to lobbying.

There are two key words during this period of real-time lobbying: reputation and strategic thinking.

During these times full of stimuli and information, the Positioning phase relies on what the company has managed to build in the past, and therefore, from a digital point of view, on its
“historical memory.” It is in this phase that we find the reputation value mentioned earlier: the more companies have managed to build informed and transparent relationships in “normal” times (and have kept track of them as shared assets), the more they can spend their trust credit and reliability without error during this period. During this pandemic, only the final goal counts, with no time for positioning and communication strategies. If uncertainty is the key word in any crisis situation, trust is the only possible answer.

A credible, coherent and long-lasting position is constantly shared by all managers involved in representing interests.

All of this is important to remember with the common goal of producing the maximum effort to support the health emergency through an analytical and managerial approach.