While both advocacy and lobbying involve efforts to shape legislation and government decisions, advocacy typically focuses on promoting a cause or issue - often through education and raising awareness. Whereas lobbying involves direct communication with policymakers to influence specific legislation or regulations. Learning more about lobbying and advocacy is pivotal for public affairs professionals.


What is Advocacy Work?

Advocacy is the practice of supporting or promoting a particular cause, idea or policy. Advocates work to raise awareness, educate the public and mobilize support for their cause. They may engage in activities such as organizing rallies, conducting research, drafting reports and using social media to promote their message. Advocacy efforts often aim to influence public opinion and generate grassroots support for policy changes. 

Examples of advocacy include environmental groups promoting renewable energy policies, civil rights organizations advocating for social justice reforms and health care advocates pushing for affordable access to health care. Examples of advocacy groups include environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP and health care advocacy groups like Doctors Without Borders and the American Cancer Society.


What is Lobbying?

Lobbying, on the other hand, is the practice of trying to influence members of the legislature to impact specific legislation or regulations. Lobbying examples include efforts by corporations to influence legislation favorable to their industries, advocacy groups seeking policy changes in areas such as health care or environmental protection and foreign governments seeking to shape international relations through diplomatic channels. 

Lobbyists may provide information, data and expert testimony to lawmakers to help shape policy decisions. Lobbying organizations engage in activities such as meeting with legislators, drafting proposed legislation and testifying at congressional hearings. Lobbying can take various forms. Types of lobbying include direct lobbying, where lobbyists communicate directly with policymakers, and grassroots lobbying, where lobbyists mobilize public support to influence lawmakers indirectly.



Direct lobbying involves face-to-face interactions between lobbyists and lawmakers, such as meetings, briefings, and hearings. Lobbyists present their client's perspective on specific issues and advocate for their preferred policy outcomes. 

Grassroots lobbying, on the other hand, involves mobilizing public support to influence policymakers indirectly. This may include organizing letter-writing campaigns, phone calls, and petitions to demonstrate public sentiment on an issue. Lobbying organizations employ various tactics to advance their agendas, including hiring lobbyists, forming coalitions with like-minded groups and conducting media campaigns to shape public opinion.


What is the Difference Between Advocacy and Lobbying?  

The main difference between lobbying and advocacy is the amount of time spent with elected officials. Lobbyists spend much of their time meeting with legislators to promote their agenda. This can include activities such as meeting with lawmakers, providing information, conducting research and sometimes offering financial support. In contrast, advocacy is a broader concept that encompasses a variety of activities aimed at raising awareness, mobilizing support and promoting social or political change.

However, advocacy groups may also engage in lobbying activities to advance their policy goals, and lobbyists may employ advocacy tactics to build public support for their client's agenda. Direct advocacy often includes face-to-face meetings with elected officials or staff. Similarly, a lobbying organization representing the renewable energy industry may engage in advocacy efforts to promote the benefits of clean energy policies to the public. Yet, while there may be overlap, lobbying and advocacy tend to remain distinct in their methods and objectives. 


Advocacy vs. Lobbying: What are the Similarities? 

While advocacy and lobbying differ in their focus and approach to influencing public policy, both are important tools in shaping public policy as well as public opinion. While advocacy and lobbying are distinct practices, they often overlap in their strategies and objectives

Both involve efforts to sway governmental actions or public opinion towards a particular cause, whether it's advocating for environmental policies, health care reforms or corporate interests. They use various tactics such as research, public outreach and direct engagement with policymakers to advance their agendas. Additionally, both lobbying and advocacy rely on leveraging relationships, networks and resources to amplify their messages and achieve desired outcomes, highlighting their interconnected roles in shaping socio-political landscapes. 


Unlock the Power of Advocacy and Lobbying with Comprehensive Software

Understanding the nuances between advocacy and lobbying is essential for navigating the complexities of influencing legislation and government decisions. To learn more about public affairs and the intricacies of advocacy and lobbying, consider utilizing LegiStorm’s comprehensive public affairs software, which provides valuable insights into congressional activities and legislative processes. By using these tools you can take control of your advocacy work, learn more about lobbying trends and take advantage of a database that is updated in real time with no extra cost. 


Frequently Asked Questions


1. What are some examples of lobbying?

Examples of lobbying include corporate lobbyists advocating for tax breaks, industry groups lobbying for regulatory changes and nonprofit organizations lobbying for policy reforms.


2. What’s the difference between activism and advocacy?

Activism typically involves direct action and public demonstrations to bring about social or political change, while advocacy focuses on promoting specific causes or issues through education, lobbying and raising awareness. Activists often engage in protests and rallies, while advocates work within existing systems to influence policy and public opinion.


3. Which industries spend the most on lobbying?

All industries lobby, but a few dominate spending. Health care and pharmaceutical industries are among the top spenders on lobbying efforts, with companies like Anthem Inc. and associations like PhRMA leading the way. Other top spenders include the insurance industry, electronics manufacturing and equipment, electric utilities, business associations, oil and gas, and miscellaneous manufacturing and distributing.

Originally published March 31, 2024, updated April 5, 2024




  1. https://www.humanrightscareers.com/issues/advocacy-types-examples-principles/
  2. https://www.ncsl.org/ethics/how-states-define-lobbying-and-lobbyist
  3. https://ethics.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2019/01/chapter-3-direct-and-grassroots-lobbying2019.pdf
  4. https://www.afterschoolga.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Advocacy-vs.-Lobbying.pdf
  5. https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/AG-2021/02-15_Best-Practices-Tips-for-Advocacy-and-Lobbying.pdf
  6. https://www.investopedia.com/investing/which-industry-spends-most-lobbying-antm-so/

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