Podesta Group, one of the US's top lobbying firms by revenue ($25 million in 2014) has recently posted a guide on how to lobby a think tank.
The author, Will Bohlen, Senior Global Communications Specialist for Podesta Group and former spokesman for the think tank German Marshall Fund (GMF), says that think tanks occupy an "in-between space" in Washington, "neither government agency nor business nor media outlet - and yet they play in all three spaces," making them all the more important. Here is more:
An organization with advocacy goals in Washington or other major hubs like New York, London and Brussels can benefit in both the short term and long term by effectively identifying, working with and even partnering with think tanks to support the convening of high-level conversations with policymakers, fund academic research and cultivate allies.
Mr. Bohlen notes that the Podesta Group works with think tanks on behalf of clients to advance their interests, and cites a corporate client who wanted to position itself as a thought leader in the Mexican telecom space and as a top contender for a government contract. He notes that the lobby shop introduced the client to a Washington think tank with "a strong Latin America program and facilitated an agreement for that think tank to conduct a high-level conference on telecommunications reform" in Mexico City.
The piece goes on to give four key points on how to leverage think tanks to ones advantage.
We should also point out that the Podesta Group (formerly Podesta Associates) was co-founded by brothers John Podesta and Tony Podesta. John Podesta is the founder of the influential, liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).
So, are think tanks more of a lobbying tool these days rather than policy shops that come up with brilliant ideas? The question has been around for a long time, as seen from this example relating to Microsoft's use of think tanks.
hink tanks occupy an in-between space in Washington — neither government agency nor business nor media outlet — and yet they play in all three spaces.hink tanks occupy an in-between space in Washington — neither government agency nor business nor media outlet — and yet they play in all three spaces.