Government relations in the private sector

Photo by  David Travis

Photo by David Travis

International relations isn't just about governments, think tanks and grassroots societies. Opportunities are growing in a wide range of employment sectors and locations that are not the most obvious choices for a diplomatic career. The exciting news is that international relations graduates are exceptionally fit to embark on a path to help us understand and develop solutions to the complex, vexing, and ever-changing array of global challenges and opportunities.

We should start by acknowledging that globalisation has profoundly altered political, socio-economic, and cultural forces around the world, which is increasingly becoming interdependent. This deepening interdependence is happening at a time of rising and declining role of nation states and the increased importance of various non-state actors. It is impossible to understand our most pressing problems or opportunities through only a local or even national frame. The need to fabricate new approaches, solutions and ways of thinking for these new important global questions, and this need applies also to employers in the private sector.  

Corporations, large tech companies and other industries recognise the benefit in having employees that possess a richer, deeper understanding of international affairs and diplomacy. The fields where these qualities are required are so numerous, the general rule of thumb for a recent graduate, who is seeking a career in the private sector, is to get creative and be flexible. You are well-positioned for a multitude of careers by being able to appreciate the dynamics of how to work in a cross-cultural world.  

What follows is a list of sectors in which one can apply the unique skill set of an international relations education, coupled with a description of the field and some sample organisations to consider.


Government Relations

Government relations refers to the sector of an organisation that focuses on public policy and advocacy. Many large private, public, and nonprofit organisations have government relations division (e.g., universities, hospitals, banks, pharmaceutical companies, tech companies, etc). The government relations team works to make sure that an organisation’s interests and values are represented at local, state, and federal government levels. The day-to-day job often involves tracking legislation and evaluating its impact on an organisation, advocating for legislation that are in line with the organisation's policies, and communicating to international and external stakeholders. Government relations can be an exciting place for those passionate about a certain area of policy as well as the process of passing legislation at the state and federal level. 

Public Relations Consultants: 

Law and Lobbying Firms:


Political Consulting

Political consulting refers to firms who are hired by individuals, political groups, and campaigns to help run political campaigns. There are many facets to running a successful political campaign, such as voter outreach, voter analytics (much like marketing analytics), public relations, marketing and media strategy, fundraising, and much more! Large firms are hired by campaigns on both sides of the aisle, while some boutique firms may work only for a specific party. Entry-level and internship positions are political consulting firms are a great way to experience the nuts and bolts of political campaigning.

Sample firms:


Consulting firms

  • AB Data Ltd. - A.B. Data provides services in areas including integrated fundraising, direct mail, digital fundraising, analytics and planning, list services, and production management. The firm has offices in Washington DC, Wisconsin, and New York.

  • California Strategies, LLC - California Strategies is a full-service public strategy firm that focuses on helping clients navigate through California’s political, regulatory, legislative, and media environments on a state and local level. The firm is located in California.

  • Campaign Solutions - Campaign Solutions is a full-service online consulting firm specialising in fundraising, advertising, mobile, social media, and web development. The firm has offices in Virginia, New Jersey, and California.

  • The Campaign Workshop - The Campaign Workshop is a full-service political consulting firm that specialises in direct mail, print, and online advertising for issue advocacy, candidate, and ballot initiative campaigns. The firm is located in Washington, DC.

  • The Eppstein Group - The Eppstein Group specialises in advertising, public relations, opinion polling, and elections. The firm is located in Texas.

  • First Tuesday Strategies - First Tuesday Strategies is a full-service political and grassroots consulting firm that specialises in areas such as campaign strategy, online and print media, direct mail, video and radio production, marketing, and advertising. The firm is located in South Carolina.

  • Global Strategy Group - GSG is a public affairs and research firm specialising in research, strategic communications, digital strategy, grassroots and grasstops organising, marketing and branding. GSG is one of New York’s leading consulting and polling firms, with clients including Fortune 100 companies, national political leaders, associations and nonprofits.

  • Impact Politics - Impact Politics is a political consulting firm for candidate and initiative campaigns, parties, advocacy organisations, and nonprofits. Impact Politics oversees and implements all of the online aspects of a political or advocacy campaign – from fundraising strategy and email writing, to online advertising strategy, production, and creative. Impact Politics is located in Florida.

  • KC Strategies - KC Strategies is a full service political consulting firm that specialises in areas such as political consulting, television and radio, direct mail, online advertising and social media, robo calls, polling and research, and mobile canvassing and VOip phone banking. The firm is located in Texas.

  • National Media Research, Planning and Placement (NMRPP) - NMRPP provides media planning and placement for local, statewide, and national campaigns using a research-driven approach. NMRPP is located in Virginia.

  • The Parkside Group - The Parkside Group provides services in public relations, advertising, government affairs, and campaign management. The firm is located in New York.

  • – This is an organisation of media experts with backgrounds in technology, the web, online and offline marketing, online reputation management, and campaign consulting. The firm’s emphasis is on harnessing new media to gain a broader appeal and larger audience for clients.

  • Red Horse Strategies - Red Horse Strategies specialises in political analysis, strategy and implementation. The firm is located in NYC.

  • Reihl Group - The Riehl Group provides government relations, crisis management, strategic consulting, political consultation, and regulatory services and is located in Virginia.

  • SKDKnickerbocker - SKDKnickerbocker is a full service consulting firm that provides political, communications, media training, and advertising strategies for issue and public advocacy campaigns on the national, state, and local level. The firm is located in New York.

  • The Strategy Group - The Strategy Group provides services in areas including direct mail, initiative and proposition campaigns, internet advertising, and general political consulting. The firm has offices in Washington DC, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

  • Twenty-First Century Group – This is a consulting firm specialising in federal government affairs that offers strategic advice to clients dealing with issues before the House, the Senate, and the Executive Branch agencies. The firm is located in Washington DC.


Management Consulting/Risk Management

Management Consulting is an umbrella term in the business world. While the government is vast and has many employees, agencies sometimes contract out to consultants to research and solve important questions. The agency that utilises consulting firms the most is the Department of Defence, and a career in defence consulting can be very exciting (find some sample firms below). There are some entry-level positions for students interested in management consulting in this field, though some level of expertise and experience in the defence industry or international relations is usually required. The day-to-day job varies and often involved research, writing, data analysis, and presentations. Entry-level positions include Consultant, Analyst, Research Assistant, Policy Research, Political Risk Analyst, etc.

Sample Organisations:

Political Risk/Advisory Services Focus:

International Development

The goal of international development is to alleviate poverty among the citizens of developing countries. Strategies for improvement include investment in the economic, political and social arenas. Economic development ranges from the creation of sound macroeconomic and fiscal policy to the fostering of small- medium enterprise to the introduction or expansion of microfinance. It also involves identifying and creating the necessary infrastructure, energy, transportation, and sanitation for economic growth. Political development focuses on the creation and fostering of good governance, including transparent financial systems, an independent judiciary and the active participation of civil society. Social development focuses on the improvement of health, education and the social safety net. Each of the areas is interrelated and interdependent. Positions and day-to-day jobs include: Project or program manager; Policy and research; Field officer; Grants and fundraising; Monitoring and evaluation; Accounting; Administration.

Sample Organisations:


Media and Journalism

If you are interested in a career in journalism or media, international relations training can give you the substantive and analytical background you need. Typically political science and international relations courses place heavy emphasis on developing fluid and clear writing and speaking skills, which are beneficial for positions in print or broadcast journalism, publishing, social media, communications, and public relations. Interesting positions for graduates include foreign news correspondents, international broadcasting, reporting, editorial/column writing, investigative journalism, research, photography, freelance work. Media is a competitive field, so it’s important to demonstrate curiosity, high energy level, ability to produce under pressure and withstand criticism.

Internet Resources on Media and Journalism

  • Careers in Newspapers - Provides information and links to online issues of the ASNE Reporter.

  • – - Career articles, jobs and internships,and other helpful information.

  • - - International list/links of newspapers.

  • National Writers Union -  - Career resources for freelance writers.

  • Writer’s Digest - - Provides tips and information on how to get published in magazines and books - especially helpful are the "Writers Guidelines" and "Market of the Day" sections.

Sample Organisations:


International Law

International law is an interdisciplinary academic field for individuals who are interested in cross-border issues such as international business and human rights. There are typically two branches within the field of international law. Public international law is for those interested in policy making and the evaluation countries’ adherence to international agreements performed by governments and intergovernmental organisations. On the other hand, those interested in practicing law for private organisations and nonprofits on a wide range of issues including international business, human rights, economic development, and the environment tend to go into private international law. The demand for international lawyers with expertise in international relations and cross-border transactions will continue to grow as the legal industry globalises. Some skills that are highly recommended include foreign languages, research and writing, overseas experience, a strong interest in practicing law in an international setting, and knowledge of the basic differences in the world’s legal systems as well as their political and cultural contexts.

Sample Organisations (private):


Science, Technology and Public Policy

Science, technology, and public policy is a maturing field focused on the interactions among scientific developments, technological change, social values, and governmental activities at both international and domestic levels. It is concerned with the ways in which citizens and professionals in industry, government, labor, academia, and non-profit organisations understand these interactions and apply their understanding to solve social, environmental, human health, and economic problems, as well as promote and manage scientific and technological systems that serve as potential solutions. There is an increasing awareness of the economic, political, and social consequences of decisions in the science, technology, and policy field in areas such as computers and telecommunication regulation, genetic engineering, cloning, biological weapons development, and global climate change, as well as other technological areas.

Sample Organisations (private):