Black Owned Lobbying Firm Spins Off Communications Business To Meet Demand | New Pittsburgh Courier

One of the city’s few Black-owned, lobbying firms, Bellevue Strategies, has spun off its communications business to meet the rising demand, the firm’s president said.

Now the communications business will be known as Bellevue Public Affairs and will be headed by Jessica Cosmé Platt, who will be president, said Mustafa Rashed, Bellevue Strategies president and CEO.

“More and more clients are looking for professional storytelling as a way to get their message across, to deliver ideas and to change policies,” Rashed said. “We’ve been doing both for a while and we saw an opportunity recently to expand it and separate the services.”

Already, Platt had been running the firm’s communication business, he said.

“Over the past few years, we have essentially built and expanded two companies under one roof and one name,” Rashed said. “Nearly two years ago, we bolstered and expanded our traditional lobbying practice with the expertise of veteran lobbyist Holly Kinser. Earlier this year, we even further enhanced our government relations team by adding former Council Member and mayoral candidate Derek S. Green.”

Ivanhoe Smith, managing partner of Coral Island Investments in Philadelphia, said the main reason companies split themselves in two is to focus.

“Whatever the business is that they are spinning off, they need to focus on it, staff it, make it a profit center and make it a standalone business that makes or breaks on its own,” Smith said.

One of the reasons that the communications business is growing, is the trend by many companies to take public stands on social issues such as antisemitism, islamophobia and racism.

“Over the past 10 years we noticed a shift, companies used to be OK with not saying anything about social issues, public issues,” Rashed said. “But nowadays, if you don’t say something, that could be saying something.”

Increasingly, companies are seeking out crisis communications help when they find themselves in a bad light because of something they did or something an executive did, he said.

As an example, Rashed pointed to resignation of M. Elizabeth Magill as president of the University of Pennsylvania on Dec. 9, a few days after she appeared before Congress and was accused of evading hypothetical questions about of whether or not students calling for the genocide of Jewish people would be punished by the school.

“We just saw the University of Pennsylvania trying to navigate a very complicated situation. The world that we live in now demands that you have a response to everything,” Rashed said. “That’s a very good example of if you get caught between what your counsel says you should say and what your communications people say you should say and you get it wrong, it could be fatal to your career, your customers, your bottom line and the shareholders that you represent. We help them navigate the situation.”

Founded in 2015, Bellevue Strategies began as a firm lobbying city, state and federal government entities for clients, seeking to address gaps in diversity of thought, talent and life experiences.

Today, Bellevue Public Affairs will focus on strategic communications and stakeholder management.

For her part, Cosmé said she is excited about the opportunity. Her experience includes working with businesses, labor unions, nonprofits and political figures.

“Four years ago, I joined a small but mighty lobbying firm of five people doing meaningful work,” Cosmé said. “Over the last few years, through the pandemic and an increased need to communicate and navigate sensitive issues, that small firm expanded threefold and launched the public affairs and strategic practice that will stand on its own.”

This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune.

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