Government

Johnson & Blanton Uses Personalized, Strategic Service to Rise to Top

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: June 9, 2014 3:55 AM
Florida Capitol Rotunda

The lobbying team at Johnson & Blanton may be small, but it certainly packs a punch. Bringing in a total of $2.6 million in legislative fees for 2013, the Tallahassee-based lobbying firm ranks No. 5 on Sunshine State News’ list of Top Lobbyists in the Sunshine State.

Founded almost two decades ago in 1995, Johnson & Blanton’s four-person shop has risen to the top of the lobbying game. 

Before he jumped into the lobbying game in 1999, Travis Blanton established his roots in Florida politics. He worked at the Republican Party of Florida, where he was a chief fundraiser for the party’s Senate campaigns. He also managed staff at the Agency for Health Care Administration in Washington, D.C., while Gov. Jeb Bush was governor.

Jon Johnson always knew he wanted to be involved in politics -- as a high schooler, he had high hopes of running for the U.S. Senate before his ambitions changed course and he realized he was more interested in policymaking. Those ambitions ultimately led him to the Republican Party of Florida, where he was a prominent fundraiser and campaign consultant.

Johnson also worked as the director of government relations for the Florida Medical Association -- an experience which proved profitable as many of the firm’s clients are from the medical/health care industry, including three of the firm’s top clients -- Florida Hospital, Florida Hospital Association and Baycare Health System.

“We had and have a lot in common just from a viewpoint on life,” said Blanton on joining forces with Johnson to form the firm. “We’re a good fit.”

On the firm’s size, Blanton told Sunshine State News that keeping things small yields the best results for clients.

 johnsonandblantongraph sunshinestatenews

“In a big firm, you may or may not get the partner [to work with],” he said. If you hire us, you’re getting us. We’re small by design.”
That size is an asset highly prized by clients. 

“You really get personalized service,” said Mike Such of DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. "[I] know if I give them an issue that needs to be resolved for our patients, I know that they’re going to put their full effort into it and they’re going to treat it like their own problem."

Though the firm represented a good number of health care clients last year, other clients included professional engineers in the Florida Engineering Society and the Florida Retail Federation.

In total, Johnson & Blanton represented 49 different clients in 2013 with an average annual retainer of $53,000 per client.

 johnsonandblantonclients sunshinestatenews

While the firm uses traditional lobbying strategies to serve its clients' interests, Blanton also told SSN the firm is using another cutting-edge medium -- social media -- to get the word out about its practice and potentially gain more business. Through Twitter and blogging, the firm keeps itself up to date with the most current media channels.

 johnsonblantontearsheet sunshinestatenews

“Lobbying has changed a lot in the last five years with technology,” said Blanton. “We’re trying to be more relevant in today’s world and not stuck in antiquated ways.”

Peter Schorsch of SaintPetersBlog agreed.

“They get it when it comes to taking advantage of social media ... and new outlets to get their message across,” he said.

Blanton explained to SSN that social media has become increasingly helpful in dealing with a younger clientele -- an important way to ensure future success.

“Most of [our clients’] age has decreased and most of them communicate extremely differently than their predecessors,” he explained. “We want them to be able to say: ‘These guys get the world we live in now.’”



Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.
 

How we rated lobbyists:

Sunshine State News staff and researchers analyzed thousands of Florida’s legislative lobbying compensation reports filed within the databases and official records maintained by Online Sunshine and the Florida Lobbyist Registration Office in Tallahassee. In order to determine SSN’s rankings, we considered a combination of three factors: a firm’s total billings, a firm’s average client annual retainer and the sum of a firm’s total 2013 fees divided by the number of lobbyists it employed last year.


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