Founded in 1993, and originally known as as Bivings-Woodell Inc., The Bivings Group has been described as the '20th Largest Public Relations Firm in the Washington Metro Area' (Largest Public Relations Firms in the Washington Metro Area, Washington Business Journal April 2000). In addition to Washington DC, it has satellite offices in Brussels and Tokyo, and it previously had offices in Chicago and New York.
The Bivings Group's specialty is online PR - the intersection between IT and lobbying. Its slogan is 'Wired engagement. Global reach. Lasting Impact.' It has, it tells us, developed 'Internet advocacy' campaigns for corporate America since 1996 and serves 'a number of Fortune 100 clients in the biotechnology, chemical, financial, food, consumer products and telecommunications industries.' The plastics industry and 'biotechnology giant Monsanto' are amongst the notable clients 'who have discovered how to make the Internet work for them.' (Corporations Turn to Internet to Champion Political Causes, Chicago Tribune April 3, 2000) Other Bivings' clients have included Dow Chemicals, Kraft Foods, Phillip Morris, BP Amoco, Chlorine Chemistry council, and Crop Life International.
According to the PR industry's Holmes Report:
'Bivings has worked with the life sciences company to establish websites in the U.S. and Europe to address the growing controversy over genetically modified foods. The sites provide a wealth of information on GM foods and engage the company's critics in a non-confrontational discussion of the issues. ...It received the Advocacy Award from the New Statesman, which described [its work] as being "Interesting. Openness in the face of controversy." '
Elsewhere Bivings' work for Monsanto is described as 'addressing consumer concerns about genetically modified foods in a calm and rational way, even providing access to opposing viewpoints so that-consumers can be better informed.' (Inside PR - 1999 Agency Report Card)
However, as The Bivings Group acknowledges on its website, 'Sometimes we win awards. Sometimes only the client knows the precise role we played.' In addition to its publicly acknowledged role, The Bivings Group has helped Monsanto engage in covert online attacks on the company's critics - attacks that have generated considerable controversy and adverse publicity both for Bivings and Monsanto.
The work of Bivings is premised on the power of the Internet : 'Some of the most powerful message delivery tools used today are web-based and grassroots: online message boards, listservs, and web sites.' An article posted on its site states, 'Cyberspace is no longer just for citizen activists. With its savvy Internet lobbying campaigns, Corporate America has gotten off the digital sidelines. Its seasoned Washington lobbyists are turning on its head the assumption that the Internet would aid primarily resource-poor citizens groups allied against corporate interests... business groups are employing the Web to influence public opinion and mount grass-roots-style lobbying campaigns. (Corporations Turn To Internet To Champion Political Causes , Chicago Tribune, April 3, 2000)