However in the modern world politicians and organisations can go one better - marshalling their social networking followers and using social media avenues to directly build and channel public opinion.
While we've not seen much of this in Australia (though perhaps the Prime Minister's National Health and Hospitals Network Facebook Cause page is an example of early steps), the President's office in the USA is becoming quite mature and strategically effective at this type of pressure.
A short time ago President Obama used his social media platforms, including 8 million Facebook followers and millions of supporters via the MyBarackObama site (now referred to as Organising for America) to successfully lobby for the US Health Reform bill.
More recently the President has used his online muscle to launch a campaign against Goldman Sachs - a campaign that seems to have left the company off-balance and reeling.
Covered last week in the Forbes magazine article Obama Fights Goldman With Social Media, the President has used search engine marketing directed to Organising for America combined with a coordinated campaign via Facebook and Twitter (where the President has 3 million followers) to build public support for changes to the US's financial systems, specifically focused at Goldman.
The campaign has been even more effective because Goldman has a negligible social media presence and is not able to respond effectively through social networking channels - a major warning for any organisation, or government department, facing a determined and highly coordinated attempt to shift public opinion online.
As the article states,
To date, Goldman's silence in the online space has been deafening--making it all the easier for regulators, legislators and the White House to paint a bull's eye on its back.I hope no Australian government department will allow itself to be in this position.
For those who are not fully across the social media strategy used by the US President in his election campaign, a good piece to read is Viralblog's The Full Barack Obama Social Media Strategy!. I've embedded the presentation linked to that article below.