The National Association of Government Communicators is running it's comms school in Portland, OR April 18-20 and as official media partners for the event, we've had the great opportunity to hear from the speakers at the event. Find out more about them here.
What is your session for NAGC called?
"You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat, I Mean, a Plan"
Tell us a little about what you do and how you got there
Every day is a little bit different in my role as a Senior Communications Specialist for the fourth-largest city in Illinois! My primary focuses are strategic messaging, presentation creation, speechwriting, executive writing, and oversight of Naperville's Facebook and Twitter accounts. It's been a 15-year journey (as of March 3) with the city. As a professionally trained journalist who covered the Naperville city government for two years before joining the City workforce, it was a natural leap to the communications and PR side of things. Many of the communications processes we use today I helped implement - including communications planning, the topic of my NAGC presentation.
What is it about communications, media or crisis comms that interests you so much?
I strongly believe communications is at the heart of all issues, professional and personal. The ability to effectively express oneself, be it a government, organization, nonprofit, business, or person, in a way that resonates with another entity or person, and spurs further exchange, is how we function as a society. The art of communications is how we share our values and inspire each other to reach higher and dream bigger - what's not to love about that?
What do you love about your job?
I love that I can live out a desire to serve the public daily in a way that resonates with my love of writing. It lets me put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard!) and look for creative ways to express the mission and vision of the organization I am proud to serve.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
Staying on top of ever-changing trends in social media can be a challenge, as well as constantly having to find new ways to be creative. That said - a good challenge can be the best fuel for creativity!
What are some of the more memorable events you’ve had to deal with in your role and what lessons did you learn?
There are almost too many memorable moments to count! The COVID-19 pandemic stretched the bounds of communicators everywhere, but I've also assisted with communications through the Great Recession, a blizzard, multiple tornadoes, civil unrest, and more. I've helped launch a revamped City website and online utility dashboard, authored 12 State of the City addresses for two mayors, and helped launch (and have administered for a decade) a mass notification system. The number one lesson I take away from all of this? Everything we do is to serve our public and to ensure they aren't just served, but served WELL. I've learned that keeping our audiences and their needs in mind reminds us that our work matters daily as public servants.
Can you give one piece of advice for those who want to start a career in Government communications?
Ask questions and be curious! The more you learn, the more you can apply that knowledge to situations you handle. Knowledge gives you different perspectives and viewpoints, which is critical when communicating with your audiences.
What are your favorite tools you use to do your job more effectively?
I LOVE using Notion to keep me organized. Hootsuite helps me manage our social media channels more effectively, and Canva . . . well, let's just say it makes this writer feel like a designer!
What would you say to anyone in a leadership role about having a PIO or comms professional who might not have one?
A PIO and comms professional brings so much to the table. They provide the public's perspective and brand considerations during business decisions. In a crisis, they relay critical messages that can influence the long-term perception of a brand. They are as much a trusted advisor as they are a spokesperson.