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 members of the board who are working tirelessly to deliver an amazing event for government communicators.
What is your position on the NAGC Board
Tell us a little about what you do and how you got there
After 20 years in state and local government roles, I recently came to Michael Baker International as a senior public engagement specialist. Prior to that I served for almost a decade as the director of public affairs for the PA State Association of Boroughs. In that role, I also served as the managing editor of the Borough News magazine and the managing producer for Inside PA Boroughs.
My previous experience includes serving as a deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison to a former governor, where I led statewide community outreach efforts. I also served as press secretary for the PA Department of Community and Economic Development; as a project manager in the PA House of Representatives; and as a Main Street Manager. When I graduated from college, my first job was as a newspaper reporter in western PA, which is when I discovered my passion for government reporting and storytelling.
In my current role, I implement public outreach and engagement campaigns for transportation and telecommunications projects for state and municipal clients. Some of my responsibilities include public relations writing and editing for print and digital media; directing the development of strategic communications, infographics, interactive maps, and visualizations for storytelling; and coordinating virtual and in-person public meetings, and events.
What do you love about your job?
What I love most about my job is the variety of projects I can work on. I love storytelling and bringing to life often complex messages that everyone can understand and appreciate. I also appreciate that no two days are alike because no two projects are ever the same!
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
The hardest part of my job is achieving a work-life balance, but it's something that I'm working to achieve!
What are some of the more memorable events you’ve had to deal with in your role and what lessons did you learn?
Since I am very new in my role, I'll reflect back on a prior role! As a rookie newspaper reporter, I covered some very important stories, including 9-11. After that, I realized that reporters have to keep emotion out of reporting, and only six weeks later I moved to the state Capitol to work in politics. What I remember most about that job is a former police chief telling me that I "needed to come out of my shell or I'd be eaten alive" in the field. He was right!
What is it about communications, media or crisis comms that interests you so much?
The way we communicate helps to build trust and respect. We do that through proactive strategies to cultivate relationships, creativity, and storytelling.
Can you give one piece of advice for those who want to start a career in Government communications?
The field of communications is always changing so you need to take responsibility for your professional development - no one else will do that for you. Read articles and publications. Attend training. Learn new skills. Seek out a mentor. Participate in trade associations like the National Association of Government Communicators. The tools are available - you just need to take the next step and invest in yourself.
What are your favorite tools you use to do your job more effectively?
Social media management tools like Hootsuite or Social Pilot are important for planning and evaluation. Because of all the writing I do, a subscription to the AP Stylebook is a must. I also love using social media in strategic ways to tell stories and interact with the public.
What would you say to anyone in a leadership role about having a PIO or comms professional who might not have one?
An organization's most important asset is its reputation. Everything an organization says or does can be scrutinized, so a communications strategy is the key to success. Not everyone should lead communication strategies, just like not everyone can be a nurse or doctor. We are experts in what we do and as communications strategies and tools constantly evolve, so do we.
Are there any books, podcasts, websites or any other resources you would recommend for the comms pro?
I'm a news junkie so I get my news everyone - from blogs to social media. For motivation, I read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at least once a year. I listen to PR Week podcasts which host industry experts and leading news stories. Read our book recommendations here.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about, recommend or promote?
If you have never been to NAGC's Communications School, you are missing out on learning from the best of the best in our business. While I'm a member of other professional organizations, what I value most about NAGC is that it solely dedicates its mission to improving the skills and professional development of government communicators. NAGC offers something for everyone - from the fresh-out-of-college student, the master communicator, or those transitioning into government communication work.
You can connect with Leslie on LinkedIn here.