When I received the email that Ad2 was presenting The Faces of Government Relations, it sounded intriguing. I mean, I really feel guilty about my news consumption lately. Considering I’ve only really had time for a nightly DVR date with John Stewart, I feel that I haven’t been doing my part to stay in-the-know when it comes to informing myself about local government and how it affects myself and my industry on a day-to-day basis.
I didn’t have time to research the panel as I would have liked…but this afforded me the opportunity to really go into to this with an open mind. I had always seen the government, on both a local and national level, as an omnipotent body in the sky and had always felt that the sole means of communicating effectively with my elected officials was through my vote. However, this panel really illuminated the symbiotic relationship that Central Floridians have with their government and how we, especially those of us in advertising, work to achieve many of the same goals.
Once we had all grabbed some yummy cheese and wine, we took our seats and were introduced to the panel:
- Orange County Commissioner of District 4, Jennifer Thompson
- Vice President & Partner at Curley & Pynn, Dan Ward
- Manager of Government Affairs and Municipal Marketing at Advanced Disposal, Sharon Smoley
The panel was well-rounded to say the least. Whether you worked client-side, for an agency, or for the government, you were represented here. Each member was asked to introduce themselves and answer a list of questions from government co-chairs Nichole Griffin and Heather Keroes.
Sharon went first. She works with a waste management company that is contracted by local governments. (Insert trash jokes here…she didJ) Sharon is also a registered lobbyist in the state of Florida. It is her job to develop relationships with and convey her message to local and state governments on behalf of Advanced Disposal. This is a very competitive, results-focused job that requires one to be very passionate without being overly-aggressive. Sound familiar? Who knew that lobbyists were funny, open, warm, and drank wine out of plastic cups like us? More importantly, she taught us some important lessons that translate directly to the advertising/public relations industry:
- Importance of cultivating relationships and trust– Having positive relationships with those in your industry and community is a valuable commodity and personally rewarding
- Your reputation is everything– it only takes one bad decision to ruin it forever
- Educate yourself about what you need to know– It isn’t anyone else’s job to teach you the rules of how to interact with elected officials. The laws are written by government officials and mandate that the lobbyist must maintain boundaries when communicating
Dan went next. If you’ve been educated and/or worked in Orlando for any length of time, you’re well aware of the strategic marketing agency Curley & Pynn. Dan was able to break down what questions he asks clients in order to help them reach their public relations goals:
- Who do you want to reach?
- What do they know about you?
- What do you want them to know?
- What do you want them to do?
All of us in the industry ask these questions, sometimes just in a different order or to a different audience. However, they help us strategically push the right message to a targeted audience. Most importantly, Mr. Ward reminded us that listening to what you don’t want to hear will always help you in both your professional and personal lives.
Jennifer Thompson was sworn in as Orange County Commissioner for District 4 two months ago. She is also runs a marketing firm for physicians as well as a local magazine…she’s not busy at all.
Commissioner Thompson was very down-to-earth and spoke to us about her entrepreneurial past and all the things she’s learn so far during her short time in office. She’s still getting used to finding herself on the other side of the communication chain. Having worked in marketing, it was always her job to push her messaging out to the media, now the media contacts her. She has to be aware of who she talks to, how she interacts with everyone she meets, and how she utilizes social media. She willingly handed over her Facebook and Twitter passwords in order to adhere to Florida’s Sunshine law. She took us behind the curtains and gave us a first-hand look at what her schedule looks like, all the research she has to do, and how one of her goals while in office is to improve government communication as it relates to the community. She encouraged us to visit a chamber meeting, go to Tallahassee, tweet, blog, and get involved in any way that we can.
The floor was now open for the attendees to ask questions. There were questions about ethics, stabilizing the local economy, and even the legalities of directional signs. The panel’s answers were honest, politically neutral, and empathetic.
The truth is, I walked away really inspired. Everyone on the panel was so intelligent and willing to share their personal experiences, without being intimidating. They made me realize that I have a lot more power and responsibility than I thought and that I owe it to myself, my community, and my industry to get involved whether it’s through Rally in Tally or attending a Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting. I invite you to do the same and look forward to seeing you at the next Ad2 event.