Our chapter was pleased to have James Smith, Jessica Alaimo, Patrick Flanigan, and Donald Starver from the City of Rochester share insights on government relations. The four work in the Bureau of Communications and Special Events and made an interesting panel with their various backgrounds. Director, James Smith has had experience with both sides of political parties throughout his career. Donald Starver, Deputy has experience with business and marketing. Jessica Alaimo, Press Officer and Patrick Flanigan, Interactive Media Editor wrote for the Democrat and Chronicle.
When talking about the city’s messaging James mentioned how it’s crucial to be proactive and reactive. James and his colleagues said they are proactive by staying ahead of negative stories. They do this by thinking of positive visual stories, trying to defend the indefensible, and keeping negative stories short. Reactive responses and events tend to get the most headlines and attentions, this is why they require all tools and assets since you are starting with a disadvantage. As in any field, there are certain events you can’t predict that you must react to. Patrick, stated how as government practitioners you often have to consider things from a worst-case scenario. Regardless of the story the number one rule is to remain truthful, it is important to establish credibility so people have faith in the government.
Government communications and public relations are all about the messages that will drive your research, communication, programs, development, etc. In order to keep audiences engaged, keep a consistent platform. Don’t switch your messaging. Within their department every story has a connection back to the mission of the city. Although the strategy and goals for developing the city of Rochester haven’t changed, the tactics for communicating and supporting have, as Donald stated. Cities are dynamic therefore they are constantly changing. In order to keep communication interesting visual hooks and repetition are used.
Jessica ended our panel by saying her job makes her feel she is making a difference in the community everyday. This is because they create more jobs, safer neighborhoods, and create better educational opportunities for those in Rochester, NY.
For an internship with the city of Rochester go to http://www.cityofrochester.gov/internships/