Working closely with Attorney General Rob McKenna over the last seven years, I’ve been amazed at his intellect, energy, compassion and overall leadership. He’s been a phenomenal Attorney General and he’ll make a great governor.
With the 2012 election looming ahead, it’s so gratifying to know others recognize this amazing leader themselves.
Just this week, he was recognized in two national publications as one to watch in 2012:
- National Journal’s Hotline On Call ranks him No. 2 in their list of 2011 Breakout Stars, saying “Can a Republican win statewide in the blue state of Washington — during a presidential year? Talk to the national Republicans bullish about the attorney general’s chances in the open governor’s race, and you’ll hear a lot say yes (you’ll also hear reminders that Mckenna ran ahead of President Obama in the state in 2008.) McKenna has polled well — leading Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee in a couple of live caller surveys. A key for his chances: crossover appeal. If he can get enough Obama voters, he may give Republicans a prized pickup next year.”
- Politico continues to rank the Washington Governor’s race as one of the nation’s most competitive, but they’ve downgraded the race from the most competitive to the 4th most competitive due to the strength of the McKenna campaign, saying Rob’s opponent “is shouldering two distinct burdens: discontent with outgoing Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire and the trappings of Washington. Inslee, who has never waged a statewide campaign, has trailed in every recent poll and faces an opponent with a genuine moderate sheen that fits the state and the moment.” They go on to note the most recent polling: McKenna 44 percent, Inslee 38 percent (SurveyUSA, 549 likely voters, Nov. 21-23)
We all know this will be a tough race–and we’re certainly not taking anything for granted– but stories like these continue to reinforce what McKenna supporters already know. Here’s to a great 2012!
First, let’s take a look back.
Over the last nearly seven years, I’ve been blessed to work with a dedicated and intelligent group of people at the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
Under Attorney General Rob McKenna’s leadership, we’ve accomplished so many things!
- We conducted a multi-city tour focused on increasing access to government information and improving transparency in government– then developed model rules to guide the public and government on dealing with public records.
- We’ve passed comprehensive –and bipartisan–legislation to address the state’s methamphetamine problem, to improve our state’s ability to protect against sex offenders, to expand the state’s consumer protection laws and to protect the state’s most vulnerable adults. And those are just some of the highlights!
- We’ve traveled across the state as part of our award-winning Guard IT! Washington program to educate businesses and individuals about how to protect personal information and prevent identity theft–which resulted in Washington moving out of the top 10 states for identity theft reports.
- We’ve provided grant funding to expand the Washington Prevention Summit to reach more youth and we’ve partnered with the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery to fund and develop a Spring Youth Forum for students to share their prevention strategies and win recognition.
- We’ve launched the Pillars of Hope, a multi-state initiative, to raise awareness about human trafficking and to help victims to freedom.
This office has won multiple cases before the Unites States Supreme Court, including three argued by AG McKenna himself defending voter-approved initiatives.
We’re leaders among Attorney General’s Offices across America, always willing to share information and serve as trainers for new AGs and their staff. It’s no wonder AG McKenna was selected to lead the National Association of Attorneys General for 2011-12.
Inside the office, we have held regular “Speak-Up” meetings with staff across the state to improve office procedures and to save money. In fact, since 2007, we have reduced our budget by more than $20 million and we now pay 200 fewer employees than we did at peak employment levels. We’ve done all this without widespread layoffs and while taking on new duties.
The office has also been a leader in establishing a performance management program, requiring regular, rigorous reviews and rewarding staff with performance plus and excellence awards for their good work.
These internal programs play an important role in explaining why the Attorney General’s Office has consistently scored highest among larger state agencies in employee satisfaction.
Now, we’re all facing the uncertainty of the 2012 election. With Attorney General McKenna running for Governor, we know for sure he will not be leading the Attorney General’s Office in 2013 so we’re all preparing to assist the new Attorney General with a smooth transition, regardless of which staff continue to work in the AG’s office. Across state government, employees are also preparing for a change in leadership in the Governor’s Office as well.
While change can certainly be unnerving, change also brings new opportunities to improve and grow.
With that in mind, I resolve to:
1) Strategize: Take more time to step back, observe and plan.
2) Personalize: Spend more time speaking to people face-to-face and on the phone rather than just jotting off an e-mail.
3) Maximize: Work even more collaboratively, share responsibilities and mentor others.
4) Recognize: Look for more opportunities to spotlight people’s hard work–and encourage others to do the same.
5) Realize: It’s important to take time to celebrate successes instead of constantly focusing on the next task or initiative.
Here’s to a great 2012!
With Labor Day upon us, our speechwriter, Maureen, drafted our annual message to staff to send out tomorrow and sent it to me for review today. Her message recognized the importance of this holiday weekend but also reminded all our co-workers how lucky we all are to have jobs from which to take a break during this a holiday weekend.
The on-going uncertainty and lingering unemployment takes its toll on morale– no matter how much we remind ourselves we’re lucky to have jobs.
Always on the lookout for fun ways to improve morale, I thought I’d share this easy little top 10 with you all… Feel free to add your ideas in the comments!
Here are a few to get you started:
1. Offer flexible work schedules. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate having a flexible schedule that allows me to work 9 to 6. I inevitably end up working later but, as a night owl, I appreciate not having to be up so early in the morning. At the same time, I have a co-worker who prefers coming into work at 7. That means our public affairs shop is available at a minimum 11 hours a day and we all enjoy a little flexibility.
2. Celebrate birthdays. It’s a small thing but it shows that you know enough about your co-workers to care they are having a birthday. Nothing makes you smile like a birthday cupcake!
3. Recognize each other for a job well done. I don’t know about you but it means a lot to me when my boss or co-workers notice that I’ve been working hard. A simple thank you or good job lifts your spirits after a long, stressful day.
The best thing about this list? It costs little or nothing to implement!
We just spent our tax refund on a new Trane cooling system but it appears to be overheating! Not a good thing…
I’m almost to the end of my two-week vacation and I’ve tried really hard to disconnect, not think about work and really relax.
Like many Americans, I have an over-inflated sense of my importance at work. Amazingly enough, everything seems to be going along fine without me!
I’ve enjoyed a Rainiers game with friends…
and I’ve finished several long over-due household projects.
Off to coffee with my mom tomorrow then lunch with my mom-in-law, Nan. Then wrapping up the weekend with a couple of days at the NHRA drag races at Pacific Raceways!
I’m looking forward to returning to work with a renewed sense of perspective and drive.
In case you need other reasons to take some time off, here are a few from Ragan’s PR News:
1. You get back to basics. On vacation, PR pros continually check the status of their deepening tan lines, rather than the status of their Twitter timelines.
2. You’re blissfully unaware of red tape. On vacation, a six-pack on the beach helps PR pros forget about the six-tiered approval process for press releases.
3. You recalibrate your priorities. On vacation, you realize drafting a pale ale beats drafting an e-mail.
For the rest, check out “Seven Reasons You Need a Vacation.”
Over the last week, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Seattle Pacific University and Seattle University to discuss the variety of work available for public relations professionals interested in politics and policy. Saturday, I joined new PR professionals and career-changers at the Puget Sound PRSA Career Jumpstart Conference. Wednesday, I visited Barry Mitzman’s Strategic Communications class at Seattle U.
Speaking engagements like these give me a chance to step back and think about the career path I’ve followed. It’s refreshing to separate myself from the day-to-day deadlines, e-mail and meetings and take some time to really appreciate the important role public relations has played in our nation’s history and the role it continues to play today.
While PR sometimes gets a bad rap, good communication skills have been a necessary foundation for any strong government or political undertaking.
When I talk to people about the role of public relations in history, one of my favorite examples is Samuel Adams, American Revolutionary, founding father and master of strategic public relations. Consider just a few of the tactics used influence public opinion during revolutionary times:
- The Sons of Liberty: Community organization
- The Liberty Tree: Symbolism
- “No taxation without representation”: Slogans
- The Boston Tea Party: Special events
- The Boston Massacre: Framing the story
Taken together in a sustained and focused manner, all of these tactics helped build public support for the revolution that resulted in the birth of our nation.
Fast-forward to present times. We continue to see these tactics used in modern day politics whether it’s campaign season or not.
Whether we work for the Legislature, Congress, statewide elected officials, think tanks, membership organizations, unions, business associations or think tanks, public affairs professionals spend our days communicating our clients’ positions, working to establish and maintain credibility on issues and persuading others to consider and adopt our viewpoints.
The issues may change from day-to-day or you may be laser-focused on a specific issue area, but that’s what makes these jobs so exciting.
What keeps you coming back?
It was great to spend time with the South Sound PRSA Group today. Fellow panelists included:
- Hunter George from Pierce County
- John Henrikson from The News Tribune
- Rob McNair-Huff from the City of Tacoma
As a journalism major, I remember hearing the doom and gloom nearly 20 years ago about the decline of journalism as we knew it. Today took me back to those days as we all discussed the changing communication landscape.
John reminded us all of the important role the traditional, mainstream media still play in news gathering, but the prevalence of user-generated content and the desire people now have to obtain information directly from the source requires all communicators to change up our game. Information junkies have more sources than ever. Some people read the news, others personalize to their own interests, others watch TV, still others get their news from friends on Facebook. Who do you trust?
There’s a balance.
We need the independent, third-party professional news gatherers to hold everyone accountable while adhering to a common code of ethics. At the same time, government public affairs people recognize the trust we must build with our publics via any means possible as well as with the news organizations. In government public relations, transparency is vital and everything we do is subject to public scrutiny.
It’s an interesting time to be in the communications business. Spin at your own risk.
And we’re here to help.
Ronald Reagan called those nine little words the “nine most terrifying words in the English language.”
I can see his point. We’ve all heard the stories of government waste, arrogance and down-right nastiness.
However, having spent 15 years of my 17-year public relations career in government, I’ve also seen the true dedication public employees have for their work and for the public they serve. The key is never losing sight of the “service” in public service.
Tomorrow, I’ll be joining a panel of government communicators at the South Sound group meeting of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. This group of committed PR practitioners is predominantly state and local government communicators so I’m guessing they’ll be able to share as much or more as we are sharing with them.
The topic, “PR in the Public Sector,” is particularly timely as our state Legislature looks for places to cut the state budget. Last month, lawmakers approved a supplemental budget that cut $1 million specifically from executive branch public relations staff. With roughly three months left in the fiscal year, a $1 million cut would have put roughly 40 communicators on the street.
In vetoing this cut, Gov. Gregoire demonstrated her understanding of the importance of public sector communicators when she said, “Communications staff provide information to the public, media, and legislators, which advances the goal of transparency in government. Given the importance of the work performed by these employees, ranging from providing information on real-time traffic to public health concerns to unemployment insurance and licensed child care facilities and the budget, it is difficult to see how the public would be served through the sudden and dramatic elimination of these staff.”
Public relations gets a bad rap– especially in government. Behind the scenes, however, you’ll find the public information officer from the Department of Transportation who is charged with providing reporters information from the scene of that oil tanker crash you saw on the news. You’ll see the Sheriff’s office spokesman who wakes up from a sound sleep to rush to the scene of a grisly shooting where he’ll conduct briefings for the media and run interference so aid workers and law enforcement can do their jobs. You’ll find the communications staffer who was gunned down at a community event he planned for his Congresswoman.
We do these jobs because we love them. We love being part of the action, helping people understand what their government is doing for them, answering people’s questions and sharing stories about the good in government.
When times are tough and budgets are tight, people expect more than ever from their government…and believe it or not, most of us are here to help.
Every couple of years since he took office, Attorney General Rob McKenna invites AGO staff to share their ideas on how to improve the office. He conducted the first round of Speak-Ups! in 2005 before I joined the office then developed teams to address the ideas and bring them to fruition. The next round of Speak-Ups! occurred in Fall 2006 and we held a third round in Spring 2009. Each Speak-up! is different, designed to address current challenges.
In 2009, we asked staff to help us identify ways to reduce costs within the office. Today we reported out how much money we saved by eliminating things like refreshments at meetings and travel reimbursement for taking your own car when a state car was available. Through these small changes and larger cuts, like reducing the total number of staff in our office, the AG’s office has reduced its budget by roughly $10 million and our level of staffing is lower than when Attorney General McKenna took office.
At this round of Speak-ups!, we’re addressing the challenge of continuing our high level of service to our clients, to the public and to each other with fewer and fewer staff by reviewing office processes and employing LEAN governing principles. It can be as easy as modifying your file processes or more difficult like developing a new program to automate our multiple leave and timekeeping processes.
Roughly 250 assistant attorneys general and professional staff today attended one of two Speak-ups! in Olympia and Tumwater, sharing great ideas to streamline the day-to-day work of our office, reduce time and costs and increase productivity. We have several Speak-ups! to go, then we’ll work together to develop teams to bring these ideas to life.
Has anyone else employed LEAN processes in their workplace?
The trip to Seattle tonight was well worth it. The PRSA Masters Program was incredibly informative: from the health care reform recap by Ron Lahner, attorney and partner at Dorsey and Whitney’s Global Health Group, to the presentations on Starbucks’ health and wellness initiatives by Trina Smith and Shannon Boldizsar to the overview of REI’s healthy outreach efforts by Libby Catalinich, Director of Corporate Communications.
Turning the tide on America’s health care woes will take some work–and a little more personal responsibility from us all– but tonight’s program demonstrated to me how many people are pulling in the same direction– in their own ways.
Daunting stat: In 1980, fewer than 50 percent of Americans were overweight or obese. By 2006, nearly 70 percent of Americans were.
That’s why health and wellness is becoming so important across corporate America–and in state government.
It was interesting to learn how Starbucks continues to refine its offerings to provide more healthy and “whole” foods– fewer calories, fewer unnecessary additives– and how they banded together with other companies to establish a national nutrition labeling standard so we can all learn just how many calories we’re dumping into our bodies when we stop by for our daily Starbucks fix. By the way, I LOVE the skinny caramel macchiato— 2 points for a tall if you’re counting! Be sure to download the new MyStarbucks app to check out nutrition from your smart phone.
Libby’s presentation reminded me how lucky I was to have a father who valued the outdoors and loved teaching us about it. It’s sad to think about how many kids miss out on the opportunity to hike in the woods–and I’m vowing to take better advantage of those trails up at Lake Quinault this year! REI is helping kids across America take advantage of the wonderful wilderness opportunities available to us all through its Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids program.
All in all, thank you to PRSA Puget Sound– and especially our Masters chair, Chris Bridenbaugh, for a great program. Way to add value to our membership!