The Voice: Summer 2021 Newsletter

 

Inside This issue

The LINCS Executive Committee has decided to offer virtual programming this fall in lieu of an in-person meeting. We want to hear from you! Please take this short survey to help us gain feedback on what you'd like to learn more about. 

According to the survey results from LINCSters, the three articles in this issue are an introduction to possible virtual events to be held in 2021. Please stay tuned for more information coming later this summer/fall.

Chair's Corner 

As I started drafting this article, I quickly realized this will be the last column I write as your LINCS chair before I pass the gavel to our incoming chair, Will Tracy, production assistant, Arkansas House of Representatives What a tremendous honor this has been! In this article, I want to reflect on my time as a member of LINCS and the important role NCSL and LINCS have played in both my professional and personal lives. I became involved in NCSL shortly after I started working for the Georgia House of Representatives in 2012 as our state was preparing to host NCSL’s Legislative Summit the following year. I was then able to travel to my first LINCS PDS shortly thereafter. All of the NCSL staff were so welcoming, and, despite my inherently shy demeanor, I quickly made friends with other communications staffers from across the country—many of whom I still keep in contact with and consider friends to this day.

LINCS has created a unique community in which we can share the highs and lows of being legislative communication staffers and bond over common experiences. Over the years, I have learned so much from all of you. Having a forum to share ideas and best practices has allowed me to look at my job through a new lens and gain fresh perspectives. I am, without a doubt, a better staffer because of LINCS.

I hope that this article may encourage others to become more involved in LINCS—whether that means attending your first professional development seminar (shout out to the Super PDS in Atlanta in 2022!), or throwing your name in the hat for positions on LINCS’ executive committee.

As LINCS grows, so does the wealth of knowledge we are able to share with one another. If you have any questions about how to become more involved in our staff association, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, our NCSL LINCS liaison Jennifer Stewart, or any other member of our executive committee. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to work with all of you and look forward to welcoming you all to Atlanta next year!

—Betsy Theroux, LINCS chair

From Good to Great: How to Successfully Pitch a News Story

By Camille Taylor, senior media services specialist and House photography manager, Media Services Office, Georgia House of Representatives

As a communications staffer who offers media support to 180 elected officials on both sides of the aisle, I know the all-too-real fear of my news pitch sinking to the bottom of reporters' inboxes, or worse, their deleted folder. However, these simple reminders will help you stand out from the hordes of pitches that reporters receive and land you that front-page, prime-time story of your dreams.

Know your target to hit the target.

Reporters need to create stories that are relevant for their target audience, as well as the current news cycle. A successful pitch should be tailored to a specific reporter or news outlet of the audience you’re trying to reach. A great story pitch will tie into the “bigger picture” of a reporter’s beat and your state’s political news cycle. Instead of pitching to a broad contact list, take time to research reporters whose recent coverage will resonate with your proposed story. Quick tip: Build strong, trustworthy relationships with the press corps at your state capitol.

No one has time for a saga.

It’s no secret the human attention span is shrinking, so keep your pitches concise. If you’re having a difficult time reading the end of that email you’ve written, chances are reporters will too. For email pitches and press releases, focus on a strong subject line and lead. Always respect the reporter’s time and cut to the chase when you’re pitching via phone call. In your writing, reduce “flowery” and subjective language that may be distracting and save room for the key points and facts that will drive your story home. Quick tip: Always ask yourself, “Is this language really necessary?”

Be a problem solver.

It’s easy to jump on the negative news bandwagon, but it’s much more interesting to be a part of the solution. We all love a good problem-solving story, especially local media, so focus on solutions to the issues that your target audience may be facing. Lucky for us, we have the advantage of telling stories about the legislative world, which revolves around creating solutions for real-life problems. Quick tip: use proven facts or data to back up your proposed solutions.

There is so much more to a successful news pitch than just these few tips, but we can all use these reminders—no matter how long we’ve been in the game. And, at the end of the day, the best strategy for a successful pitch is being honest and authentic in the story you’re seeking to sell.

Burnout : It’s Real, It’s Rampant. Here’s What You Can Do About It.

By Holly South, senior policy specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures

Whether you’re working remotely or have continued to report to the statehouse during the COVID-19 pandemic, you and your colleagues have been in a stressful situation and may be feeling the effects of burnout. How do you know—and what can you do?

First, recognize the signs.

Burnout has long been thought of as connected to work. But Melissa Furman, a career coach and Augusta University business professor with a master’s degree in professional counseling, wants to expand that definition. Furman considers burnout a “state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion from prolonged emotionally stressful situations.” It’s typically “caused by things you can’t control or feel like you can’t control,” she says. Like a global pandemic. Or the constant barrage of natural disasters and mass shootings of the past year—not to mention the despair over how many more times these events will occur.

Address basic needs.

Furman suggests first taking care of the most basic needs as outlined in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: safety, security and physical well-being.

Identify what makes you happy.

What is your current level of happiness? If you aren’t sure, try to remember the last time you felt happy. What about it felt good? Make time to do something fun, even if that means a change in priorities. “We feel burned out when something out of our control is our top priority,” Furman says.

Decide what to change.

Molly McAllister, training and staff development coordinator for the Connecticut General Assembly, has noticed staffers responding to the pandemic in different ways, from overworking to being disengaged. In between are those who enjoy working from home because they’ve successfully established a routine, she says. “Routine is really important,” McAllister says. “We’re missing our start, stop and transition times.” She advises creating a new workspace and routine that includes breaks, even if that just means closing a laptop and putting it away. Also important:

  • Find connections and support.
  • Establish boundaries.
  • Choose a lens: Change your perspective.

Allow yourself time to heal.

There are no quick fixes. But there are actions that can help. Start with physical activity, focused breathing, and reinvesting in personal relationships.

Visit NCSL’s State Legislatures Magazine to learn more about burnout.

Podcasting in Legislatures

By Jennifer Stewart, policy analyst, National Conference of State Legislatures

NCSL recently surveyed LINCS members asking what they’d like to learn about this fall. One of the top areas of interest was learning more about podcasting from other legislature communications staff! This topic will be part of the LINCS online programming this fall; however, here are some initial thoughts if you’re considering a podcast:

  • What are the topics?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What staff resources are required?
  • What does it cost?
    • Will you utilize an outside firm or contractor?
    • How much does an outside firm or contractor cost?
  • What software subscriptions?
  • Is there a host?
  • What metrics are you trying to achieve?
  • How much effort (cost, staff time, etc.) are you willing to put into a podcast?

At least 10 legislative caucuses and one legislature (Washington, D.C. Council) produce a podcast. Below are links to their podcasts:

Read advice offered by your fellow LINCS members about producing a podcast. NCSL also has a podcast, "Our American States."

 

Congratulations to the 2021 Legislative Staff Achievement Award Winners!

The 2021 Legislative Staff Achievement Award, created by theNCSL Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee in 1997, recognizes those who demonstrate excellence in supporting the work of a state legislature and strengthening the legislative institution. Each professional staff association may present this award to two staff annually.

  • Drew Volturo, deputy chief of staff for communications, Delaware House of Representatives 
    • LINCS is proud to present Drew Volturo with a LINCS Staff Achievement Award for his long-term commitment to the Delaware House of Representatives as deputy chief of staff for communications for the House Majority Caucus. Volturo began working for the General Assembly as the Majority Caucus’ first communications director in 2009. He is truly admired for transforming the communications department’s role from a single person writing press releases and taking photos to a five-person team responsible for all aspects of communications for 26 representatives across numerous multimedia platforms. In 2019, Volturo led the launch of the successful "Whip Count" podcast. According to his colleagues, he is “the quintessential team player and has never sought out the recognition he truly deserves for all that he does.” 

 

  • Cecillea Pond-Mayo, chief information officer, Arkansas House of Representatives 
    • LINCS is proud to present Cecillea Pond-Mayo, chief information officer for the Arkansas House of Representatives, with a LINCS Staff Achievement Award for her integral role as part of the House communications teams since 2011. Pond-Mayo writes columns, press releases and speeches and provides oversight for live-stream operations, video production, website, social media. She also serves as the media liaison for the speaker of the House. During the pandemic, under her leadership, the House communications team overcame numerous obstacles in order to ensure the legislative process could and would continue in a safe and healthy environment. Pond-Mayo is respected for her unwavering professionalism and integrity in serving the legislature and the public. 

 

Congratulations to the Georgia legislature! 

2020 Online Democracy Award Logo In 2021, the Georgia Legislature's website was recognized for its professional presentation, which offers an easy and helpful way to find information as a citizen, according to the selection committee.

Georgia’s team did a “wonderful job” on the main page and search options and the ability to view the website on a mobile device was impressive.

The selection committee recognized the website for its creative and consistent “Under the Gold Dome” theme. “The Georgia Legislature’s website has the whole package,” the committee said.

 

 


NCSL Resources

LINCS Comms Shop

This is your source of information about how states around the country handle communications issues and functions. We compile information from our own research, and from responses, we get from requests for information from our members. If you have any questions or wish to update information from your own comms shop, please contact Jennifer Stewart. 

There is so much more to a successful news pitch than just these few tips, but we can all use these reminders—no matter how long we’ve been in the game. And, at the end of the day, the best strategy to a successful pitch is being honest and authentic in the story you’re seeking to sell.


Questions? Suggestions?

Do you have a question for your fellow LINCSters?

For any and all communications-related questions, you can always ask NCSL or post your questions to the LINCS listserv. Please contact the LINCS Liaison Jennifer Stewart for more information on how to get your questions answered by your peers!

Suggestion Box
Have an idea for a future issue of The Voice? Want to contribute a short feature?

Contact LINCS Secretary Emmanuel Brantley