A New Governor and New PR Discussed at January Membership Meeting

| Written by: Lauren Antista

FPRA Capital Chapter members witnessed an engaging panel of top current and former State of Florida communication directors. Panelists discussed the new era and great changes taking place in in Florida’s state government, and the communication skills and solutions needed to adapt with these changes. Moderator, Ron Sachs, president of Ron Sachs Communications, lead the three panelists through a rapid Q & A session, followed by feedback from FPRA members.

Panelists included:

  • Alia Faraj-Johnson, partner and executive vice president of Ron Sachs Communications, who served as former director of communications for Former Governor Jeb Bush
  • Erin Rock, current director of communications and external affairs of the Florida Department of Education, and soon to be staff director for the Florida House of Representatives Office of Public Information
  • Cragin Mosteller, communications director of the Florida Association of Counties, who formerly served as the communications director and press secretary for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The panel addressed state government’s use of social media. In particular, Governor Rick Scott’s use of social media has allowed him to circumvent traditional media, resulting in tension with the Capitol Press Corps. The panelists agreed that some give-and-take is necessary on both sides, along with a willingness to adapt with patience to these new circumstances.  For example, Governor Scott introduced the use of velvet ropes at press conferences, preventing the old practice of reports rushing him with questions afterward. Ms. Faraj-Johnson pointed out that although new, these ropes add a little decorum to the old way of doing things.

Ms. Rock indicated that this new Governor makes deliberate decisions, and that the challenge will be to incorporate all of the state agencies to present a consistent message across the board. Ms. Mosteller also noted that this new governor and his continuances are the “guinea pigs” faced with the challenge of managing micro-messaging.

Overall, the panelists seemed optimistic that when the new government has settled into its roles, they will learn about how the Press Corps could benefit them. The panelists also appeared to be in agreement that the time has passed for editorializing and coverage that focuses exclusively on the actions of the Governor’s communications office. Consensus among the panelists indicated that some middle ground should and likely will be reached between the new government, its new methods and traditional media; and that it certainly will be exciting to see how things unfold for the state of Florida.