The Press Secretaries Club: The Evolution of Government PR

  • Location: Virtual
  • RSVP Deadline: Wednesday, October 20

Being a government spokesperson is a 24/7 job. From policy rollouts to natural disasters, their job is to work with and navigate the media so information gets to the public in a timely manner. The role of a government public information officer – whether at the state or national level – has seen many changes in the last two decades. Join the FPRA Capital Chapter on Thursday, October 21 at 11 a.m. for a panel discussion and Q&A with three former press secretaries — Alia Faraj JohnsonEdie Ousley, and Ryan Banfill — who will discuss the changes, challenges and future direction of this important position.

Alia Faraj-Johnson is a longtime public relations and public affairs professional with more than 30 years of experience. She specializes in public affairs, legislative initiatives, crisis communications and the media. She is a skilled professional spokesperson and has outstanding crisis management skills, having represented a host of state agencies and a broad cross-section of national clients including those in the healthcare, environment, agriculture and insurance sectors. She is sought after for her strategic counsel and helps clients in crisis navigate through day-to-day matters. Additionally, she has managed several statewide issue campaigns in Florida. Alia has extensive relationships with Florida influencers, the media and throughout state government. Prior to founding Alia Strategic Group, she served as the managing director of Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Florida public affairs practice from 2014 to 2019. She also served as executive vice-president of a Florida-based public relations and public affairs firm from 2007 to 2013.

Before that, she served as Governor Jeb Bush’s press secretary and communications director from 2002 to 2007. In her role as chief spokesperson for Governor Bush she also managed communications at 18 state agencies including the Department of Children and Families, Department of Corrections and Department of State. Alia also served as the chief crisis communications spokesperson during the unprecedented 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons in Florida. As a former television news producer and reporter and former Gov. Jeb Bush’s longest-serving communications director, Alia has covered the capitol and legislative issues for more than three decades.

She is a multiple Emmy award-winning producer, a 2009 winner of the national PR News Legal PR Award for Media Relations During Litigation or Crisis and winner of the 2009 Bronze Bulldog Award for Best Crisis Communications. Alia was also recognized by Influence Magazine in 2017 as one of the “Great Communicators” and in 2018 as one of the 100 most influential people in Florida politics. She also twice served, from 2008 to 2015, as a gubernatorial appointee on the Florida Elections Commission. Alia holds a bachelor of science degree from Florida State University in political science (emphasis on Middle Eastern studies) and psychology. She also is a member of Leadership Florida, Class of XXVI.

Top Florida communications pro Edie Ousley serves as founder and president of Yellow Finch Strategies. Ousley has 20 years of professional experiencing advising Florida’s largest job creators, trade associations, nonprofits and top statewide elected officials on strategic communications, media relations and public affairs. From serving as spokesperson for elected officials, including Governor Lawton Chiles and Senate President Toni Jennings, to leading earned media for successful ballot initiatives, and serving as the top strategic public affairs professional leading Florida’s largest pro-business trade association, Ousley has a proven track record of delivering results.

Her ability to communicate with local, state and national media, and deploy digital and social media campaigns is a winning strategy that has been recognized for its success. Her network of influencers has helped secure victories on some of the toughest issue campaigns in Florida’s history and is why organizations turn to her. Ousley has led strategic communications for numerous statewide issue management campaigns, including those focused on educational opportunities, insurance, legal reform, regulations, taxes, environmental stewardship, Florida’s Constitution, health and quality of life, and more. Ousley is a native of Arkansas and a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. She has lived in Tallahassee since 1992 and considers Florida her adopted home state.

Ryan Banfill is a highly acclaimed 30-year communications professional whose work has led to the adoption of new constitutional amendments to conserve Florida’s environment; passage of legislation to secure billions of dollars for health care services; and increased awareness of the plight of human trafficking survivors. Ryan is an award-winning communicator who has been recognized for excellence in television with an Emmy Award. The Florida Public Relations Association honored his work to pass 2008’s “Yes on 4” constitutional amendment campaign for water and land conservation with the prestigious Dick Pope All Florida Golden Image Award for the “Yes on 4” amendment campaign for water and land conservation. After working as a television producer, Ryan served as a speechwriter and press secretary for Gov. Lawton Chiles. Ryan has a deep portfolio of material produced on behalf of associations, public affairs initiatives, and election campaigns and has written for Florida lawmakers, and business and community leaders. He currently has his own consultancy, The Message Clinic, and is based in Tallahassee.


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