Media professionals share their experiences in politics at the Fall 2016 Futures Forum

CATEGORIES: Student Perspective
From left to right: Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register, Lissandra Villa of Buzzfeed News and Tim Albrecht of Albrecht Public Relations share their expertise on political communication at the Fall 2016 Futures Forum. Photo by Megan Gilbert.

By Nicole Onken; Photo by Megan Gilbert

The Fall 2016 Greenlee School Futures Forum, Multimedia and the 2016 Presidential Election, offered fascinating insights from three political media professionals. Featured panelists included Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register, Lissandra Villa, news reporter for Buzzfeed and Tim Albrecht, founder and owner of Albrecht Public Relations. They each shared their perspectives on the media’s role in the current presidential election. If you missed the event or just need a refresher, check out the highlights below:

It’s all about your approach. How you approach candidates makes all the difference in your ability to get a great story. “The challenge is not to talk to them; it’s to get them to say what they really think,” said Obradovich. Reporters need to be persistent and not afraid to ask their question in several different ways. This can help build a conversation that goes past a candidate’s predetermined talking points. They also need to understand politics enough to know when a politician may be delivering a message that’s different from his or her party’s viewpoint.

Candidates have more power than ever. “The amount of power shifting towards the campaign and away from the media should not be underestimated,” said Albrecht. Some candidates now have their own newsrooms, delivering their messages in the ways in which they want to deliver them without relying on traditional media outlets for coverage or paid advertising. Candidates also have their own social media accounts, and may deliver news using those tools rather than at press conferences. As a result, a campaign spokesperson needs to be on top of a candidate’s communications at all times. A reporter needs to dig deeper and provide balanced coverage.

Social media matters. The rise of social media has completely changed how media professionals and candidates interact with the public. “News has never been a 9 to 5 thing, but social media amplifies it,” said Villa. Obradovich noted how many reporters tweet their notes as they cover a story. Villa shared her belief that the public has now started to follow certain journalists who cover particular interest areas instead of specific media outlets to get their news. Social media is also a great tool to help journalists gain more overall readers, as well as promote their work and the work of their colleagues. All communications professionals need to make sure their social media profiles are professional and relevant to their audience.

Get involved. Public relations professionals can find promising careers in political communications, especially in swing states like Iowa. Joining a campaign is a great way to gain experience. Professionals want to see you’re willing to work and have a great attitude, which will help you succeed in the field.

Build your skill set. Multimedia skills are crucial for both journalists and public relations pros alike. While a strong writing background is the foundation to any career in communications, multimedia skills are increasingly important in the digital age because they give readers another way to interact with a story. Graphic design, as well as photography and videography, are also important skills.

The Greenlee School’s Futures Forum is a semiannual event sponsored by William F. and Linda Z. Tubbs.