Telling the County Stories
When people ask me about my job, I know that the standard answer of “Communications Manager” doesn’t really mean a lot to most people. The field of communications is so broad that a single title can apply to someone with great meeting planning and product marketing experience, social media expertise, digital production, public affairs, media relations, promotions, philanthropy and more.
However, I think “storyteller” is a much better way to describe what I do for California’s counties. I have the incredible honor of collecting information about all the great, hard work going on around the state and sharing that with various audiences. Sometimes I’m telling stories for the Legislature, sometimes it’s for our own members, and other times it’s for the public. But all the time, I carry with me the importance and gravity of the hard work that goes on in our 58 counties to provide essential state and municipal services for our neighbors and community members.
Next week, I celebrate my first full year of serving California’s Counties. In that time, I’ve had the chance to visit 17 counties and tell your stories of innovation, resilience, collaboration and more. I just wrapped up a coastal trip, visiting my fellow storytellers and public information officers (PIOs) in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange Counties.
I learned, perhaps not surprisingly, that my experiences and role
description are not unique. In fact,
Communications and Social Media Analyst Whitney Szentesi describes her role as being the “chief storyteller” for San Luis Obispo County and its more than 2,800 employees. With a background in journalism and marketing, Whitney regularly holds a cross-jurisdictional social media committee meetings and branding/messaging meetings across county departments. Communications Manager- PIO Gina DePinto with Santa Barbara County also works hard to promote consistent branding and messaging across departments, while managing communications for the host of wildfires, debris flows and other events in the county.
Recent wildfires in Ventura County underscore the need for close relationships across county and jurisdictional lines for PIO Bill Nash and Assistant PIO Natalie Hernández. Bill instituted quarterly PIO meetings that have fostered trust and training between the county, military, law enforcement, university, schools and others. And in Orange County, close collaboration between County Information Manager Molly Nichelson and Megan Dutra, Communications Advisor for Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett, help ensure consistent messaging, positive positioning and collaboration in county storytelling.
So thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to meet with me, tell me your story and trust me to share it with the world. I look forward to taking these learnings and implementing more sharing opportunities among county and cross-jurisdictional PIOs, starting with the PIO session at the upcoming Annual Conference.
In the meantime, if your county or department has a story that needs telling, I invite you to reach out to me. Give me a call at 916.650.8119 or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.