What communicators can learn from Politico’s 6th Annual Women Rule Summit

December 19, 2018

What do actress Felicity Jones, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ketchum DC’s KayAnn Schoeneman and Congresswoman-Elect Abigail Spanberger (D-VA 7) all have in common? They all recently gave great advice at POLITICO’s 6th Annual Women Rule Summit in Washington, D.C. Every year, POLITICO brings together a bipartisan, multicultural, multi-generational and, most importantly, dynamic group of female leaders for a day-long program of panels, group discussions and networking with the purpose of learning from and supporting one another. The Summit focused on four key themes:  Running, Leading, Earning, & Building.

Here are my top three takeaways from the day as it relates to communications:Politico’s 6th Annual Women Rule Summit

Take disciplined risks.
During the “Taking Risks, Changing the Narrative” panel discussion, Robbie Myers, Editor in Chief of Shondaland.com, relayed a story of when she was a young editor at a teen magazine in the early 90s. She was so excited to snag Will Smith on the cover. I mean, over-the-moon elated. Well, her bosses didn’t share her enthusiasm, and implied to her that Mr. Smith would not move as many covers due to his race. Despite her bosses’ ignorance, and the fact that she could have been fired by keeping the cover, she took the risk and approved the cover as is… and it paid off! As communications counselors, we may at times feel the need to play it safe. The key is to know your audience, clients and yourself and be sure to stretch yourself and your thinking to have an even stronger impact both in the workplace and when advocating for issues, clients or yourself. That’s the disciplined, thoughtful way to take risks and reap the rewards.

Be our own advocate.
Over lunch, each 10-person table was assigned an ambassador to help guide a discussion about our personal and professional experiences and how we can make an impact. At KayAnn Schoeneman’s table, our discussion focused on the aforementioned key themes – running, leading, earning and building. We discussed negotiating skills to ensure we are closing the gender pay gap. We also discussed how leading by example is an important attribute in the workplace – providing flexibility, learning and development opportunities and coaching, among others. As communicators, negotiation skills are important now more than ever. Working with a reporter on an earned media opportunity or negotiating a paid activation are both examples of how negotiating happens in day-to-day business. Deploying those same skills for personal growth and development is important in achieving gender parity in all sectors and industries.

Show up as a change-maker.
“I am going to keep pointing out to my colleagues that we are at a crisis level for GOP women,” Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY 21) stated during “The Future of Women in the GOP” morning panel discussion. Stefanik shared details about how she’s forcing change within the Republican party by starting her own political operation to help elect more women by disrupting the norms of the primary election system.  As communicators, especially while our discipline is undergoing massive changes, it’s important to always evaluate your strategy, goals and implementation to make sure you’re achieving the desired impact. How you show up, unfettered and with creative solutions, is how change is made in any instance. Despite setbacks, you have to continue to show up to make progress.

While tremendous progress has been made in the past few years to improve the representation of women leaders in all sectors, there is still work to be done. As communicators, we have the ability to further shape the conversation around female leadership. POLITICO did a great job selecting a truly bipartisan group of women to impart wisdom, share their journeys and show us all what it means to be a female leader and #RULEWITHUS.

Erika Dyer serves as an account associate for Ketchum’s Public Affairs specialty. She brings a wide-range of experience in legislative affairs, strategic communications and event management.

Before coming to Ketchum, Erika worked as communications director and legislative aide to Springfield District Supervisor Patrick H. Herrity in Fairfax County, Virginia. Before serving Springfield District constituents, she worked on numerous Republican campaigns throughout Virginia including Barbara Comstock for Congress, Jennifer Chronis for Dranesville Supervisor and many others.

On top of serving as the Fairfax Area Young Republican chair and Conservative Professionals Network of Northern Virginia chair, Erika is also the Young Republican Federation of Virginia representative on the Republican Party of Virginia’s State Central Committee. When she is not working, you can find her volunteering for the Junior League of Northern Virginia and serving as the Marketing Chair for the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic’s Community Leadership Council. She recently joined Washington Women in Public Relations and is looking forward to the new opportunities the organization brings.