If we don't trust those whom we elect why should we trust their spokesperson. According to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, in the US, more people place their trust in business before government. To gain the public's trust and avoid difficult situations like those that have emerged in Flint, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland and other cities those that we elect have to start to listen to those they represent and communicate with the people affected directly.
Working in government is extremely difficult. In serving as a spokesperson for the President, Governor, Speaker or Mayor, a spokesperson has to find their bosses voice, really understand their position and at the same time advise them as to what the right message is to communicate to specific audiences across a variety of media channels in a way that resonates with the intended audience.
In Michigan or in any government, the last thing the Governor needs are "yes" people -- those people who always say what their boss wants to hear.
I served as the Communications Director for the City of Detroit and Press Secretary to Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel during one of Detroit's most tumultuous times. Ken Cockrel was the President of the Detroit City Council when then Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned after pleading guilty of two counts of obstruction of justice stemming from a sex-and-misconduct scandal that engulfed the Motor City for months.
Before accepting the Mayors invitation to serve in his administration, I already owned my own PR firm, practiced law and worked as a federal lobbyist. My approach to my new role as the Chief Spokesperson for the City of Detroit and for the Mayor was to make sure his voice was heard and the was listening to the voices of Detroit.
With every media request, I advised the Mayor which ones he must respond to. He was the face of Detroit and an ambassador for our city to a global audience. In an ideal world, he should've responded to every media request, but to do so would take his time away from meeting with key stakeholders, planning and responding to the immediate needs of the city. If he could not respond directly, then the Deputy Mayor, Saul Green did and if Saul was not available, I would serve as the Mayor's spokesperson or we would find a department director to serve as a subject-matter expert.
While I triaged media requests, I also worked on messaging, speech writing, drafting news releases and working with the Mayor to focus on the budget and new programs he wanted to implement. In the end, just as the Governor is doing now, we were constantly in crises mode.
While I may have known Ken for just a few years before he became Mayor, he asked me to serve in his Administration because of my experience. As a result, I treated the Mayor as I would treat any one of my clients. They hire me for my experience, perspective, advice and counsel. He was never required to take my advice but I would never hesitate to give it. In the end, it was his Administration and his choice what to do.
As Governor Snyder reorganizes his office we cannot always blame the messengers. While the advice of some may not always be the best advice, the one person accepting it in the end is the Governor. However, it is not easy, especially when that President, Governor, Speaker or Mayor is constantly operating in crises mode without a strategy to help guide them forward. The Governor needs a plan to guide him and he needs the professionals in place to help.