We at Rasky Baerlein are proud of our talented public relations and public affairs experts across the firm’s practice areas. In our new Meet the Expert series, we sit down with a different agency leader on Mondays to get their thoughts on several important and timely questions and gain a greater sense of their industry expertise and experiences. This week we sit down with RBSC senior vice president in our federal government relations practice, Bethany Bassett.
What interests you most about public affairs?
Public affairs is the nexus where government and policy meet communications. When devising a public affairs strategy, I enjoy the challenge of determining the best way to convey a message to the stakeholders in and around that nexus.
With public affairs being such a constantly evolving field, where do you see it headed and what can professionals do to keep up?
I believe that the industry will continue to evolve and expand in the digital space requiring more technical expertise. That said, I also don’t believe that traditional public affairs (media relations, crisis communications, op-ed writing, etc.) is necessarily devolving. I think the best thing public affairs professionals can do in this era is to be agile–if there’s an opportunity to learn a new skill on the job, take that opportunity.
You served as the legislative team chief in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Department of Defense for nearly four years, working on a number of important efforts including the integration of women in combat and the implementation of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” How did this DoD experience help shape your work here at Rasky Baerlein?
In working at the Pentagon, I was lucky enough to work for three Secretaries of Defense. That job taught me a great deal, and one of them was the importance of agility I mentioned earlier. In an environment like that and often with the client issues we face at RBSC, missions are ever changing as organizational leadership shifts. You have to be ready to adapt at any time to accomplish the goals of the principal/client while also not being afraid to tell them when you disagree.
You also worked as a policy advisor in both the Boston and Washington offices of the late Senator Teddy Kennedy. What impact did this experience have on your work today?
Working in a Senate office had a major positive impact on my career. I was able to work firsthand on the legislative process while also learning policy intricacies in both the defense and veterans industries. I apply both of these skills to my work here at RBSC every day.
Your government relations experience at Rasky Baerlein includes working with defense clients as well as others from a variety of industries. How do you remain nimble so you can quickly learn and represent the interests of each of your clients?
I remain nimble by monitoring policy shifts both in the commercial sector and in the government. I regularly collect intelligence from policy makers on the Hill and from colleagues throughout industry while also keeping up with the latest trends through news and social media.
As you reflect on your time at Rasky Baerlein and in the industry itself, what in your mind sets the firm apart from the rest when it comes to its approach to public affairs?
RBSC is a package deal. When I was looking to move on from the Administration, I considered a number of firms and one of the many reasons I wanted to work at RBSC is that we truly do offer the full suite of strategic communications services. We have specialists in all of the communications fields and we are arguably one of the best at developing strategies and tactics that leave no stone unturned.
If you could offer clients one piece of advice, what would it be?
Own your brand. Whether you’re working on a boutique policy issue or expanding grassroots support, recognize your strengths and how you can use them to maximize any weaknesses you may face.
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