We at Rasky Partners are proud of our talented public relations and public affairs experts across the firm’s practice areas. In our ongoing 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 Rasky senior vice president in our federal government relations practice, Jessica Tocco.
What interests you most about public affairs?
I love having the ability to change public policy and make a direct difference on government decision making.
With public affairs being such a constantly evolving field, where do you see the industry headed and what can professionals do to keep up?
Over the last decade the industry has really shifted from basic Hill lobbying to broad based public policy strategies that include thought leadership, message positioning, leveraging media, and also leveraging the agencies. Especially with the end of earmarks, the agencies have the growing ability to influence and execute their will through public grants and procurement. To be successful, industry professionals must be mindful of the big picture.
You previously served as Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam and Director of the Asia Pacific Counsel of American Chambers. How did these experiences help shape your work today?
We live in a global economy and having been overseas for several years has given me an advantage when it comes to understanding trade policy, national defense, foreign direct investment, and global markets. Having a global perspective is very important when representing clients at all levels in all industries.
You’re now rejoining Rasky Partners after launching your own successful government relations firm, A10 Associates. How did your time as an entrepreneur help you become a better industry professional?
Being an entrepreneur taught me how to be a better “hunter” both in terms of business development and especially when achieving outcomes for clients. With my success at A10 Associates, it gave me the confidence to know that I can compete against the best that’s out there to achieve a given result for a client.
You’re an Indiana native and have enjoyed a longstanding political relationship with Vice President Mike Pence and his team. How has this relationship evolved over the years?
I first met Vice President Pence back in high school at his yearly “picnic for Pence” where I would volunteer to bus tables in order to get to meet the then Congressman Pence and the other national leaders who attended. I loved politics and this was my favorite event for many years. As I continued my political career at the national level, both as the National Chairman of College Republicans and a member of the Rove World team, I was able to work with the Pence team on many issues. The Vice President is one of my biggest role models and he and his team have been great mentors over the many years I’ve known him.
What do you consider one of your greatest professional accomplishments?
One of my greatest accomplishments came recently when I was asked to volunteer on the Trump/Pence Presidential Transition Team. Given my affinity for the Vice President, I was proud to have the opportunity to work closely with the larger team on the important task of putting the new administration in place. This opportunity gave me a chance to leverage my previous experience in the Bush Administration to help the new leadership.
The political landscape in Washington has quickly shifted with Donald Trump as president and the Republicans controlling both the House and Senate. Given this changing landscape, what do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for public affairs professionals here in 2017 and beyond?
Massachusetts is in a unique position given our state’s opposition to the President in terms of the electorate as well as our delegation to Washington. This creates an opportunity for the business community to go directly to decision makers and focus on policy instead of politics. Massachusetts companies have so much to offer especially in the areas of healthcare, life sciences, technology, defense, cyber security, and education.
There is no shortage of public affairs and PR firms in Washington. What sets Rasky apart from the rest when it comes to its approach?
Rasky Partners understands exactly what it means to provide holistic solutions to clients. When joining the business, I met with several firms in the region and saw directly that this organization is one of the few that can fully integrate municipal, state, and federal government relations with public relations and policy advocacy. Our experts provide a coordinated host of services that effectively serve clients whether they are looking for positioning, handling a crisis, or even trying to grow their bottom line.
If you could offer clients one piece of advice, what would it be?
The key to public affairs is to believe in what you are fighting for, and work with a partner that you can trust. What I love about Rasky Partners is that we put the client first and continue to empower each other to execute advocacy victories.
For more on Rasky’s industry expertise, please click here.