When I told my friends and colleagues that I was leaving my job at the Massachusetts State House to take a job in public affairs, they all asked me why I was switching career paths. “I’m not,” I said. “I’m just working on the same issues from a different perspective.”
That’s when it occurred to me that people don’t understand the connection between public policy and public affairs. Both jobs play a valuable role in bringing attention to and fixing problems. In the legislature, I worked on a number of issues that solved problems facing people in the Commonwealth, from increasing access to lifesaving medications to improving water safety laws for children. But without the help of the public, which reacted to the media’s attention to these issues, those problems may have gone unresolved.
The State House is the people’s building and despite what you may hear on the morning news, it really does care what its constituency wants. Legislators are sent to Beacon Hill to represent the wants and needs of their district and they depend on those people to keep them in office so they listen to what they have to say. However, often times, the issues are far too complicated or “in the weeds” for the public to understand so they don’t get involved.
That’s where public affairs professionals come in. We break down those complicated issues into real world terms and use a variety of public outreach strategies to share the message. We target the message to the key audience to ensure that the right people are learning about the issue and we drive them to action.
To get the legislature’s attention, the public has to be involved. There is much to be gained when public policy and public affairs professionals team up to make that happen.