Local Matters: Insights from Two Former Capitol Hill Press Secretaries

July 25, 2023
Hella Sisca + Destinee Easton

Hella and Destinee are both Senior Account Executives at Direct Impact, where they help implement communication strategies in local communities across the United States. Before joining DI, they both served as press secretaries on Capitol Hill where they gained unique experiences and insights that helped shape the work they do for DI’s clients. Today, they are happy to share their experiences on Capitol Hill and offer their perspectives on the importance of local engagement.  


Working as press secretaries on Capitol Hill offered unique experiences that helped shape our approach to advising DI clients. Wrangling our respective U.S. Senators through crowds of reporters; writing press releases, quotes, official statements, and op-eds; and fielding calls and emails from journalists within a relentless 24-hour news cycle—these are only snapshots of the challenges which press secretaries on both sides of the aisle tirelessly manage.

Adaptability was vital as we navigated new issues, controversies, and evolving media trends. To be successful, we not only had to have our finger on the pulse of the national conversation but a keen understanding of how the conversation impacted local communities. We've witnessed firsthand the influential role of local journalists and stakeholders in shaping public opinion and driving meaningful change. These often-unsung heroes possess an intimate understanding of their communities and what moves people in their daily lives.

In prioritizing local engagement as part of our respective media strategies, we amplified our messages, connected with communities on a deeper level, and fostered stronger relationships with the constituents we served. Ultimately, this ensured our respective senators were more effective in serving the diverse communities throughout the states they represented on Capitol Hill.

Based on what we learned from our days “on the Hill,” here are three easy tips on how to effectively harness the power of local engagement:

Engage Local Media (and the possible global impact): While national news publications hold immense reach, local media outlets are the heartbeat of their communities. They possess an unparalleled ability to connect with people on a personal level– which sometimes results in local stories appearing in global headlines. Whether you’re trying to reach legislators, consumers, or anyone in between, understanding and engaging with local media is paramount in making a lasting impact at the community level.

Build Authentic Relationships: Engaging with local media and local leaders is more than just a transactional interaction; it's about building genuine relationships. Taking the time to understand a community's needs and interests helps ensure messages are appropriately tailored to address local concerns and will resonate among targeted audiences.

Harness the Power of Storytelling: In a world saturated with information, stories are what captivate and inspire people. Local media outlets thrive on narratives that resonate with their readership. By leveraging the power of story telling and engaging trusted local voices and partners, policy issues can be humanized, making them relatable and emotionally compelling to local journalists and their audiences.

Since joining the Direct Impact team, our belief that “local matters” has only been strengthened through the work we do each day to help our clients tell their stories to unique audiences across the nation’s diverse communities. Just like on Capitol Hill, we are mindful of how a story must be communicated in Des Moines, Iowa vs. Annapolis, Maryland, and the most effective way to move people in each state and others across the country.

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Have a local issue you need to address? Looking to engage the right audience in key communities?Want to reach consumers and policymakers at a hyper-local level? Direct Impact can help.

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