Two former Virginia governor’s communications directors spoke this past Monday night to students in the Commons about their time in the each governor’s administration.
Tucker Martin, former communications director for Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), and Kevin Hall, former communications director for Gov. Tim Kaine (D), spoke during the Wilder’s School’s event.
“This panel was an outgrowth of a course that I’m teaching on political communications,” said Jennifer Thompson, a Wilder school professor who planned the event.
The conversation was casual, and the two told stories from the campaign trail and their time in office.
“We were running against the Republican governor who we spent the last four years blaming for everything that had gone wrong in Virginia,” Hall said about his 2008 campaign with Mark Warner. “And rightly so,” he said to Martin.
Both gave advice on an industry they say has changed significantly since they started.
They agreed that Twitter has shifted their responsibilities in today’s political and media landscape.
“You can always tell who the communications person is at a press conference because they’re nervously looking at their phone behind the politician,” Martin said. “I was always checking Twitter to see what journalists were about to ask.”
Hall said when he first started they would start the day by sending an Op-Ed piece and dealing with only some media. Now, he says there are multiple computer screens and TVs in his office so he can constantly follow the multimedia landscape.
The two of them ended the hourlong talk by riffing on the differences between working on a campaign and working for someone in office.
“You don’t have the benefit of using a longer lens on mistakes and issues,” Martin said of working on a campaign. “Everything is immediate and you don’t have the luxury of saying we’ll work through this.”
Some students in attendance said they hope to apply the advice from the talk to help achieve their own future goals.
“I went because I’m really interested in (public relations). I thought it was really interesting,” said Kelsey Callahan, a junior mass communications major. “I hope to have one of their jobs some day.”