WWPR Content Committee member, Florence Sumaray had an opportunity to connect with WWPR member, Ianthe Metzger to learn more about her role as Deputy Director of Campaign Communications for State & Local Campaigns at EMILY’s List and how she got involved with WWPR.
Tell me about your background and your work with EMILY’s List. Perhaps share how COVID-19 has upended traditional campaign events and the challenges and rewards of generating attention for down-ballot races.
From working to change hearts and minds on marriage equality and LGBTQ protections with the Human Rights Campaign, to my current role at EMILY’s List where I help elect women up and down the ballot, I’ve always been interested in political communications and advocating for a particular issue or candidate through the media.
At EMILY’s List, I work solely with women who are running down-ballot on their media strategies, message development, and media training, and also elevate the work of EMILY’s List’s state and local campaigns team more broadly. While there’s always more focus on the White House and federal races, state and local races are incredibly important. I seriously can’t make that point enough. Our city councils and state legislatures have an enormous impact on our day-to-day lives and are increasingly getting the attention they deserve from voters and the media, given the harmful bills these legislative bodies have passed in recent years and the fact that it’s a redistricting cycle. The women in these offices are just awesome and do a fantastic job!
As with everything, the way we do our work and support our candidates has changed so much over the past few months. Last fall, I was in Virginia doing in-person GOTV events with our organization’s president, Stephanie Schriock and our candidates. We door-knocked in key districts as part of our successful effort to flip the Virginia General Assembly. This cycle is totally different as we work with our candidates on how to reach voters on the virtual campaign trail. Thankfully EMILY’s List was already equipped to help candidates through our robust training center that offers sessions on hosting virtual events, rapid response and crisis management, digital organizing and ads, and so much more.
Many of our endorsed women were already running on a message of expanding access to health care and creating sustainable job opportunities, so we’ve worked with them on how to incorporate COVID-19 into their existing messaging and make clear to voters and to the media that they are best suited to represent their district. It’s timely, it’s authentic, and it’s what reporters are interested in. Also, a lot of our candidates are educators, small business owners, or health care professionals who can speak to the issues that the country is facing firsthand, so we’ve worked hard to elevate their stories in the press. While nothing can replace a face to face conversation at the door, a positive of the virtual campaign trail is being able to easily reach more people all over the state and doing virtual events featuring high profile surrogates, who are typically incredibly busy. They may not have been able to stop by your in-person campaign event in a different city or state, but they can certainly pop into a Zoom townhall for 20 minutes to talk about why you’re a great candidate.
Why did you join WWPR? How has the experience been and what advice would you give to someone wanting to join WWPR?
For anyone who’s on the fence about joining WWPR, you should definitely do it! It’s always been a great community of women, but that’s even more true as we collectively learn how to navigate COVID-19 and write new rules as we go.
WWPR’s webinars and trainings over the past few months have been invaluable and it’s been great to hear from so many experts on what’s working at their organizations, best practices, and innovative solutions for how to get your message out and breakthrough in a media landscape that continues to become more and more challenging.
I joined this community because I wanted to connect with a group of like-minded women who were committed to learning from each other and growing in their fields, and I’ve definitely gotten that as a member of WWPR.
How has the PR industry changed in the last five years and what are you doing differently that seems to work in your industry?
From The Lily to The 19th to The Fuller Project, I’ve loved seeing all the new outlets that have emerged in recent years that target women and focus solely on their stories and experiences at the intersection of politics and policy. I also think that in recent years, organizations have been putting forward more diverse spokespeople and newsrooms are finally beginning to elevate more diverse voices on the air which is critical, long overdue, and a trend that I hope continues.
Through our work at EMILY’s List, every day we prove that women can win tough races, all across the country and storytelling continues to be a key part of that. It’s clear, not only from the sheer volume of women candidates running this year (a record 584 in Congress alone!) but also by the diversity of these women, that the political environment is ripe for women’s leadership. They all come from different backgrounds and prove that despite conventional wisdom, there’s no one way to be “the woman candidate.” It’s about being brave enough to tell your story authentically and put your name on the ballot.
During this time, was there any hobby you picked up or spent more time doing that you have enjoyed?
I used to read quite a bit before, but I’ve gone through so many books during quarantine. I’d recommend The Great Alone, Saving Ruby King, and The Last Flight if you’re looking for something to dive into. I’ve also been baking a lot of new treats, most recently cinnamon roll cheesecake, making new cocktails with my husband, and finally getting around to using all the appliances that we got as wedding gifts two years ago! My sisters live in Philadelphia and Milwaukee so we’ve been scheduling virtual workouts that we do together over Google Hangouts. It’s been a really great way to stay connected and something that we probably would not have started doing had it not been for COVID-19, even though we’ve always lived in different cities.
What are some of your favorite things to do in the DMV area and how have you adjusted since COVID-19?
There’s something for everyone in the DMV; it’s my favorite thing about living here. Typically, I love brunching, going to festivals and concerts, and exploring our many museums –– it was devastating when the Newseum closed in December! I will say that I’m definitely more of a homebody so I wasn’t too put out in the first few months of quarantine, but that’s definitely changed as it’s dragged on.
I live in Pentagon City and used to find all my entertainment in DC proper, but have been making more of an effort to explore my neighborhood and get to know Arlington, which I’ve really enjoyed so far. In the next couple of weeks, we also plan on checking out the drive-in movie theatre at Union Market and heading out to Prince William County for some hiking.
Hear more from Ianthe about her involvement in WWPR and why joining the WWPR community is so valuable, especially as we navigate the new normal of COVID-19: