Global Communicators: Expanding Your Contacts in Washington

Today we continue with an excerpt from my recent position paper, “The Global Communicator’s Welcome to Washington Guide.”

Nearly every new person posted to Washington is replacing one on the way out. Many embassies don’t offer a long transition period, if any in some cases, particularly when there is a change of government. Corporate workers have better odds of a beneficial overlap period.

If you are fortunate enough to have a small overlap—even a few days—the big news you want from a predecessor is her rolodex for journalists, fellow communicators, and issue experts who can help smooth your transition. Don’t be shy about asking who’s who. That predecessor’s contacts are golden.
May Wildman with Rolodex
The reason for the journalist connections is obvious. New arrivals need to know which relationships to develop in order to pitch stories effectively.

At the same time, don’t ignore non-journalistic colleagues. The most helpful person may well be a press attaché from another country’s embassy, an experienced inside-the-Beltway government relations expert, or a lawyer who can help make connections with important reporters. It’s difficult to assess in advance which individuals can open which doors. To emphasize once again, relationship building is likely the most important aspect for any newly posted non-U.S. professional.

A continually expanding circle of contacts is a must. In the U.S., most professionals are open to a request for personal introductions to journalists and others who can help your efforts. Such requests are commonplace (though, admittedly, you will encounter those who don’t get it or who hoard their list of contacts). Of course, your requests must be made diplomatically (which should not be difficult given the fact that, officially or unofficially, we are all diplomats for our nations when we travel overseas). The best  type of connection comes face-to-face, but don’t ignore introductions via e-mail or a social media channel if that’s the best you can do.

What advice do you have for cultivating contacts in Washington?

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