Today’s excerpt from “The Global Communicator’s Welcome to Washington Guide” looks into how communicators from abroad can gain more comfort in their new Washington, D.C., surroundings.
The recommended course for new arrivals? Building relationships. These connections don’t necessarily need to be exclusively with reporters. Interacting with individuals who have contacts in the journalism community can also prove helpful.
Consider pursuing and developing professional relationships with experts in such areas as agriculture, energy, finance, politics, and transportation. Your issues may vary depending on the nature of your work in Washington. The bottom line is you need to forge links with issue authorities in your field, and forge them quickly.
One source for identifying these contacts is the legion of think tanks that exist in Washington. From The Brookings Institution to the Cato Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute to the Woodrow Wilson Center, these think tanks are overflowing with academics, former members of the press, and out-of-office politicians. Reporters frequently turn to such thinkers for quotes and background. These Inside-the-Beltway “quote machines” specialize in one or two subjects, and most exhibit a distinct political slant. Determine which connections are likely to be most rewarding for you and place them on your target list.
Quick recommendation: Attend events at those think tanks you target to get a better idea of how they might be helpful to you and who to approach there. The U.S. State Department lists some of the major Washington-based groups at www.state.gov/m/fsi/tc/79982.htm. A helpful calendar of think tank events can be found on DC Linktank at http://dc.linktank.com. In addition, several newly posted press attachés have fostered journalist contacts by attending events and becoming involved at the National Press Club.
These new professional relationships can help not only on the job, but also may lead to other possibilities such as lecturing and teaching. Those endeavors can open yet more doors. And, of course, personal friendships may develop in some cases, helping to ease the occasional feeling of loneliness and isolation in your new home.
Also, don’t ignore new non-professional relationships. Interacting with new neighbors, fellow school parents, and new friends you meet during the course of your days helps make life a little less lonely and intimidating in your new environment.
A word of caution: Don’t delay in seeking out these relationships. You have no time to waste, for before you know it, your tour of duty in Washington can come to an end. This means you must be assertive—perhaps even aggressive—in cultivating contacts in the U.S.