Political Communication never rests, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

While most of the world has been put on pause, political organizing is still going strong. Campaign organizers and communicators, for example, have been able to continue their work by reaching out through new mediums and assuming new strategies for building support. Their work may look different, but its purpose and value has not changed.

We recently spoke with Emerson alumna Cierra DeVos ’19 of the Tedra Cobb for Congress campaign in Upstate New York and Aziz Yakub of NY Dems to help shine a light on what political work looks like during this time, as well as what opportunities are available to Emerson students and alumni.

Political Communication During COVID:

How has COVID-19 impacted your work?

Cierra: “We’ve gone to entirely remote. We’ve been remote since the end of March. The North Country, which is what the district is called, is the very northern-most part of New York and they are in the first batch of reopenings. I don’t want to speak to specifics about our timeline, because I think it’s very much based off of what we’re hearing from officials and health experts. We’re a small office and it looks very different than New York City and of what you think of when you hear New York.”

Aziz: “The district is already so rural that, in many ways, there isn’t as much of a substantial change as you would anticipate with other things. But honestly, a lot of what a field organizer does is fundamentally meeting people where they’re at. Now that people are at their homes, we meet them through video calls instead of at coffee shops.”

Cierra, could you give some background on your role specifically?

Cierra: “I am the Campaign Assistant on Tedra Cobb’s Campaign. I have been also doing work with [the campaign’s] internship program, getting that off the ground… we’re definitely interested in recruiting Emersonians for that. We’re still taking people for the Summer.

We may be doing some recruiting for the Fall as well. I also graduated from Emerson in December… A lot of the other things I do have been put on hold with everything around COVID, but I help a bit with scheduling on the campaign as well as doing some stuff in terms of emails for the field program and social media content.”

Cierra graduated in December 2019 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication.

What interests you in recruiting Emerson students specifically?

Cierra: “Being one myself, I think that the college’s Political Communication program and broader focus on Communication Studies is one that lends itself extremely well to field work. I think field work is something that then lends itself to a lot of the other areas of politics that Emersonians would be interested in doing….

I think there are lots of Emerson students who are extremely well versed in the skills that make you an effective field organizer, especially in terms of the ability to build authentic relationships and engage people through conversations that aren’t just about traditional political science.”

How have you applied your Emerson education to this role?

Cierra: “One of the things I definitely got from Emerson were different frames of viewing the world. I know, in particular, Emerson’s focus on the DC Program that we did was something that was extremely valuable to me. Getting the experience to do a position almost full-time in a high-stress environment is something that is extremely useful now because campaigns are nonstop….

There’s also the natural networking that Emerson encourages students to do. I remember asking all of my professors for leads on jobs and asking for their input when I did find things and fostering that kind of mentality of using the people around you, in addition to all the classes you’re taking and more, like, traditional things I learned from Emerson that I’ve just been using and sort of understanding the broader things going on around me.”

How would you describe the culture of working on a campaign?

Cierra: “I think there’s a level of respect and formality that comes along with being an elected official, depending on who that person may be. It isn’t necessarily a negative thing, but it’s just kind of a different environment than I think Emerson students are used to.

[At Emerson] we would call all of our professors by their first names, so I think that it’s kind of a different like power structure when you’re in this work. I know that was very surprising to me when I went into that position, but, particularly on this campaign, I think there are two reasons why that’s not at all the case:

The first is that Tedra isn’t currently an elected official and the second is that, even if she was, Tedra is just the most down to Earth, genuine person in a way that, after having worked in an office with an elected official, I came in and was like she’s Miss Cobb and I’m not going to talk to her unless she talks to me me. I’m going to make sure everything’s clean and  I come in and she’s like there 40 minutes ahead of time vacuuming because she’s a mom. She’s like, “I want to vacuum this office.” I think that just radiates down.

I think in general it’s a more relaxed environment. And so much of the campaign is volunteers where there’s even more emphasis on building relationships. So you’re not going to approach it with a stiff handshake. I don’t think that’s at all the case here.”

How can students prepare for your opportunities?

Cierra: “I think just kind of having like a scrappy attitude about it. That’s something we’ve talked about a lot, especially right now. You’ve got to really fight for every volunteer and every shift you can get in new and creative ways.”

Aziz: “Honestly, the main thing for us is flexibility. I think that was something before this pandemic happened and is something that’s just critical on any campaign either way.

Campaigns are things where things go wrong and you have to be able to bounce back and be flexible with how you’re working. One of the main things we look for in Field Organizers are folks that are not only willing to be flexible, but are unfazed by things changing.”

Learn More

Students interested in internships with Tedra Cobb’s campaign, can visit…

Categories: Uncategorized