Public affairs in the Gulf Coast

June 25, 2010
Gregory FCA's Ann Marie Gordon in the Gulf Coast

With today’s post, we’re going to take a break from our usual reporting on PR to share with you a note we received from Ann Marie Gordon, a junior member of the firm, who is also a communications specialist and reservist in the U.S. Coast Guard. Ann Marie is participating in the Coast Guard’s response to the Gulf oil spill. Here are her thoughts from ground zero.

Hi everyone!

Thank you so much for the box of Hope’s cookies! I got word that I received a package and when I went to go pick it up, there were a bunch of Coasties waiting for me to open it because they saw cookies on the box. They are delicious, as always, and still soft and fresh! I really appreciate the thought, I never realized how comforting it can be to get a package from home.

I still can’t believe I’m part of this response. I feel like it’s turning into a political mess. One problem just turns into another one. I have been doing public affairs for two parishes (Louisiana is divided into parishes, not counties). They are only 10 minutes apart but they are dealing with completely separate issues. I’m right on the Gulf of Mexico and both places were hit with oil. Grand Isle was hit the hardest. I think it really hit me what was going on when I walked to the state park to watch the sunset over the gulf and I could smell the oil and I saw a dolphin swimming in the sheen that was washing in with the tide.

In Port Fourchon they are dealing with the moratorium the President placed on offshore drilling. If I wasn’t here, I wouldn’t really understand the effects this moratorium is having on the economy. I’m pretty confident in saying just about every person on this island has a tie to the oil business. Now with this ban, so many people are being put out of work. This just adds to the fisherman and restaurant business that is being affected by this oil spill. The gulf fuels about 18% of America and somewhere around 90% of the oil from offshore drilling is unloaded in Port Fourchon.

As a member of the Coast Guard, I can’t get involved with the moratorium, that is just something the local government is dealing with. But when I walk around the community in my uniform, locals flock to me and I can just hear the hurt in their voices.

My primary responsibility down here is getting a Coast Guard presence in the media. I have secured interviews with USA Today, NYT, CNN, AP, CBS News, ABC News, FOX News, PBS, BBC, local New Orleans and Baton Rouge affiliates and foreign media.

I am here to document too. I am working on my first feature story today since the weather has shut down operations for the morning. But I have been taking a lot of pictures. The pictures I release, and any photos released by the Coast Guard or any military branch, are the public’s domain. My photos made the covers of some smaller papers, my biggest has been the cover, above the fold, of The Washington Post and CNN and AP slide shows. And I have one picture running with BP ads on commercials and newspapers. I’m not really sure how I feel about that.

I’m starting to shift gears with coverage. I’m realizing now that national news has agendas. In a situation like this, I feel like it’s most important to position to those most affected, the people of Louisiana. I have been reaching out to the local affiliates more to invite them to the staging areas to show all the good things the Coast Guard and the local communities are doing. The oil is still leaking, and the relief wells are projected to be completed in August, so I think it’s important to show the people of Louisiana the continuous efforts to clean this up.

I was sent to the staging areas — the areas hit with the oil — and I hit the ground running. My hard work has paid off though because I am the only PA (CG public affairs specialist) that has not been pulled out of a staging area. I still have supervision and I am learning a lot but I am also teaching. The CG focuses a lot on the documenting aspect of the job and I help people at my rank realize the importance to reaching out to the media and getting the story out. I got so much out of this experience I can’t express it in an email.

You can check out some of the photos I released here, and just search my name in the top left box.

Again, thank you so much for the cookies, it really means a lot coming from the company I work for. When I tell people I am a reservist the the first thing they ask is how is my full-time job taking this. I tell them I have full support and a great supervisor that really welcomes the experience I am getting from this response.

I hope everyone is doing well and I am looking forward to coming back soon!


Ann Marie

Gregory FCA’s Ann Marie Gordon in the Gulf Coast
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