Erika Compart, Senior Director of Communications at the Public Affairs Council

Erika Compart, Senior Director of Communications at the Public Affairs Council


During an internship, meeting the right people is just as beneficial as the experience itself. One person I’m grateful to have worked with and learned from is Erika Compart. As the senior director of communications at the Public Affairs Council, Compart is kept busy with a lot of editing and strategic planning. She is kind and approachable but also a leader who is unafraid to seek perfection. During one of my first days as an intern, I sat in on a conference call with the communications team where we evaluated some recent changes to the website. I was blown away by her ability to clearly communicate her goals and make the necessary changes while also listening thoughtfully to her colleagues.


“What do you think?” she asked me, pointing at the computer screen to a sidebar the webmaster had just updated. Though it was still my first week as an intern with the Council, she made me feel respected and valued. At that moment, I realized I would learn a great deal from her about being a leader.


Despite being very busy preparing for the release of the 2014 Public Affairs Pulse survey, an annual survey that is the largest conducted by the Council, Compart invited me to lunch to answer my questions on her background and provide some guidance for a prospective career in communications.


Her professional journalistic background began with reporting internships during undergraduate study, which subsequently landed her at the news desk of U.S. News and World Report fresh out of college. From the beginning, she was conscious of what she did and did not enjoy. Though she loved that first job, Compart knew she was unable to move up in the company while still doing the kind of work she was most interested in.


She moved on to Agence France-Presse in order to utilize a talent and love for languages, and she translated, edited and reported in the agency’s D.C. office, covering everything from the September 11 attacks and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, to arts and entertainment.


After six and a half years with AFP, Compart faced an interesting decision between a desk job with NPR or joining the startup team at Politico. She passed up the safe choice of joining an established firm and began work as the copy desk chief for Politico, where she oversaw copy editing for both the website and the paper. She noted how exciting it was to be part of Politico from its early days. When most traditional media firms were downsizing, Politico was growing. It didn’t take long for the paper to expand production from three to five days a week, and in fall 2008, Compart became deputy managing editor, responsible for getting the paper out each night.


She joined the Public Affairs Council in 2011 to be able to spend more time with her family. She described the position as “a really great fit.” Shortly after joining the Council, Compart led its rebranding efforts and the redesign of its website. Under her guidance, all communication from the Council seeks to stay true to the Council’s voice as a leader in the public affairs arena. Beyond the website, the Council’s flagship newsletter, Impact, has been revamped to appeal to a more senior-level audience. And a new digital publication, Catalyst, an email digest of public affairs news, has been created.


With a vast amount of experience in the field, Compart is an incredible resource for career advice. When asked what young people hoping to break into the workforce can do, she emphasized variety. “Get experience in as many things as you can, even if you’re not that interested in every area,” she said. “A diverse skill set goes a long way in terms of your marketability, and you’ll be surprised how even seemingly insignificant tasks can prove to be extremely valuable building blocks in your career.”

 

One fear I’ve developed when exploring careers in communications is over the level of stress involved. I put a great deal of pressure on myself, so I’m nervous how I might respond to an even more demanding work environment. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky that every day during my internship, I’ve been handed responsibility but also support. My desk is directly next to Compart’s office, and her energy is calming and reassuring. She is forward-thinking while accomplishing a great deal of time-sensitive tasks. And despite the pressure, she is joyful and pleasant to work with. I’m truly grateful to have been inspired by her during my time at the Public Affairs Council.

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