New Staffer Association Wants to Unite Digital Democrats

Co-founders say now is the time for the party to up its digital game.

Jessica Presley and Becca Steele

A new congressional staff group is looking for members who feel they have few accessible resources when it comes to digital communications.

House staffer Jessica Presley and Senate staffer Rebecca Steele co-founded the Democratic Digital Communications Staff Association on March 20 and it has nine founding members.

“The Democratic Party, as a whole, needs to prioritize digital communications now more than ever if they want to effectively communicate their priorities, polices and principals,” Presley said.

The group’s objectives are networking, training, and professional development for digital communicators already working on the Hill, and to get the right people into the hiring pipeline.

“I think there are resources [for digital communicators], but  you have to look for them yourself and that’s time consuming when you’re a Hill staffer and doing many different things,” Steele said. “The goal of this association is to put those resources into one place and to put those people who have looked for them and found them in one place so you can ask the experts in your peer group around you.”

Presley has been the digital director for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee minority since 2015. Her boss, Maryland Democrat Elijah E. Cummings, is the association’s sponsoring member.

Steele is digital director for Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and the Senate Finance Committee minority, where she has worked for more than five years.

Not every office or committee has a digital communications staffer and that work falls on other people, whether or not they are press staffers.

Presley and Steele want to help offices find and hire capable digital communicators.

“There are so many talented people who want to get involved in the political process and are digital experts, not only in this area but across the country,” Presley said. “How can we connect [them] to Democratic personal offices, committee offices in the House and the Senate?”

The association hopes to be a place where staffers “can actually come to us and ask questions on a regular basis,” Presley said.

The two co-founders got the idea for the group after receiving emails on a weekly basis from junior staff or people interested in communications and trying to get involved.

“This is something a lot of people have talked about for a while and to actually be coming together, putting the association together, and getting it off the ground, there’s a lot of energy behind it,” Steele said. “I think now more than ever.”

Once the group has enough members, it plans to hold roundtables with key industry experts and in-depth training courses.

Presley said they also want to “go to a Google HQ, a Twitter HQ, and have staff be able to ask directly to those experts for them to answer the questions.”