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Spotlight on…Angel Riley

Spotlight on … Angel Riley

Senior Manager, Political Affairs
Philips North America

April 2024

You’ve been a political affairs professional, with a lot of work with PACs, for more than 20 years. How has this work changed during that time?

Our profession has significantly evolved. When I first started my career, PAC administrators mainly provided administrative support for the government affairs team. I’m fortunate to have assumed a true PAC manager role without the additional administrative support responsibilities. But I have also been in the trenches of reorganizing the PAC and LDA reporting in response to Citizens United and the Honest Leadership & Open Government Act (HLOGA). In addition, we PAC managers are campaign finance subject matter experts and internal communicators, skilled in business development, and good speakers. Not to mention, we’re detail-oriented database managers who are really good at data analytics. After January 6, many of us got a crash course in crisis communications. We learned how to prepare brief, factual and consistent “holding statements” for internal and external audiences as well as making sure we communicated more about our governance structure.

You were also Ethics Officer at Lockheed Martin. What did that entail?

That was a great opportunity, and I am so thankful that I took advantage of the stretch assignment. For this two-year business leadership program, I relocated from Washington, D.C. to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I worked on matters of business conduct and integrity, ensuring employees were compliant with internal corporate policies. I worked on employee complaints around procurement issues, time charging, management styles and more. The experience helped me understand the bigger picture of all the liabilities a corporation carries as they seek to comply with various laws and regulations. The ethics rotational assignment has helped me tremendously after leaving Lockheed, especially in my current position.

How will AI affect the day-to-day work of public affairs professionals?

I see generative AI as a helpful tool. For example, ChatGPT can generate a summary of a bill and provide a rough draft of a message to send to employees explaining things like how they are impacted by legislation. While we should not rely solely on what is generated through ChatGPT, using it can reduce the amount of time it takes for us to develop and distribute important legislative updates.

On the downside, as we all know, bad actors use AI to produce deepfakes or spread misinformation. These can be difficult to identify, so public affairs professionals must become trusted resources for our workforce, and sometimes for the public, consistently distributing factual information. This can be done by having robust get-out-the-vote (GOTV) programs.

You’re from Washington, D.C., but did your undergraduate work at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Tell us about your journey.

I am a graduate of the D.C. public school system, H.D. Woodson Senior High School. During that time, companies started to invest in high schools to generate a pipeline of talent. Because of this, I was able to start high school in the ninth grade because I was accepted into the Academy of Finance and Business.

One of the requirements for us ninth graders was to submit an essay for a full scholarship to Howard University business school from Coopers & Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers.  I actually won the scholarship. This accomplishment made getting a four-year degree a reality for me. By my senior year, I really wanted to get away from home. During spring break, I got to spend the week in Buckhannon, W. Va., at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and I loved it. Thanks to various scholarships and student loans, I headed to my home among the hills in north central West Virginia.

What were your career goals back then?

I had this goal — not sure where it came from — of being a corporate mergers and acquisitions lawyer. I was all set to get my J.D. from Northwestern University and build a beautiful life in windy Chicago. Now my grades have always been good, but I am one of those people who struggle with standardized tests. I did not do well on the LSAT and decided to take a break year. Instead of spending hours studying for the LSAT to become a hot shot lawyer, I enrolled in graduate school, received a master’s in public administration, concentrating on government management, and built a great 20+ year career in political affairs.

Reach Angel at [email protected].

While we should not rely solely on what is generated through [generative AI], using it can reduce the amount of time it takes for us to develop and distribute important legislative updates.

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