Jill Bader: Walker's Communications Director

A Campaign of Communication

Jill in the Senate Press GaleryThe age of modernity has changed the face of political discourse.  There has never been a time in the world of politics where information was so accessible.  A simple tweet from a candidate or conversations secretly recorded by an Iphone can wreak havoc on a political campaign.

Campaigns have always utilized smart messaging to gain popular support.  Back in the 1860s, President Lincoln believed the Civil War took a toll on the American people making his reelection chances problematic.  Making his weakness into a strength, his campaign slogan became, "Don't change horses in the middle of a stream".  It worked and Lincoln was reelected with 55% of the vote.

We've come along way since the 1800s.  The Internet began reshaping the political terrain, making effective communication strategies of one election not so effective in the next. The communications director must accurately gauge the electoral market and make a message determination in advance.  To put it one way, if campaign experts believe that communications is the heart of a political campaign, then the communications director must be the coronary arteries.   

Jill Bader Becomes Communications Director for the Walker Campaign

In August of 2009, Scott Walker's campaign manager Keith Gilkes began calling around for a communications director.  The Governor's Association suggested Jill Bader, a young press secretary of the Senate Republican Conference and Aid to Senator Lamar Alexander.  Given her campaign experience with Bob Corker and serving as a spokeswoman for Lamar Alexander's reelect, offering Bader the job was simply a wise choice.

Walker's election success was predicated upon the campaign's ability to stay on message.  Across the country, the GOP used a cookie-cutter theme of fiscal responsibility at a time of economic drought and increased government spending.  What separated Scott Walker from the pack, beside his uncanny ability to do what he says, was his executive record of real budgetary shrewdness.  Fiscal responsibility, captured by the Walker's brown bag theme, connected him with Wisconsin voters - a message executed skillfully by Jill Bader.

Jill Bader was in charge of the general messaging for Scott Walker's campaign.  Her job, a critical one, was to interface Walker with the public.  She did this through speech writing, press releases, website content and campaign advertisements.  But she was more than just a media handler, Bader was a go-to person in the strategy room.  She staffed the campaign, executed the famous "Brown Bag" theme and briefed Walker on developing news.  In retrospect, it's an impressive story for a 27 year old.

Some Background on Jill Bader

wisconsin ice fishingFrom all accounts, Jill Bader is the picture-perfect southern-bell, but without the accent.  From high-school to college, Jill was active in charities and non-profit organizations.  When she wasn't serving in the inner city, she was involved in student government and international relations.

Jill graduated from Wake Forest University with a B.A. in Communications and double minors in Political Science and International Studies.  Jill even made her way to London to continue her studies through the Syracuse University communications project.

Her first experience with the real world of politics was in 2002 as a campaign intern for the former Governor of Tennessee, Lamar Alexander.  In 2005, after Lamar Alexander won his Senate seat, he hired Jill on full time to work out of Washington D.C.  In the four years she worked for Senator Alexander, she honed her communication skills and earned herself a promotion to his leadership office, becoming a press secretary for the Senate Republican Conference - not bad for a 27 year old girl from Nashville.

A Future Unwritten

For many of us, our future is unwritten.  I'm a firm believer that the stars don't align without a little help.  In just 27 years, Jill Bader advanced quickly through the political landscape.  She did it because she kept her mind focused and her feet busy.  But what stands out the most is not Jill's determination, but her personality.  Psychologists that study organizational behavior note that openness, agreeableness and extroversion often opens the door to success.

Jill, known for her "happy-go-lucky" disposition has an unyielding ability to keep a smile.  When I interviewed Scott Walker during his gubernatorial campaign, he said that Jill Bader was one of the happiest people he knew.  And in a world where communication is becoming so ever important, adding a smile to good field experience and political expertise goes a long way.


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