Seaports Magazine - Summer 2014 - (Page 20)

»PORT PROFILE HER PATH LEADS TO PORTS Port of Oakland Spokesperson Marilyn Sandifur talks about the challenges of working in communications, lessons learned from the Occupy Oakland protests and her passion outside the port. By Sarah Sain M arilyn Sandifur tells those seeking advice from her to always keep their eyes open to a new path. The Port of Oakland's spokesperson picked up that life lesson from her own career experience. Sandifur started out her career in radio and television. Before joining the port in 2000, she worked in a number of roles (news anchor, reporter, executive producer, associate director of operations) at stations and broadcasting service companies in the San Francisco Bay area, including KCBS, the Northern California radio affiliate of CBS. Over time, she observed that the news business was becoming more entertainment focused, so she began working with a small public relations firm in addition to her fulltime news position. During that period, a port employee informally approached her to ask advice on what the port could do to get more positive news coverage. "This port staffer felt strongly that the organization had a lot of good stories to tell, but somehow wasn't getting the kind of positive publicity it deserved for all of the great projects and work it was doing." Sandifur outlined some steps that the port could take to garner positive media interest. Shortly thereafter she was hired as a consultant, which led to her becoming a long-time Port of Oakland employee with the port's communications department. Preparing for the Unexpected When Sandifur joined the port 14 years ago, she said it took a while to truly grasp 20 AAPA SEAPORTS MAGAZINE the vastness of the port holdings and the variety of operations that take place there (the Port of Oakland has three lines of business: maritime, aviation and commercial real estate). "I found maritime to be particularly fascinating because of its impact on the lives of people around the world," she says. "Maritime connects us all in many different and positive ways. Our quality of life is better because of the shipping industry, which moves all kinds of goods - food, medicine and equipment - across the globe and creates access for many people to what might not have been otherwise available in their own neighborhoods." As spokesperson for the port, Sandifur works on both internal and outside projects and campaigns. She says the real challenge of working in communications is that you never really know what your day will bring. "You might come into the office and plan to develop an ad campaign that day, write a newsletter or focus on a community relations project, but you always have to be ready to drop what you're doing to make room for the unexpected," she says. "You might get a call from the media with questions on a situation you're hearing about for the first time, there could be an emerging legal or labor issue, or you might get a visit from a high-level foreign dignitary who happens to be eating lunch nearby and suddenly wants a tour of the port." One such challenging situation was the Occupy Oakland protests that took place at the port in the fall of 2011, when a few thousand people demonstrated in the port's maritime area. This effectively shut down operations at the Oakland seaport for a period of less than 24 hours. Sandifur said the port took a unique approach in its response to the protests. "We set up an EOC (Emergency Operations Center) that one would normally establish when responding to a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a flood. We learned that this was a very effective way to handle the event because you had all the key team members in the room, from operations to communication. Everyone could look at the incident holistically." Sandifur says the No. 1 goal of the port in the midst of the protest was to keep everyone - demonstrators, employees and people who worked within the port - safe. By having the EOC in place, the port was able to communicate to all of its stakeholders and coordinate effectively. "The results: We had no injuries, there was no major damage to facilities and, at the same time, we were able to uphold the right of free speech." Throughout the incident, the port used its website, social media feeds, traditional press releases and editorial placements to keep the public informed and get out its key messaging. "We quickly began to see in the public dialogue that people were questioning the value of choosing the port as a location for the demonstrations. The public began to recognize that the people who worked at the port - the truckers, the dock workers, the regular employees who come to work every day - those were the people who were heavily impacted by the shutdown."

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seaports Magazine - Summer 2014

Aapa Headquarters
From the President’s Desk
In Case of Emergency
Extreme Weather
Plug-Ins Enabled
Partners in Fighting Crime
Her Path Leads to Ports
U.S. Needs New Transportation Law that Improves Quality of Life, Economy
Crisis at the Port: Planning Ahead Makes the Difference
Superstorms and Rising Sea Level Present a New Challenge for Ports
Aapa Port Employee Relief Fund a Helping Hand for Those in Need
Toronto Emergency Departments Hold Joint Ice and Cold Water Training Exercises
New Sonar Solution to Protect Aruba Ports Authority
Preparedness, Resiliency and Responsiveness in Mexico
Cat Islands Restoration Strengthens the Resiliency of Port of Green Bay, Local Environment
Index of Advertisers

Seaports Magazine - Summer 2014