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Liz Payne stands outside the Capitol talking on a cell phone

Strategic Communication Graduate Liz Payne Links Policy to Real Life

Liz Payne, SOC/MA ’12, wanted to influence public policy from the inside. And she found her calling where content and Congress converge.

As communications director for Congressman Scott Tipton (Colorado’s 3rd district), Liz is bridging the 1,741-mile gap between Colorado residents and Capitol Hill. Colorado is a long way from Washington DC, physically and culturally. Policy-wise, the issues that matter to Colorado don’t always affect DC.

“Forest wildfires, for instance, can devastate someone’s life in Colorado,” Liz explains. “And it’s my job to help make sure leadership in Congress understands how important forest management is.”

On issues like energy and healthcare, Liz helps translate what government policies mean for residents. She also brings real-life concerns from the state back to Congress.

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MA in Strategic Communication

Where Policy and Communications Overlap

When Liz began looking at graduate communication programs, she found that AU gave her the most options.

“Rather than it being specifically a master’s in marketing, AU’s program was all-encompassing, which gave me freedom around what I wanted to use communications for.”

While pursuing her master’s in strategic communication, Liz knew she’d use communication to make a difference. Her first foray into public policy was her AU capstone, where she explored drug prevention programs for teens. This experience, combined with her internships, solidified her interest in public policy and strategic communication. 

“I didn't just want to influence public policy from the outside, I wanted to influence it on the inside.” So, Liz found her place on Capitol Hill where she could not only play a part in policy, but act as a conduit for those whom it affects.

From Energy Use to Drug Prevention

Connecting policy to real-life and vice versa isn’t easy. For Liz, digital communications play a big role. She crafts weekly e-newsletters, video updates, columns and more to bridge this gap.

Not only is it important for her to communicate what bills mean to residents, she also obtains local feedback to influence policy itself.

Take drug-related violence, for instance, a major issue in some Colorado towns. To help make federal bills on this issue work better locally, Liz’s office has begun holding roundtables to get feedback as they’re being formed or revised. They then take these viewpoints and recommendations back to Congress.

“No matter your political party, regulations impact real people. And it’s my job to make sure our constituents know their Congressman is listening.”

It’s the small things, too, that make her work meaningful. Sometimes it’s simply answering a Colorado resident’s question about their Social Security benefits.

“There are physical steps we can take to make people’s lives better, and that’s what draws me to this work.”


Request information and learn more about AU’s graduate programs in strategic communication.