CAPIO President’s Message

by Lael Wageneck, APR, CAPIO 2023-2024 President

I love strategic planning retreats. They are a great time to reaffirm your values, plan for the future, and build stronger relationships. As I planned for the CAPIO Board’s strategic planning retreat this July, I reflected on my history with the organization, my career, and how my values have changed.

I started my career in 2004 producing videos and filming board meetings for the County of Santa Barbara. At that time, I didn’t know the difference between public relations and advertising. As I understood more about the importance of the PIO role, I sprinted and dove in headfirst to learn more. My first conference in Napa in 2013 was like drinking out of a firehose. There were a lot of accomplished, intelligent, and polished communicators. They knew so much about the profession, and I was intimidated by all of them. I had the courage and/or stupidity to submit a presentation on plain language. I wasn’t an expert on plain language, but I wanted more experience presenting, and I thought the best way to learn about both was to force myself into a sink-or-swim position.

I continued to grow over my first five-plus years with CAPIO, but by 2019 I was burned out. Even though I had served on the board, presented at conferences, and earned my MPA and APR, I felt like an imposter, and I only sometimes loved what I did. Some of that was due to being frequently pigeonholed as a tactician and “the video guy.” Some of it was my own insecurity. I was grateful for everything CAPIO had provided, but I felt that I had reached a point of diminishing returns. In 2020, I realized CAPIO hadn’t lost its value; I had just lost interest and energy and I needed to reframe who I was and what I was doing.

A few months into the pandemic, the adage that “life is what you make it” resonated with me and turned my attitude around. COVID and the increasing spread of disinformation led to chaos, fear, and anger. Democracy and public safety depend on an educated public, and it fails when we don’t help ourselves and each other become better communicators. I had to decide if I would let fear and chaos drag me down, or if I would recommit to advancing the public communications role that is essential for a functioning democracy. When I rejoined the CAPIO Board, I addressed the mental blocks that stunted my professional growth so I could be more positive and productive to help give back to the organization that had been so important in my professional development. In addition to managing my confidence issues, I drew from the words of two American heroes, President John F. Kennedy and Spiderman. To paraphrase President Kennedy, I stopped asking what CAPIO could do for me and started asking what I could do for CAPIO. From Spiderman, I took to heart Uncle Ben’s proverb, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

With our role in building mutually beneficial relationships to get things done, we have a responsibility to help each other become the best professional communicators we can be. It was an honor and a privilege to work with the CAPIO board to ensure that our organization increases in value to our members and the communities we serve. The board and I look forward to sharing the new strategic plan when it is finalized this fall. Whatever stage you’re at in your career, you can support CAPIO’s mission to advance public communicators through training, resources, and networking to strengthen and engage communities.

  • If you are new to CAPIO or your career as a PIO, dive in, take risks, and take notes.
  • If you’ve been here for a while, share your stories, knowledge, and experience.
  • If you’re feeling burned out with nothing to give or to learn, take a break and take time to do a strategic plan for yourself. Evaluate who you are and what you value and focus on becoming the best version of yourself.

There is a space for all of you in CAPIO, whether through serving on a committee, participating in a webinar, or networking with members at an event. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me, any of our board members, or our Association Manager Amy Orr.

Have a great rest of your summer,


Interested in serving on the conference committee, awards committee, communications committee or regional committee?  Email to learn more.

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