Director of Communications and Public Affairs (2646)

Organization: Woodland Park Zoo (AZA Member)
Location: Seattle, WA, United States
Job or Internship: Job

DEPARTMENT: External Relations/Public Affairs

REPORTS TO: Vice President, External Relations


PAY RATE: Compensation based on experience


Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, award-winning Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle is famed for pioneering naturalistic exhibits and setting a standard for zoos all over the world. The zoo is helping to save endangered species in Washington State and around the world. By inspiring visitors and others to learn, care and act, Woodland Park Zoo is making a difference in our planet’s future.

This is your opportunity to join the dynamic External Relations team at Woodland Park Zoo. Applications are now being accepted forDirector of Communications and Public Affairs in the Public Affairs department at Woodland Park Zoo. There is one full-time, regular, benefited position to be filled at this time.


Responsible for the zoo’s internal and external messaging strategy to the community, regional and state governments and zoo supporters. Oversees public relations, communications, media relations, government and community affairs programs. Develops initiatives to encourage community and “grass-roots” support, serving as the zoo’s liaison/ombudsman with local and regional constituencies, neighborhood associations, business, trade associations, and cultural consortia. Designs and directs public affairs strategies for all levels of government, effectively deploying consultants, lobbyists, board members and staff to create awareness and secure support for the zoo’s mission and key propositions.


Provide strategic direction and oversee all public affairs activities including:

Managing a comprehensive strategic program for creating and sustaining relationships with elected and appointed officials at all governmental levels.

Developing, implementing and evaluating effective communication and cultivation strategies for each level of government, with special focus on ongoing, beneficial relationships with key elected officials and decision-makers.

Directing or implementing other public affairs initiatives, including but not limited to supervising public affairs consultants, conducting community presentations, serving as key liaison with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department and writing all reports required by the Management Agreement with the City.

In consultation with the VP of External Relations and zoo senior leadership, consult with and further engage board members to establish and maintain relationships, and secure governmental support.

Develop and execute a comprehensive plan to enhance and secure annual, programmatic and capital support from city, county, state, and federal governments.

Work with senior staff, develop a list of potential programs from the strategic and annual plans for such support, including major repairs and improvements; education, training, and conservation operating (annual) programs; and field conservation programs.

Oversee all external communications for the zoo in support of the zoo’s mission and business plan to reinforce the value Woodland Park Zoo brings to the community, and to encourage support and advocacy.

Oversee internal communication of goals, plans and progress of various departments in support of the zoo’s mission and business plan; use internal communication to create a sense of team, common mission, culture and celebration.

Develop and oversee community relations efforts, including building strong relationships with key communities in the Puget Sound region; ensuring timely communication with the zoo’s many interested communities about ongoing and future zoo events and activities; and developing programs designed to address concerns of the immediate neighborhoods adjacent to Woodland Park Zoo and to educate and inform the neighborhoods of both short and long-range programs and plans.

Provide oversight and direction of the zoo’s media relations, including contact with local, national, and international media.

Work closely with the VP of External Relations to help facilitate the engagement of the President and CEO in a fully integrated plan to secure philanthropic support.

Support the President and CEO and VP of External Relations in developing strategies and ongoing programs to further the active engagement of board members with elected and appointed public officials.

Listen to as well as advise appropriate zoo staff on relevant issues requiring the involvement or support of elected and appointed officials.

Oversee effort to create and manage annual communications plan and calendar; identify key messages, audiences, timing, vehicles and performance measures.

Staff the board’s Public Affairs Committee, and provide periodic updates on this committee, as well as the Neighborhood Committees, to the President and CEO, VP of External Relations, senior staff leadership, board chair and members of the board of directors.

Prepare and manage department expense budget, including managing expenses against approved budget and taking necessary action(s) to ensure that a balanced budget is achieved.

Perform other duties as assigned.


This position supervises public relations, public affairs and communications staff, as well as the services of one or more consultants and must carry out supervisory responsibilities in accordance with the organization's policies and applicable laws. Responsibilities include interviewing, hiring, and training employees; planning, assigning, and directing work; appraising performance; rewarding and disciplining employees; and addressing complaints and resolving problems. This position requires the ability to interact effectively with employees in order to direct workflow, assess performance, and assign duties.


To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

Ability to gain an intimate understanding of the zoo; its mission, vision, values, and philosophies; and how communications and government relations impact the operation and sustainability of the organization.

Comfortable working in a very mission- and values-driven environment, with a strong understanding of and appreciation for how the zoo’s mission relates to larger conservation issues.

Articulate, well-spoken, and capable of effectively representing the zoo to various audiences, both within and outside the organization; outstanding written communications skills, with strong interpersonal and listening skills also required.

Demonstrated track record of strategic decision making.

Ability to effectively integrate and coordinate a variety of disciplines, including development and government relations.

Must have a high level of energy, be self-motivated, confident, and make strong, compelling presentations to diverse audiences.

Proactive with respect to public affairs and government relations requirements, both short term and long term.

Understanding of and sensitivity to public and private partnerships.

Ability to deal with emergent public affairs and legislative issues, multiple projects, and external high-level officials simultaneously.

Ability to work effectively under pressure and effectively manage sensitive/crisis communications and government relations issues.

Must be a team player with the ability to establish strong working relationships, both internally and externally, and work effectively with others throughout the institution.

Must enjoy a challenge, be passionate about work, and have a commitment to excellence.

Solid planning and organizational skills.

Ability to work a flexible schedule, which may include evenings, weekends and holidays.

Commitment to the mission of the zoo and the institution’s Core Values.


Master’s degree (M.S. or M.A.) in arts, sciences, or a relevant business-related field from an accredited college or university, and 8-10 years of directly relevant public affairs experience (10+ years preferred); or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Experience must include demonstrated success in developing and maintaining relationships with external stakeholders as well as public officials on a local, regional, and/or national level, including an established network of contacts. Minimum 7 years of proven experience managing people and functional areas/departments.


Valid US Driver’s License

Ability to obtain registered lobbyist designation as needed


Proficient in Microsoft Office applications (e.g. Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint) and database management software packages. Experience with Raiser’s Edge a plus.


The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to sit and use hands to finger, handle, or feel. The position requires an ability to walk or transit across the 92-acre facility in variable weather conditions. The employee is occasionally required to reach with hands and arms; stoop, kneel and crouch. The employee must occasionally lift and/or move up to 15 pounds. The employee is frequently required to talk or hear. Specific vision abilities required include close vision, color vision, and ability to adjust focus.


The work environment characteristics described here are representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions

While performing the duties of this job, the employee works in a typical office environment with moderate noise levels. The employee can also expect a rigorous schedule of on and off-site meetings with groups and individuals that may include some evening and weekend meetings.


Applications are only accepted online through our Jobs page at; no other forms of application will be accepted. Cover letter and resume are REQUIRED when applying for this position. NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Open until filled -- apply now!

Woodland Park Zoo is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, dedicated to a policy of non-discrimination in employment on any basis including race, color, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression.