Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has employed many winning strategies to run her multiple successful campaigns, but her ace in the hole might just be her exceptionally strong social media game. Whether it’s a meme-tastic tweet beckoning queer people stuck in other, less affirming states to “Come on in” or a TikTok playing on Big Gretch’s famous “Fix the damn roads” chant, the governor’s messaging is always on point — creative director Julia Pickett makes sure of that.
It’s Pickett who dreamed up viral social media posts like an Election Day tweet featuring a play on lyrics from the Geto Boys hit “Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta.” “Damn, it feels good to be a Michigander” the tweet read. Often, Pickett crafts posts centered on Whitmer’s famously fun fashion sense, including her epic jacket collection (who could forget the “pronoun jacket” designed by Pickett?).
Lately, Whitmer has been shouting out to the queer community from stops at celebrations like Motor City Pride over the weekend. Pickett, an out lesbian, is especially well positioned to help shape authentic posts geared toward the queer and ally audience, but there’s a lot more going on in Michigan than amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act or batting down anti-LGBTQ+ legislative proposals — Pickett is tasked with the monumental task of figuring out which issues to highlight and how to position them in a way that resonates with citizens and Whitmer’s political stances.
The process, she says, is ever-changing, “but first and foremost, I want to make sure that no matter what we’re posting and where we’re posting it, the governor’s authenticity shines through, that we’re staying on message, staying true to our values, but also, I’m looking at how we can do that in fun, engaging ways.”
This past spring, Pickett made sure to highlight the governor’s focus on infrastructure. “How do you make that interesting? Obviously everyone cares about the roads, but how can we talk about it in new ways?” Pickett landed on launching a series of TikTok videos (@BigGretchWhitmer) focused on different infrastructure products. The platform, she says, is her favorite to work with. “It allows for much more creativity than the others.”
Pickett, who is a professional photographer in addition to her social media role, says she never expected to land a position like this during her career. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved to Detroit to attend the College for Creative Studies as a photographer major with a passion for politics.
“I envisioned something like being a National Geographic photographer,’ she says. “But, really, my passion for politics grew more than I anticipated, and at one point I began to notice the governor and her work and I was like, ‘I’m gonna work for her one day — I will.’ And luckily, it happened. It took a while to get here, working odd jobs, going to school and so on, but I just feel so lucky and fortunate.”
When Pickett isn’t crafting Gov. Whitmer’s next viral social media post, she’s likely to be found at her new home in Madison Heights, which she shares with her wife and the couple’s menagerie of rescued stray animals. “It all sounds a little stereotypical,” she says, laughing. “But one of the strays is a rabbit!”