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6 sorrowful PR tips from the short-lived “Scaramucci Era”

by | Aug 3, 2017 | Analysis, Public Relations

No matter what side of the aisle you‘re on, there’s one thing you cannot deny: Anthony Scaramucci, the newly minted, just-fired White House Communications Director and Senior Advisor to the President, is the butt of every joke on the Internet. He is also providing a fountain of lessons for other “Heads of Communications.” (Granted, sometimes the best lessons are derived from what not to ever do.)

On behalf of the $14-billion global PR industry, we thank you for your short service to our great country. We learned so much so fast.

Here are six incredible lessons for every Director of Communications to live and die by:

Insist that you report directly to the CEO

At least Scaramucci was right about this. If you’re on the hook for great coverage, be joined at the hip with your CEO from day one, especially considering the 24-hour news cycle. If the big boss insists that you report into marketing, ask why and explain that you cannot do your job as effectively that way.

Build solid relationships with reporters

Notice that I didn’t say ‘trusted’ relationships. Those don’t exist. It’s fine to play hardball, as The Mooch did, to show you’re passionate about looking after the interest of your client or boss, but bullying 0r intimidating any0ne isn’t going to get you the big coverage you promised. Remember, even in the age of click wars and fake news, the finest living journalists (that is, the ones you actually need to influence) still report with the highest degree of integrity. No, I’m not sucking up to the media. They’re putting their publication’s credibility—and their own—on the front lines every day. Words matter, but so do facts.

The media will quote you

It’s not a question of if but when. Whether you completely forget to say ‘off the record’ or not, choose your words wisely. Of course, if you have already earned a solid relationship (see #2) you may be able to get away with keeping things out of the papers. Take it from me and my 750,000 PR colleagues, you’re playing with fire if you start sharing things that shouldn’t be written down. The Mooch put a great deal of trust in Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker. Then, as we all know, this happened. 

Fake it till you make it

Apparently, you really don’t need to have any communications experience at all to be the head of communications for a major institution like the United States of America. (Then again, the results may not be exactly what your boss had in mind.) PR executives should earn their status, just like the rest of us.

Use a nickname for personal branding

Don’t be afraid of using a catchy nickname as part of your own personal branding strategy. Nicknames you may want to consider for yourself that are available, last time I checked include, “The Bomb,” “The Bird,” “The Dude,” and “The Sauce.”

Make your boss famous, not yourself

As tempting as it may be for you to climb your own ladder, as a PR executive, you’re going to want to tone down the number of times you personally appear in print. Unfortunately, Scaramucci did not adhere to this golden rule and it is now a lesson for us all. This is especially the case if your boss prefers to bask in the glory of press all by himself. Lest you be the next to hear those famous two words: “You’re fired!”

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Aaron Cohen
Aaron Cohen (@cohencomms) is an award-winning writer, consultant and tech evangelist based out of Portland, Oregon. He is the founder of Glitch PR, a one-person powerhouse helping tech-forward startups think different about all things PR.

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