Perino: Government communicators have a better seat at the table

NEW YORK: Top communications advisers have more access to high-level meetings and top decision-makers in the federal government than they do in the corporate world, former White House press secretary Dana Perino said on Tuesday.

NEW YORK: Top communications advisers have more access to high-level meetings and top decision-makers in the federal government than they do in the corporate world, former White House press secretary Dana Perino said on Tuesday.

Perino explained that “the press secretary has a seat at the table in every meeting” at the White House, with the exception of high-level security discussions, during a panel discussion at the Ethisphere Institute's Best Practices in Ethics conference.

Perino added that US corporations are often “starting at a reputation deficit to begin with,” meaning they must work harder than other organizations to get fair coverage in the media. She noted that when media training a corporate chief executive in 2009, she was surprised to find very few examples of TV CEO interviews.

“Nobody is out there talking,” Perino said, noting that JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon's response to his company's major trading losses are a notable exception.

Perino served as President George W. Bush's press secretary from September 2007 to January 2009. She founded consultancy Dana Perino and Company after leaving the White House and also appears as a contributor on Fox News.

Members of the panel largely agreed that social media has created opportunities for both communicators and organizations, with some risk.

“If [members of] the US Navy are the only people talking about the US Navy, then you're missing a lot of opportunities,” said Rear Admiral Dennis Moynihan, chief of information for the US Armed Forces branch. He added that embracing social media is “accepting a lot of risk.”

Jennifer Prosek, CEO and founder of CJP Communications, noted that the “opportunity [of social media] outweighs the risk,” adding that her firm has seen a positive response to a company blog where all employees can contribute.

During the panel discussion, Mike Paul, president and senior counselor at MGP & Associates PR, also emphasized the continuing importance of providing counsel to clients on behavioral issues.

“If we are not comfortable counseling people, we're not going to earn a seat at the table,” he said. Paul later added that communications counselors must make it clear to clients that with social media, “certain things are just not an option.”

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