40 Under 40 2016: Alex Slater

MD, Clyde Group, 38

Alex Slater’s business card might as well list him as head engineer. The Washington, DC, strategist and public affairs guru doesn’t just talk, he builds, be it forging an alliance between a citizen group and a corporation, building up the reputation of a client in crisis, or starting his own agency from scratch.

Fresh out of a master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, Slater was nabbed as the first hire at Beltway favorite Glover Park Group. He expected to spend one summer there and return to his native Scotland. Instead, he found his niche, staying a decade with the agency and rising to MD of public affairs, where he easily bridged the political and corporate worlds, being as comfortable working an IPO as a union picket line. Another Washington titan, SKDKnickerbocker, hired him in 2012 to jumpstart its corporate affairs practice.

A diagnosis — and survival — of a rare cancer in his early thirties left him rattled, but determined. He set out to build his own agency and launched it a year ago in Washington at the age of 37. The nascent communications and public affairs shop, Clyde Group, grew fivefold over its founding year. Its high-profile client roster — including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Nissan — demonstrates the breadth of Slater’s expertise.

As a recognized healthcare advocate, Slater has frequently turned his talents to health and advocacy work, offering his time pro bono for the American Diabetes Association, Whitman-Walker Health, and the African American Mayors Association.

He also helped air traffic controllers head off a Bush administration attempt to privatize the group; ran a campaign for the Center for Constitutional Rights around Guantanamo Bay, which inserted the issue into the 2008 presidential election; and most recently scooped up PR work for President Barack Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative at the National Institutes of Health. Clyde Group’s mix of high-profile gigs sets it on track to be another successful Slater build. 

- He led award-winning product launches for Chase Cards, went head to head against Google for Microsoft, and worked Sallie Mae’s communications as it literally split in two.

- During the past two presidential campaigns, he led a 30-strong team, coordinating communications for a citizens’ election protection effort in era of rolling back voting rights. 

- Raised in Scotland and educated at the University in Cambridge, England, Slater couldn’t have predicted Washington, DC, as his future home city but now he can’t imagine himself living elsewhere.

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