ANALYSIS: Profile - The all-conquering queen of controversy Conjuring a PR strategy to make Monica Lewinsky’s book a best seller following ’that’ giggly ABC interview was not the easiest of tasks. But then Lynn Goldberg is no stran

Newsweek chairman Richard Smith doesn’t quite know what to make of book publicist Lynn Goldberg: ’I am not sure whether Lynn takes on controversial books or they become controversial because of her.’

Newsweek chairman Richard Smith doesn’t quite know what to make of book publicist Lynn Goldberg: ’I am not sure whether Lynn takes on controversial books or they become controversial because of her.’

Newsweek chairman Richard Smith doesn’t quite know what to make of

book publicist Lynn Goldberg: ’I am not sure whether Lynn takes on

controversial books or they become controversial because of her.’

The news magazine recently put Susan Faludi, one of Goldberg’s clients,

on the front cover as part of a deal to gain first-run rights to the new

book by the feminist author. The topical book on masculinity, entitled

Stiffed, prompted a flurry of letters in subsequent issues.

’Controversial clients? They come to me,’ says Goldberg. ’With Faludi,

the publisher (William Morrow) wanted me because it had some idea the

book would be controversial.’

The New York Observer recently described Goldberg as the ’Brigadier

General of big-book publicity,’ and the esteemed rank is valid. Goldberg

has been attached to all manner of sizzling subject matter, with Faludi

being only the latest.

Established in 1981, Goldberg’s agency has worked on: Kitty Kelley’s

killer expose of Buckingham Palace, The Royals; Christopher Andersen’s

Bill & Hillary: The Marriage; and Andrew Morton’s number-one bestseller,

Monica’s Story. Goldberg spins an intriguing yarn about her first

connection to the Monica Lewinsky saga. A year before she even met the

infamous intern, Goldberg was under siege by the media.

’I was on holiday,’ she recalls. ’Back in New York, frantic messages

were stacking up at my office and at home. ABC and CBS News wanted

interviews with me.’ Goldberg, gripped by the presidential scandal

herself, had no clue why she was being inundated by inquiries. ’When The

New York Times called, the mystery was solved. It was Lucianne Goldberg

they wanted - the literary agent who set the scandal in motion.’ Little

did Goldberg imagine that 12 months later she would be orchestrating a

PR campaign to increase sales of Lewinsky’s book.

To boost sales, publisher St. Martin’s Press hired Goldberg to help

advise Lewinsky on her image. Goldberg found it a challenging task given

the sheer number of people advising Lewinsky. Complicating matters was

the lack of time to plan a campaign because the release date was tied to

the broadcast of the Barbara Walters interview for 20/20.

Goldberg dubbed the publicity strategy ’Distance and Dignity,’ and when

she voiced concerns about appearances on shows such as Saturday Night

Live, crisis PR expert John Scanlon backed her up. But that strategy was

jeopardized by the two-hour ABC interview. Goldberg concedes that

despite all the efforts to media-train Lewinsky, the interview did not

go according to plan.

’Monica ended up sounding giggly and foolish. She had a hard time

conveying remorse for her role in the political crisis.’

With the book still under embargo, Goldberg unexpectedly became central

to reporters filing stories about the selling of Monica. She appeared on

NBC Nightly News and The Today Show and gave numerous press


’I had my 15 minutes of fame,’ she says. The PR strategy was lauded and

the book became a best seller, despite Lewinsky’s poor performance in

front of the ABC cameras.

And the exposure certainly helped Goldberg, who says gross revenues are

up 40% this year. The chief executive of Goldberg McDuffie

Communications declines to talk numbers, but revenues are believed to be

upwards of dollars 1 million.

Things weren’t always so rosy for the daughter of a Brooklyn

door-to-door salesman, however. Goldberg, a glamorous 55 year-old, pads

around her office barefoot recalling her days as a humble social studies


Although she is a media high flier, she has lost none of her roots.

Even in the staid New York City school system, Goldberg was able to

shake things up. In the 1960s, she started one of the nation’s first

Afro-American Studies programs, because ’there were no blacks in the

textbooks.’ Her next job gave her a taste of the media, as she took a

pay cut to work in television, writing questions on a game show called

Dream Team. When the show folded, Goldberg was left without a job, but

eventually found work as an assistant in the literary house Farrar

Straus & Giroux.

After a short period, she became publicity director and learned

everything she could from founder Robert Giroux, who was fond of having

street-smart people around him. ’I used everything from my knowledge of

black history to Yiddish,’ says Goldberg. ’I found my world.’

It is still a world she clearly loves. For some, the opportunity to

become an editor at her next employer Random House might seem like a

dream come true, but Goldberg found she wasn’t suited to the solitary

reflective life. She preferred the busy life of the publicist. A typical

media junkie, she starts her day at 6:45am, reading The New York Times,

listening to NPR and keeping her eye on NBC’s Today - while

simultaneously working the treadmill. She reaches the office around 10am

and does all her ’brainwork’ in the mornings.

And she doesn’t stop there. Goldberg may get home around 10pm but she is

up until 1:30 reading books. The office, where the walls are strewn with

pictures of authors from James Joyce to PJ O’Rourke, is a library of the

latest literary talent. ’She understands books, has a literary sense and

is not just flogging them,’ says Publisher’s Weekly editor Judy


Goldberg works closely with Camille McDuffie, who joined the agency in

1987 and became president in 1994. She describes McDuffie as the ’Fred

Astaire’ of the agency and insisted in 1997 that her name be put on the

door next to her own.

Goldberg is always looking to reinvent the business of book publicity,

and is hoping to make the Internet a bigger part of her arsenal. The

plan is to do for books what The Blair Witch Project did for movie


The agency is also branching out to rep business books and religious

subject matter. For example, Goldberg launched She Said Yes: The

Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall, which was written by a mother of

one of the Columbine victims.

And slated for a media blitz next year is The Danish Girl, which has

already attracted a fair degree of interest from the press. The book is

based on the life story of a painter who underwent one of the first-ever

sex changes with the help of his girlfriend. Sounds like Goldberg will

be at the center of controversy well into the new century.

Lynn Goldberg

CEO, Goldberg McDuffie Communications

1965: High school teacher in NYC

1969: Question writer on TV quiz show

1970: Joins Farrar, Straus & Giroux

1976: Random House - publicity director

1981: Founds Lynn Goldberg Communications

1997: Business renamed Goldberg McDuffie Communications.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in