QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: Wes Pedersen - director of communications andPR for The Public Affairs Council

What kind of an introduction can you write for the man who's done everything?

What kind of an introduction can you write for the man who's done everything?

None. Take it away, Wes Pedersen, director of communications and PR for The Public Affairs Council.

Describe the company you work for The Public Affairs Council is the leading association for public affairs pros, with 600 member-companies, trade associations and consultancies, but no individuals. We run a tight ship - never more than 18 or 20 staffers. What we lack in size, we make up in know-how. Executive Update magazine, for example, has called us "one of the 10 smartest associations in Washington, and there are a lot of associations here.

Tell us something amusing, interesting, or embarrassing about your company.

Are you nuts? Something embarrassing about our association? I'm in PR, man, PR. But amusing and interesting? Sure. Our boss, Doug Pinkham, has a secret vice: He juggles anything, almost any size. Damn good at it too.

Hey, we're talking things like cups and basketballs here. He's not into the kind of juggling that's gotten so many corporate CEOs in trouble.

How did you get into PR? I did a lot of it as a reporter and editor, and when I was in the US Information Agency (USIA), which is really into PR. It's part of the State Department now, but it's still the world's biggest PR organization. Of course, government types always insist they "don't do PR - just information, culture, etc. As former president of the National Association of Government Communicators, I can tell you that's a crock.

What was your biggest screw-up? Not copyrighting my book on JFK, Legacy of a President. I wrote it right after his assassination, but in the hot flush of patriotism, I let USIA have it. It became an international bestseller. Without consulting me, USIA sold its rights to some publishers abroad. I never made a dime from it.

What is the most daring thing you've ever done? Take on the CIA. I've always been critical of them, and often in print. My son keeps telling me "the men in the black helicopters will come for me. There's also the time I volunteered to cover an atomic bomb test. I expected to be in a bunker with all kinds of protective gear. No way. We were eight miles from ground zero. Regular clothes. Not even a pair of dark glasses. When that blast of hot air hit me and the mushroom cloud started floating overhead, I figured I'd made a mistake. Nobody is going to tell me the melanoma I developed on my arm wasn't caused at least in some part by that experience. Fortunately, I've got a great dermatologist.

Who would you most like to work with? Ansel Adams. I'd be out of my league, but having hoped to be a professional photographer when I was young, I've always admired his work. I guess I should have said Ed Bernays, but I always found him a bit hard to take.

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