ANALYSIS: Profile - Verizon's Rabe is on the front lines of thetelecom war. Pressure is nothing new to Verizon's Eric Rabe...

Eric Rabe, VP of national media relations, tells Verizon's story

with an evangelical zeal. "He can become emotional, but in this business

a bit of emotion can be good," says Harry Mitchell, director of

Verizon's mid-Atlantic PR bureau, and someone who knows Rabe well. "He

has an orientation to action."

Ranking No. 10 on the Fortune 500 list, Verizon is also the country's

top local phone firm. But it was born on the front lines of battle.

Formed from the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE last August, the

company's rebranding effort corresponded with a noisy strike by the

Communications Workers of America.

Rabe was born for this stuff. He admits he favors crisis or issues work

over any other PR discipline. "You've got to be quotable, frankly, and a

lot of PR stuff is not quotable, sometimes by design," he says. "More

than that, it is knowing the position well, understanding it so you can

speedily turn around a new development that comes at you."

Rabe's career has taken him from TV journalism to his own PR agency to a

lengthy stint working at the companies which predated the name


After finishing his BA in journalism at Penn State University, Rabe

served as a captain in the US Army Signal Corps in Germany in the late


"It was the Vietnam era and I spent it in Europe," he recalls. Rabe

reported to General Alexander Haig, who later became Secretary of State

under President Reagan.

After the Army, Rabe pursued TV journalism. "I'm one of those people who

likes short-term projects where you can see results immediately," he

says,"Television news is ideal for someone like that."

In 1983 he was offered the US Capitol and White House beat with

Metromedia Television's east coast bureau. Of the two beats, Rabe

preferred the less managed corridors of the Capitol. "I think the

Capitol is the best beat in DC," he says. "You have access that is

unlike anywhere else. Covering the White House you are on the air more

of the time and are travelling with the President, but you only get the

story that the White House wants to get out."

The advent of CNN reduced the need for Metromedia's bureau. Rabe moved

on to do something he had always wanted, run his own company, Media Edge

Consultants. The agency specialized in employee communications and using

video effectively. One of his clients was Bell of Pennsylvania (PA),

part of Bell Atlantic Corporation.

By 1989, the client was demanding more and more of his attention. "I

went to them and said I can't only devote my time to you unless you give

me some kind of multi-year contract," Rabe remembers. "They said why

don't you just come work here."

Since then he has steered communications strategy through the Bell

Atlantic/Nynex merger, the abandoned Bell Atlantic/TCI merger, right up

to its most recent incarnation.

In that time, his role hasn't changed so much as it has grown, as each

merger has expanded the company to new regions. "It's always been news

media relations of one form or another," he says. "The big change came

in 1993 with the Nynex merger. I came in to just do Pennsylvania. Then

they consolidated all of that at the corporate level.

I moved from a local company to the corporation."

Rabe advocates an aggressive philosophy towards media relations that he

encourages in the 30 staffers he oversees throughout the country. "We

try to do two things - make our case as effectively as we can, and we're

not shy about trying to unmake their case."

Colleague Mitchell says that Rabe's forceful media approach has been

particularly important in dealing with coverage of wrangles with AT&T,

which has accused the firm of blocking local competition. "AT&T was

spreading an awful lot of misinformation and we did a lot of truth squad

activities, including memos to reporters and editors to set the record

straight," he says. "We called them about things, rather than waiting

for reporters to call us," he adds.

"His philosophy is we have a story to tell," Mitchell continues. "We

have to make sure it is out there and reporters have that to chew


Simon Romero, chief telecoms reporter for The New York Times, calls

Rabe, "one of the best people I work with in the industry." He cites

Rabe's responsiveness and straightforward approach as key to his


"My first real exposure to him came during the Verizon strike, which I

thought Eric covered quite masterfully," he says. "He was, of course,

seeking to put the company's spin on things, but was also honest about

what was happening."

Romero also cites Rabe's approach to coverage he does not like. "Of

course we've had our differences, but having a sense of humor about it

keeps the relationship strong," he says. "I've dealt with others who are

completely different and it can make them very difficult."

Rabe is also known as a pioneer on the use of the Internet. He set up

one of the first corporate Web sites for Bell back in 1993 to provide

information on the Nynex merger.

He is a gadget junkie, the kind of guy who used cell phones before they

were easy to carry around. A caricature in Rabe's office depicts him

using a cell phone and regular phone simultaneously, with a microphone

pushed in his face, a laptop in his hand and a fax machine buzzing in

the background.

It's a fitting description for telecoms' most wired spokesman.


1974-1979: News director, reporter and anchor, WTAJ-TV, Altoona, PA

1979-1983: Managing editor, reporter and anchor WCAU-TV, CBS Television,


1983-1986: National correspondent, Metromedia TV, Washington, DC

1986-1989: Owner, Media Edge Consultants

1989-1993: Director, media relations, Bell of PA, Bell Atlantic

1993-1997: Corporate communications executive, Bell Atlantic

1997-2000: VP, media relations, Bell Atlantic

2000-present: VP, national media relations, Verizon Communications

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