PROFILE: Green grasps inextricable link between PR and politics

As arguably the most visible PR pro in IL after working on Barack Obama's winning Senate campaign, Julian Green hopes to continue helping the administration make an impact on voters.

As arguably the most visible PR pro in IL after working on Barack Obama's winning Senate campaign, Julian Green hopes to continue helping the administration make an impact on voters.

Julian Green keeps an unusual picture of himself on his desk - a shot of him circa 1994 in a Tootsie Roll costume. It seems that during his first PR job with Fleishman-Hillard in Chicago, Green was called upon to become a Tootsie Roll for its 100th anniversary. Green keeps the picture "just to remind me where I began," he says. It's been quite a journey for Green, 34, since that picture was taken. Today, he's arguably Illinois' most visible PR pro, thanks to his work during the November election campaign as the press secretary for successful Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Barack Obama. Green will continue to work for Obama, running his Illinois press operations starting in January. After spending his early PR days at firms, Green moved into political work and hasn't looked back. He's been an assistant press secretary for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and PR head for the massive Chicago Park District as it was unveiling a rebuilt - and somewhat controversial in design - Soldier Field. Along the way, Green has impressed both associates and journalists. "Julian was always a delight to work with," says Mike Flannery, veteran political editor with Chicago's WBBM-TV, who has known Green since 1999. "He's totally reliable. He always went the extra mile to make himself accessible and available." Indeed, Green was so cognizant of his need to be available for any emergency that the native Chicagoan moved his family so he could be in close proximity to City Hall. Green has served as a mentor and a role model for African-American PR pros, becoming involved early in his career with the Black Public Relations Society's (BPRS) Chicago chapter. Paul Davis, VP at Danielle Ashley Communications in Chicago, has known Green for more than six years. "In PR, African-American males are a rarity," says Davis. "To see a person like Julian gives me some confidence there are men out there who are making it." In 1996, Green was the only African American in Ogilvy's Chicago office. Green says he didn't feel any discrimination, but rather "the pressure that I wore the weight of the African-American community on my shoulders," he recalls. "I felt that pressure to perform." As a result, "I wanted to find mentors," he explains. That search led Green to a group that would coalesce into the Chicago chapter of the BPRS, a group he's been active in ever since. Davis, president of the society's Chicago chapter, notes that Green has been tireless in planning social activities for the BPRS. Such events serve not only as entertainment, but as important networking opportunities for black PR people to meet with major agency representatives. A networking connection from the society led to Green getting a 1999 offer to work in the political arena. He received a call from someone in Daley's press office asking him to become an assistant press secretary. Green had never considered politics. He was more interested in becoming involved with entertainment and sports PR. "I [actually] voted for the other guy," he jokes. But Green decided to make the move and began working in the mayor's press office that October. He quickly discovered one major difference between agency and political work. "In politics, everything changes on a dime," Green notes. "You don't have the luxury of time. You're writing a press release in an hour. You could be turning around a speech in an hour." But he thrived under the pressure and found that PR was more important in the political arena than in business. "In politics, every decision has PR ramifications," Green says. When Daley ran for re-election last year, Green became his campaign communications director. It was during that effort that he met Obama and discussed the possibility of working for him. Green decided he couldn't leave the mayor's effort, however, and after the mayor won re-election, he was named director of communications with the Chicago Park District in July 2003. The following March, he was watching Obama's victory speech after the Democratic senatorial primary. "I said, 'Wow, I could have been there,'" Green recalls. He soon would be. Obama's primary-run press secretary wanted to return to her business, so Obama and his communications director again reached out to Green. This time he agreed to take a leave of absence from the Park District to join the campaign. Obama seemed to be a runaway favorite, especially after the Republican nominee dropped out of the race because of a personal scandal involving his divorce. But then Illinois Republicans invited national GOP figure Alan Keyes to run against Obama. Keyes tried to put Obama on the defensive by making extreme conservative statements to the media. Green had known of Keyes when the latter served as interim president of Alabama A&M, Green's alma mater. "He did a horrible job of managing our university, so I felt he could not be a good senator," Green says. Still, Keyes was getting media attention. "He said something outrageous every day, and the press would call us for reaction," Green recalls. He and Obama's communications team quickly decided they couldn't get their messages across if they stayed in response mode to Keyes' public rantings. "For us, it was about staying on message," Green says. Davis, who was on Obama's African-American advisory committee, says of the way the campaign stayed focused on its messaging: "They played it well." Looking ahead to his future with Obama, Green says, "I hope we'll make an impact for voters across Illinois." If Obama lives up to his early promise, they surely will. Another certainty is that Green will remain in the spotlight as Obama's spokesman. That's a long way from the Tootsie Roll costume. -------- Julian Green July 2004-November 2004 Press secretary, Barack Obama Senate campaign. Will take over Obama's IL press operation starting in January July 2003-present Comms director, Chicago Park District December 2002-February 2003 Deputy campaign manager and comms director, Richard Daley re-election bid October 1999-July 2003 Assistant press secretary for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley 1996-1999 Junior AE and AE, Ogilvy 1995-1996 Administrative asst., Fleishman-Hillard

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