I thought I wanted to be an engineer (trying to emulate Dad), but couldn’t hack the math. I nearly flunked out of school while spending all my time working on the campus newspaper. It finally dawned on me to switch to journalism. (Dad didn’t care; he just wanted me to pick something and do my best.) After that, all I wanted was to be a newspaper reporter. PR as a career never occurred to me.
I landed my first newspaper job at a small paper, but after 2+ years, I couldn’t find my next job. In desperation, I quit and moved to DC, where I was shocked to be offered a job as press secretary by the congressman I had been covering as a reporter. I knew if I took it that would be the end of my journalism career, but the choice was no job or being a congressional press secretary at 25, so I jumped at it. From the first moment, I loved it; 30 years later, no regrets. I did more, saw more and made a bigger difference in the world doing political and corporate PR than I ever could have as a journalist.
Now, I’m just beginning a new gig as president of the Arthur W. Page Society, the membership organization for Fortune 500 CCOs and global PR agency CEOs. We are working to change the way corporate communication is understood, practiced and taught. It’s an exhilarating challenge.
Here are my unplanned career twists and turns:
- Reporter, The Marion (Ohio) Star (2+ yrs)
- Press Secretary, Congressman Clarence J. Brown, R-Ohio (2 yrs)
- Chief of Staff, Rep. Brown (6 yrs until Brown lost race for governor of Ohio)
- Press Secretary, Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress (1 yr)
- Director of Speechwriting, Reagan-Bush ’84 (2 yrs of work in 11 months)
- Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (I was 4 months into my dream job when Regan and Baker swapped jobs and I slipped through the cracks)
- Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public Affairs, Executive Office of the President (4 yrs)
- Special Assistant to the President (Reagan) for Public Liaison (held position concurrent with USTR — 9 months)
- Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs (Vindication! Back to Treasury with Baker’s endorsement — 2 yrs)
- Director of Corporate Media Relations, IBM (2 yrs)
- Director of Communications, IBM Software Division (2 yrs)
- Senior Vice President, Communications, Aetna (I went thinking this would be a brief stop on the way to something else, but stayed through 5 CEOs over 12 yrs)
- Senior Counselor, APCO Worldwide and Gagen MacDonald (5 yrs)
- President, Arthur W. Page Society (current)