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Grisham Out-a Public Relations Perspective
April 7, 2020
If you are writing about Stephanie Grisham stepping down as White House press secretary, please consider the comments below from Tony D’Angelo. D’Angelo is a public relations professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School and former director of the Public Relations Society of America. He offers a PR point-of-view regarding one of the nation’s top PR positions. If you care for an interview please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before signing on to a job like this the communications person should know who is actually going to be in charge of the communications function—not on the org chart, but in daily life. If you don’t have some real decision-making ability you can easily find yourself in a compromised position or be scapegoated.
I presume experienced professionals have a good sense of what they’re signing up for. They should ask themselves if they’re prepared to manage through it, and to pay the price if organizational communications aren’t credible or don’t turn out well.
Grisham was wearing three hats: director of communications for Melania Trump, and communications director and press secretary for President Trump. That signals a diminution of all three roles, not a positive signal if you’re in them. Also knowing that Hope Hicks is back in the picture and Pence’s staff is handling pandemic communications makes me ask “who’s on first?”
With any organization, this lack of clarity is a fertile environment for palace intrigue—and for dysfunctional communication that erodes trust among stakeholders. Ultimately the chief reputation officer of an organization is the CEO, and Trump is that for the federal government. All official communication will be as effective and trusted as he enables it to be. Leaders, companies and brands don’t get to decide if they’re trusted—their audiences do—so communications professionals must decide thoughtfully which ones they’ll join. That decision has material consequences for organizational and individual reputations.