Words of Wisdom

January 9, 2014

In keeping with the theme of “The Interview Issue,” we collected words of wisdom from Q-and-As published in The Strategist through the years. (The job title reflects the subject’s position at press time.)

And the advice from these executives and communications professionals remains as relevant today as it did at the time of the interview.

On media training:

“What you always want in journalism is to get beyond talking points and spin — be that spin from the CEO or one of his or her executives or from a PR person. Good PR people are one of my most important allies because they’re not only helping me get through doors, they’re also providing me with information, and oftentimes, with context. I need them to set up interviews, explain things, follow up with information I need or suggest information that I don’t know to ask for.  A good PR person is invaluable for journalists to do their job.”

Ken Auletta, staff writer, The New Yorker  (Fall 2004)

On working with high-profile clients:

“The common sense rules apply. Take a breath before you talk. Be prepared. You can’t go out and wing it, that’s for sure. The press is very tough on their liaison to information, and you can’t take it personally.”

Mary Matalin, political strategist (Fall 2003)

On being a leader:

“Early on, someone said to be straight and honest with people, and to surround yourself with people who are at least as good as you — if not better — in many areas. You also need to make sure everybody knows what they need to accomplish and hold them accountable for it. If they are struggling, then you help them so that they can succeed, or if they can’t succeed, then you need to work with them and let them know that this is not the position for them. But the key thing is surrounding yourself with sharp individuals.”

Jim Gillespie, president and CEO, Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation (Fall 2006)

On the concept of open leadership:

“Leaders have been trained as business people their entire careers — to be in control of the message, to be in control of people and to be in control over the product. There’s a new reality: You’re actually not in control.”

Charlene Li, author and founder,  Altimeter Group (Summer 2010)

On managing a crisis:

“Don’t run away from it. The sooner your leadership develops a transparent strategy addressing the crisis, the better.”

Todd Burke, vice president of corporate communications, JetBlue (Summer 2007)

On mentoring:

“We need to take the knowledge that we’ve gained over the years and share it with others. Knowledge is one of the few things you can give away and yet still own. We can help those around us fulfill their potential. The legacy all of us ought to leave is what we’ve given back, not what we’ve gained.”

Thomas W. Hoog, Fellow PRSA, chairman, Hill & Knowlton (Winter 2005)

On developing strategies:

“My years in the White House did nothing but reinforce the fact that you’ve got to be honest and develop your strategies based on reality, and not smoke and mirrors.”

Sheila Tate, vice chair, Powell-Tate (Summer 2002)

On staying calm during a crisis:

“In any kind of crisis situation, there are inevitably going to be people around you who are panicking. It could be leadership, it could be your peers, it could be your customers. But as the communication leader, it can’t be you. You can’t panic.”

Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications, Domino’s (Summer 2009)

On his 50-plus years in the profession:

“The fact is that I always thought doing public relations was a lot more fun than managing the business.”

Harold Burson, APR, Fellow PRSA, founding chairman, Burson-Marsteller (Summer 2001)



No comments have been submitted yet.

Post a Comment

Editor’s Note: Please limit your comments to the specific post. We reserve the right to omit any response that is not related to the article or that may be considered objectionable.


To help us ensure that you are a real human, please type the total number of circles that appear in the following images in the box below.

(image of four circles) + (image of nine circles) + (image of nine circles) =



Digital Edition