In defense of Sean Spicer (And what PR pros can learn from him)
Since I did communications in Washington D.C. in the Bush Administration (and since all my friends are liberal New Yorkers), everyone keeps asking me about Sean Spicer.
Being the press secretary for a U.S. President is the hardest job in the world.
From Bush to Clinton to Trump, at some point, a press secretary is going to have to bend the parameters of truth to satisfy a seething press corps while probably not answering the question being asked. The media will smell blood in the water and ask the same question a hundred different times from a hundred different angles to get you off message, exploit a minor misspoken word and write an A1 story.
In my opinion, given what Sean Spicer had to work with, he did a great job.
1. Remember that Sean has been a comms guy in D.C. for over two decades, working on the Hill and the RNC
In fact, my first job in D.C. was to replace him because he had moved onward and upward within the Bush Administration.
And I remember looking up to him as someone who knew everyone, understood how Washington D.C. worked and had a firm mastery of communications. So, given his background and roles in D.C., we can all already agree that he's a great communications expert.
2. Whether in politics or the private sector, you are only as good as your principal
When I was in D.C. my boss, Lauren Maddox, was an amazing communicator and the topic I was defending - education - was a worthy cause.
It was easy to talk to conservatives about school choice on one day and minorities about more funding in urban areas the next. In fact, Sen. Ted Kennedy co-sponsored No Child Left Behind, President Bush's first bill.
At my company Ditto, we get clients that come to us all the time asking for communications counsel on tough issues that I think, "Man, how am I going to sell this?" But we find a way.
On the other hand, Sean Spicer had nothing! In a toxic work environment and literally nothing to defend, he stepped up to the plate batless to face Clayton Kershaw every day. In my world, it would be like a tech client asking me to launch his app and make him famous...but he had no app. But he got up there, answered questions, stayed on message (most of the time) and defended the indefensible.
This is probably a good opportunity for all PR people reading this to understand something very important about our job. It's OK to say "no" to a client, especially if they ask you to lie. And if you are getting pressure from your boss to do something dishonest on behalf of a client, stick up for yourself and don't do it. You will come out the other side of that dilemma a better person.
3. Everyone wants to know what Sean will do next
My liberal friends -- of which I have many -- throw-up a little in their mouths thinking he has a future.
But when I left the Bush Administration in 2007 to move to the most liberal city in America, I was able to leverage working for a very unpopular president to get a great job.
Sean has nothing but a bright future ahead of him. First, he could easily go back into political communications somewhere in the GOP ranks -- whether at the RNC, a PAC, etc.
Second, you can hate Trump, but you can't deny that Sean Spicer showed the ability to manage the media, handle crisis after crisis and for the most part come out unscathed. He put out fires everyday, and that alone makes him one of the most qualified spokespersons and crisis comms people I know.
Hate Trump, but take it easy on Sean.
He was offered one of the coolest jobs in the world that only a handful of people ever get to do, and he did it pretty damn well given the circumstance.
Trey Ditto is the CEO of Ditto. He worked in Washington DC as a Communications Director for a Congressman and as spokesperson for the US Dept of Education.
Photos via Sean Spicer's Twitter