In this month’s Insider Interview, we speak with Bryan DeAngelis. Bryan is a senior director at Kivvit, a Chicago-based public affairs firm with offices in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Miami. Bryan is a public affairs specialist and a veteran of Capitol Hill, presidential, gubernatorial and congressional campaigns, with expertise in issues including crisis communications, public-policy advocacy, and coalition building. Bryan is a member of Kivvit’s issues management and litigation, higher education and sports practices.
PRSA-NCC Insider: Let's go way back. You started your career in political communications working for former Congressman Marty Meehan, and now you're a senior director at Kivvit. Which professional skill has been essential to your success, and how did you develop it?
BD: The ability to work well with others, ask the tough questions and get the information I need to develop the most effective communications strategy. That set of skills applies to political campaigns, working in the U.S. Senate or running advocacy campaigns for Fortune 500 companies.
PRSA-NCC Insider: You're a big New England Patriots fan, and part of your portfolio at Kivvit includes sports. So how would you rate the Patriots' response to Deflate-gate a few years ago, and could they have done something better?
BD: Perhaps. At Kivvit, we work with our clients to prepare them in advance of a potential crisis, which allows them to respond quickly and accurately when and if a crisis does occur. In this case, the Patriots – known for their insular, “no distractions” approach – did not respond quickly and ignored the issue until after the Super Bowl. That may have helped deliver another championship, but it did not help them quickly debunk what was a ridiculous story.
PRSA-NCC Insider: You’re a family man, with three children. As communication professionals, we've all worked too much or made uncomfortable sacrifices, so I think considering work-life balance is important. Do you have a personal philosophy on work-life balance, and how do you stick to it?
BD: Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is personally important to me, but is a challenge at times. A communications professional is never “off the clock,” which requires me to be flexible, but also vigilant about protecting family time. Luckily, I work for a family-friendly firm and have the ability to carve out time to coach my son’s t-ball team or work from home when one of them is out of school. And I try to protect certain things – dinner with my kids – before I check my email and respond to clients at night. Most importantly, I have an understanding wife who also lets me slip away to handle the occasional pressing client matter that comes in after hours.
PRSA-NCC Insider: If you were to give a major lecture on modern-day public relations, what would you title it?
BD: There’s No Going Back Now. I’d focus on the seismic changes occurring in public relations and the media during the Trump era, including how politicians increasing rely on social media and politically aligned content publishers to avoid the filter and balanced reporting of the traditional media. I’d explore how Trump and others may be establishing a new norm in leadership communications, and how these changes are likely to permanently alter how we all communicate and consume information.
PRSA-NCC Insider: Speaking of education, what resources do you use to stay at the top of the game, as a senior director?
BD: A variety of resources. At Kivvit, we often take turns hosting “Lunch and Learns” to educate our colleagues on successful client campaigns and lessons learned. I have participated in a number of PRSA trainings and subscribe to several PR-focused publications to stay up to date on the latest within our industry. And I’ve also recently started a mini-MBA certificate program to give myself a better understanding of the business side of my clients’ work.
PRSA-NCC Insider: We have a sizable number of political communicators in this city, working in congressional offices and the like, and it's possible some of them would like to transition to an agency one day, like you did. What's your best advice for making that transition?
BD: My best advice is to first assess whether you are ready for that break from politics. You can’t escape politics in this city, but you are also not getting the same political experience in a firm as you would from a congressional office or campaign. If you are ready to transition to an agency, find the one that best fits your style. Remember what drives an agency – and our business – is profit motive. And that goes for clients as well. And this city is full of firms of all sizes and backgrounds, so if you prefer a boutique PR shop over a global agency (or vice versa), you have that option.
PRSA-NCC Insider: Of all the campaigns you've worked on and developed, which one makes you most proud?
BD: It is hard to pick just one, and that’s not a cop-out. I take the most enjoyment out of the campaigns where there is a true partnership with the client. It doesn’t matter then if it’s a niche issue or one on the front pages; if the campaign has a modest budget or you have millions of dollars at your disposal. It’s the campaigns where you are working as one team to implement the ideas and tactics that everyone agrees offers the best chance at success that I get truly excited about.
Of course, I take the most pride in the ones we win.
PRSA-NCC Insider: Finally, a fun one: If you weren't a communications professional, what would you be doing with your life?
BD: Who knows! I graduated college considering careers in law, economics or foreign policy. I quickly fell in love with communications, because it gave me an opportunity to be involved in every facet of the office (or organization).
But if you want a fun one, I’ll say general manager of the New England Patriots.