Sean Smith, the former assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, has joined Porter Novelli as SVP with the global crisis communications group.
At the DHS, Smith had a team of 300. The public affairs staff managed comms for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Coast Guard, and other DHS divisions. He handled outreach for the Gulf oil spill, the H1N1 outbreak, and other crises. Prior to that, he served as a spokesperson for Barack Obama during his presidential campaign.
At PN, he’ll report to Kiki McLean, global public affairs head and work in both the New York and D.C. offices.
On the flip side, PN CEO Gary Stockmantold PRWeekthat the firm laid off executives in the New York and Chicago offices in recent weeks. Among those cut were John Havens, EVP of social media, and Peter Pitts, a partner with the firm and previously its head of global healthcare.
PR firms representing the nation’s insurance companies have certainly been busy during the health-care reform process that has taken place over the last year.
However, this week has brought new challenges, as President Obama has used some of his most aggressive language to date in order to get health-care reform passed.
“He’s trying to isolate the insurance companies now,” said CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer on “The Early Show” this morning. “…not running so much against Republicans, as he’s running against the insurance companies. And this is the shift: this is what is different now.”
Patrice Tanaka, Co-Chair and Chief Creative Officer at CRT/Tanaka, an agency which counts a number of health-care industry clients told PRNewser, “I applaud President Obama for taking on such an important issue that affects all Americans. And, I agree with his statement, reported in today’s New York Times that, ‘We can’t have a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people.’ I think many of us know someone who was denied health-care coverage by an insurance company because of a ‘pre-existing condition.’”
Not everyone agrees. Peter Pitts, former associate commissioner for external relations at the FDA and now Partner and Director of Global Health at Porter Novelli said Obama’s messaging is “thin.”
“I don’t think you can market something good by using a negative message. The American people are confused and want to hear good news in times of stress and by trying to paint one industry as cause of nations woes is thin…and not going to work,” he said.
Pitts said Porter Novelli currently doesn’t represent any insurance companies, although the agency previously has.
Regardless, the administration faces another front on the health-care debate, as former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) is now claiming he was kicked out of the house because he planned to vote against the health-care bill. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbscalled Massa’s comments “ridiculous.”
First it was Burson-Marsteller. Then it was DCI Group. The latest PR firm facing heat by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is Porter Novelli. In her show last night, Maddow dug into the director of PN’s global healthcare practice, Peter Pitts. Pitts also president of The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI), an interest group involved in the health-care debate that is primarily funded by large pharma companies such as Pfizer.
The Center for the American Progress today documents how CMPI has been a big player in the anti-health reform movement over the past few months. They sponsored anti-Obama tea party protests…They produced a number of anti-health reform online ads and video and even anti-health reform video games
Who runs CMPI, the Center for Medicine and the Public Interest, this group? Well, its president is a man named Peter Pitts. In addition to heading up this ostensibly nonpartisan medical think tank… Mr. Pitts is also the director for Global Health Care at the giant PR firm, Porter Novelli.
Porter Novelli, of course, has a bit of a history when it comes to shilling for the health care industry, having helped that industry kill the Patients Bill of Rights way back in 1994. They said at the time that it was part of a, quote, “big government agenda.” Why does that sound so familiar?
PRWeekinterviewed Pitts when he first joined Porter Novelli last April, but his role at CMPI did not come up. In that interview he said his biggest goal with the practice was to “stop calling it a healthcare practice” because when people think healthcare they think “big pharma.” “I prefer to think of it as the public health practice,” he said.
It’s no surprise that medical bills are just one of the large expenses crippling many American families who are more and more in debt due to the current economic landscape. Now, drug maker Pfizer is hoping it can lend a helping hand to these families, while generating a bit of good will and positive brand advocacy via word of mouth.
In a PR masterstroke for the world’s largest drug maker, Pfizer today said it will provide free select prescription drugs to Americans and their families who lose their jobs and — as a result — their health insurance. Pfizer’s program, called Maintain (an acronym for Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need), will provide newly unemployed Americans and their families more than 70 primary-care drugs manufactured by Pfizer, including cholesterol-lowering agent Lipitor, at no charge.
Some are already praising the program, including Porter Novelli partner and director of global health care Peter Pitts, who toldAdAge that the program, “shows great courage and heart to step forward and provide people with the health care they need in times of national distress…”
Pfizer works with a number of agencies, including Edelman, MS&L, Burson Marsteller and Weber Shandwick.