In addition to LIVESTRONG, McLane has also served as press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education and as a key member of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign team and communications staff (full bio below).
Mike McGuff: You have been involved in high profile situations. As someone who started their career in Texas, what would you say about the notion you have to start out on one of the coasts to be successful?
Katherine McLane: That it's baloney! Texas has some of the best public affairs and public relations firms in the nation. I started out at Public Strategies, Inc. in Austin, now H&K Strategies, and learned the ropes there. My experience there set me up for success working for a governor and a Presidential administration, as well as one of the world's best-known non-profits.
Can you ever prepare for a career in crisis communications or is it something you have to experience first-hand (essentially jumping in feet first and learning as you go while moving up the ranks)?
It is definitely worthwhile to study crisis response, read the 'what NOT to do' playbook and learn from the people and organizations that have done well under pressure. That's a must! Still, nothing compares to first hand experience. Applying academic knowledge when your press inbox is full, your stakeholders are screaming and there's a news van in your parking lot is a skill that comes with practice.
As someone who has led social media teams, how important is social media to the future of public relations?
Social media is the biggest game changer our industry has seen in our lifetimes. How we absorb news, communicate with each other, form opinions on just about everything and become engaged in social, political and commercial causes are all different than they were 10 years ago. And we may have not even begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the evolution of communications as a result of social media.
How different is political PR than commercial work?
Political communications is a pressure cooker unlike any other. Winning is all that matters and the only guarantee is that if your candidate loses, you lose your job. It's a pretty black and white proposition but PR pros build lifelong relationships and learn invaluable lessons working on campaigns early in their careers.
Few of us spend our careers doing just political or campaign PR. Most of us graduate to other arenas, like corporate or commercial groups, which can be equally intense. Imagine being the spokesperson for an oil company with a spill, or a cruise line with a disabled ship. Still, those are the exceptions, not the norm. I'd say commercial PR is more stable for communications pros from a career perspective and offers a broader spectrum of possibilities and industries to choose from.
End of interview
The Houston PR Day Conference will take place a The Bayou City Event Center on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
Here is McLane's full bio:
Katherine McLane is Vice President for Communications & External Affairs for the LIVESTRONG Foundation. She serves as the cancer non-profit organization’s chief communications and crisis management architect. Katherine leads strategic communications planning and rapid response operations for the Foundation and is responsible for the promotion of its mission and policy initiatives. Her tenure at the LIVESTRONG Foundation began in the fall of 2007, just in time to lead the organization’s statewide media and outreach campaign for Proposition 15, an initiative that created the
Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas along with $3 billion in funds to support the Institute’s efforts.
Katherine served as press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Margaret Spellings in 2006 and 2007, promoting President Bush’s signature bi-partisan education law, No Child Left Behind. She led crisis communications and rapid response for
the Department and created successful strategies to promote the Education Department’s policies and practices.
From 2003 to 2006, she served as a key member of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign team and communications staff. As Deputy Communications Director and Deputy Press Secretary to the Governor, she helped build public outreach efforts, leading his web and social media teams, establishing stakeholder communications programs, authoring key message and opinion pieces, advising on international trips and leading media relations in the areas of education, military affairs, homeland security, federal relations, emergency response and the environment.
Katherine’s career began in Austin, Texas, at Public Strategies, Inc., public affairs, crisis communications and public relations consulting firm. Working in the media division under Vice Chairman Mark McKinnon, she produced and consulted on regulatory campaign plans for leading clients.
Katherine is a proud graduate of Texas A&M University. Her imaginative twitter handle is @KatherineMcLane.