Interview with Kevin P. McVicker, VP at Shirley • McVicker Public Affairs
Tell us about your agency – what do you do and what sets you apart?
Founded in 1984, we are a small firm and we only represent clients with whom we have a fundamental agreement.
We enjoy winning the public policy fights that elude other firms. Our list of victories is long and distinguished. We fought Enron's effort to nationalize the electric grid and won. We fought HillaryCare in 1993 and won. More recently, we successfully stopped an ill-advised solar farm from being constructed on a Civil War battlefield in Culpeper, Virginia, and we quickly raised the profile of a newly formed Michigan movement, All Business is Essential.
Should companies who have taken a big financial hit because of the enforced lockdowns spend more money on public relations, or cut back?
They should be spending more making their argument or else government will be back again, taking an ever bigger bite out of private corporations. Companies who are surviving, saving jobs and delivering products and services have an important story to tell. Tell it!
Do you think the role of crisis communications firms has become more important since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic?
Yes. Governments at all levels have used this crisis as an excuse to grab more and more power from the individual and from private industry. The best way to immediately fight these actions is by challenging them in the court of public opinion. A “David vs. Goliath” story has the potential to level the playing field.
PR firms have the potential to give a platform to those who are critical of government.
In your opinion, how will the Coronavirus economic effects affect small town and regional publications?
It will strengthen them. Citizens are turning away from the mega news corporation as they know they are not getting the unvarnished facts from them. Reporters covering state and local leaders, as well as health officials have been able to report more definite information on reopening plans and the rationale behind them. Now, more than ever, the public needs to trust reported information, instead of speculation and hyperbole.
Since most journalists have been homeworking, has it been more difficult for PR agencies to communicate with them, or changed the way they communicate?
Just as before the pandemic hit, the PR professionals with the strongest relationships will be the most effective. Publicists need to adapt to contacting journalists at unusual hours, learning their cell phone numbers, contacting them through social media, and above all, being persistent.
How would you rate the federal government’s overall messaging on the Coronavirus pandemic?
A Gentleman’s C. Various state governors such as Brian Kemp in Georgia and Ron De Santis in Florida have shown admirable leadership.
What are your thoughts on Twitter’s decision to ‘fact check’ President Trump’s tweets?
This is settled law. Private individuals and private corporations have the right to censor as they see fit. It is government that cannot censor. Twitter has the constitutional protected right to pretty much censor as they see fit.
Do you think the Coronavirus pandemic will affect the future of public relations agencies?
For the smart ones, yes. It is still about building effective relationships. Our firm proved to be very nimble in working remotely, remaining in constant contact with colleagues, clients and journalists.
Knowing that you can rely on your team in tough times will pay dividends in the long run.