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Travis Rudd W/R (TA: ) Comm231-0101 Professor Simon June 19, 2013 Assignment #18

This story is about John P. Philbins extensive career in Public Relations and the major incident with the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) that negatively impacted his career.

The key news angle is Impact. The section/column and the newspaper/broadcast/website most appropriate for this story is the PRSA website in their Voices of Public Relations section.

The story includes these news values: Impact, Human Interest, Proximity, Conflict, and Prominence.

The story format I used is Inverted Pyramid Structure. Recommended visual elements are a picture of John P. Philbin and a Fact Box containing interesting facts about his career.

Word Count: 921 Grade Level: 10.7 List of Sources: 1. ( 2. FSO Conference ( philbin) 3. The New York Times (

4.ABC News ( 5. CNN (

A Crucial Lack of Communication

A look at Pat Philbins extensive career in Public Relations They threatened to revoke his Ph.D from the University of Maryland. John P. Philbin, former Director of External Affairs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), took full responsibility for an incident he knew would terminate his career. On Monday June 17, Dr. Philbin held a discussion with a group of University of Maryland students. Students gained insight on Dr. Philbins career and the incident that earned him a place in many Public Relations texts. John P. Philbin, also known as Pat, possesses over 20 years in the public relations field. Pat received his bachelors degree in Science in Government from the U.S Coast Guard Academy. Following his bachelors, Pat attended Syracuse University and received a Master of Science degree in Public Relations. Finally, Mr. Philbin attended the University of Maryland and earned his Doctorate in Communication. Pat obtained most of his public relations expertise while working for the United States Coast Guard. There, Pat worked for more than 21 years. He served the coast guard as the Chief of Public Affairs. Pat directed the Public Affairs department in their responses Former Director of FEMA, John P. Philbin to a variety of crises such as natural disasters, oil spills, Photo courtesy of ICR Communication hurricanes and wildfires. Some high-profile crises Pat has ( worked on include Hurricane Katrina, loss of the Challenger and the death of John F. Kennedy jr. In addition to the Coast Guard, Mr. Philbin held the position of Technical Director at Anteon/General Dynamics Information Technology. At Anteon, he was responsible for communication with the general public, the Department of Defenses Business Transformation Agency and the Government Accountability office. Prior to FEMA, Pat possessed extensive experience directing communication departments. The Press Conference I was only asked one question. Who was held responsible? Philbin said, as he recollected the incident during his discussion with Maryland students. At FEMA Pat served as the Director of External Affairs. As the director, he oversaw the following FEMA departments: Public Affairs, Office of Congressional Affairs, Intergoverment Affairs and International Affairs. When wildfires ran rampant through parts of California in 2007, FEMA held Pat responsible for directing a press conference to update their publics on the natural disaster. --MORE--

I walked in and noticed very few people that I didnt recognize there. Philbin said, explaining the incident in an interview with Eric Schwartzman. At the beginning of the Press conference, a staff member initiated discussion when he asked the opening question. This did not alarm Mr. Philbin because many companies use this technique to get the discussion going. However, FEMAs staff continued to be the only group asking questions during the conference. A member of the staff told Pat that reporters could not make it and attended the conference via telephone. As the press conference continued, Pat grew suspicious and had a hunch that something just was not right. When the press conference concluded, Pat asked another staff member where all the reporters were. The staff member told him he guessed they could not make it. Mr. Philbin then discovered that the reporters on the telephone used a listen only phone line. Not one reporter posed a single question. What I later learned was my staff had taken questions from phone calls that had come in that morning, and had basically served them up, Philbin explained to Schwartzman. Accused of Faking a Press Conference The next day Pat found himself packing up his desk and turning in his company Blackberry. Reporters immediately began contacting him for questioning on what they referred to as a fake press conference. Mr. Philbun took full responsibility for the incident. In fact, he explained to the Maryland students during the discussion that one reporter hung up immediately after Pat claimed that the incident was his fault. The media released a rush of articles regarding Pats character and ethics as well as the credibility of FEMA as a professional organization. Pat continued to speak positively about FEMA despite the controversy over the incident. Reporters, friends and colleagues refused to return his calls. He struggled to save-face for himself and FEMA through the constant criticism he received from the media. A prospective employer even rescinded a job offer as the incident continued to snowball.

California Ablaze in a series of Wildfires

Severe drought causes aggressive wildfires in Southern California

On October 20, 2007, a series of wildfires began running rampant through grassy plains of Southern California. The fires started in Santa Barbara County destroying everything in their paths. The continuous drought, severe heat and high winds caused this extreme natural disaster. In addition to natural causes, authorities shot a suspect who they found deliberately starting fires. In Buckweed, California a wildfire ignited after authorities found a boy playing with matches. In particular, the Buckweed fire destroyed 38,000 acres and 21 homes. California declared a state of emergency in seven counties. The United States Armed Forces, United States National Guard and thousands of firefighters struggled to put out flames engulfing over 500,000 acres of land. The wildfires over 1,000 homes, injured 85 people and caused nine casualties. The fires extended to the U.S and Mexico border. U.S. emergency forces contained the last fire on November 9, 2007.


Meet Pat

Lessons Learned & Recovery

Years in PR: Approximately 25 State Residence: Northern Virginia Longest Job Experience: U.S Coast Guard PR Field Experience: Human Interest, Government, Crisis Management Organization Memberships: PRSA

Despite the unfortunate series of events this incident caused, Pat felt that he learned valuable lessons about the changes in the Public Relations field today. Make the inside of your organization look like the outside. Differences can get you into trouble, Philbin said. Pat stressed the importance of communication throughout the organization. In his case, the press conference lacked major communication between him and his staff. As he reviewed the situation with the students, he also discussed the rapid changes occurring with social media and public relations. The moral of the story for me was that the media defined it as a fake press conference. Philbin said during the PRSA interview.

Despite the FEMA incident, Pat continues to work in the public relations field. Mr. Philbin currently works at PIER Systems. At Pier, Pat holds the Senior Vice President title. He is also the President of Strategic Communication Solutions, LLC. Pats extensive career in public relations will continue to be one of the most studied cases in the field of public relations.