In the News

The rising harassment and violence against Asian elders and the Asian community is sickening. SKDK joins the AAPI community in condemning these horrific acts of hate and calls for their end.

Racism against the AAPI community is not new, and enough is enough. We can help by committing ourselves to learning the long history of racism and xenophobia against Asians and Asian Americans. We can help by supporting Asian-owned businesses that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. And we can all help by using our voices and influence to bring greater awareness to the Asian community. SKDK stands with the AAPI community to #StopAsianHate.

WASHINGTON: SKDK has appointed Rae Robinson as managing director and the agency’s first chief equity and inclusion officer.

Reporting to CEO Josh Isay, Robinson will be responsible for developing programs, practices and policies that advance diversity, equity and inclusion across the firm. 

The creation of the role is part of SKDK’s ongoing dedication to a diverse and inclusive workforce, Isay explained.

“This is about taking the steps necessary to not only have a diverse workforce, but to make sure folks in the company believe that they can bring their full self to work and be recognized, promoted, nurtured and retained,” Isay said. “That’s a job that needs a leader.” 

Despite looking externally for a great candidate, Isay knew Robinson would be the perfect fit when she expressed interest in taking up the mantle.  

“[Robinson] knows the firm inside and out having been here for five years, and she knows DE&I,” Isay said. “It was a no brainer for us.”  

Robinson takes on the new role in addition to her work already leading the firm’s multicultural communications and engagement practice — one of the agency’s fastest growing practice areas. 

Robinson said she is dedicated to bringing the same level of commitment to her new role supporting diversity initiatives internally as she does supporting clients. 

“My goals around this work include making sure my colleagues and my friends within the office understand that this is a commitment that’s coming from the top, and diversity is not solely an HR function,” Robinson said. “We want an environment where inclusion is expected and welcomed, so everybody feels a true sense of equity and belonging in the firm.” 

Robinson expects her role to go beyond being a Black woman who lays down a few suggestions for a better work environment. Diversity and equity doesn’t stop at having a racially diverse workforce, but being inclusive of women, members of the LGBTQ and disabled communities and those from different socioeconomic backgrounds, she said.

“This is an ongoing conversation about how we do things differently,” Robinson added. “What is our commitment to supplier diversity? What has our contribution been to systemic racism and how do we show up into the societies where our people are coming from and do things differently?”  Robinson joined SKDK in 2015 from Lucas PR+Media, where she was a consultant. Before that, she worked for the Caraway Group, where she worked her way up to being vice president.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, SKDK announced Pia Carusone will join the firm as managing director and co-head of the Political Department with Doug Thornell and Oren Shur. A veteran of campaigns and Washington politics, Carusone will be responsible for providing strategic counsel to the firm’s candidate clientele and producing content that shapes the political narrative. 

“Pia has an impeccable record of delivering winning results,” said SKDK Partner Doug Thornell. “She is one of the brightest minds in politics. Pia has walked the halls of Congress and spent years winning tough campaigns. Her experience and proven record make her a sought after media consultant and we are excited to have her join our top flight political team.”

Carusone was most recently the lead strategist and ad maker for Senator Mark Kelly, who won the special election to fill Senator John McCain’s seat. Previously she served as the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama Administration. Prior to that role, she was the youngest female chief of staff in Congress where she worked in Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ office. Following the 2011 shooting that injured Congresswoman Giffords and 12 others and left six dead, Carusone helped to start GIFFORDS, a non-profit to prevent gun violence. 

Carusone’s campaign work also includes guiding Ritchie Torres to victory in NY-15, defeating a powerful anti-choice, anti-equality opponent. And in New Hampshire, where her roots in politics began with Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, Carusone helped Congressman Chris Pappas secure his first re-election in New England’s most competitive district. 

In 2006, Carusone managed the first campaign of now Congressman John Sarbanes and then joined him on Capitol Hill as his Communications Director. Two years later, Carusone managed the toughest house incumbent re-election in the country that resulted in an unlikely victory in New Hampshire’s first Congressional District.  

“I’m thrilled to be joining SKDK and gettin the chance to work alongside such a talented – and winning – team,” said Carusone. 

About SKDKnickerbocker

SKDKnickerbocker (SKDK) is a top national communications and political consulting firm bringing unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and labor unions, as well as political committees and candidates. With offices in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Albany, SKDK offers strategic support to managing a crisis, protecting a brand, advocating an issue or winning an election. 

In 2020, SKDK was a key advisor to the Biden for President campaign and helped to make history by electing Joe Biden as President of The United States and Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black, Asian-American and first woman, as Vice President. The influential Holmes Report once again named SKDK as the North America Public Affairs Agency of the Year in 2019, following wins in 2015, 2016, and 2018. To learn more about SKDK, visit our website at www.skdknick.com.SKDK is a proud member of The Stagwell Group, a collaborative group of agencies who are out to “reinvent the holding company,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Stagwell Group portfolio includes more than a dozen best-in-class, digital-first agencies who are focused on what modern CMOs need. Learn more about Stagwell at www.stagwellgroup.com.

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Nicole Shuman & Seth Arenstein, 1/14/21 – There’s no question that the country is divided. That was so before the Nov. 2020 elections. Perhaps more so now. Last weekend (Jan. 9-10) pollster Frank Luntz surveyed 800 people who voted for the president in November. His findings confirmed continued support for the president.

Most, if not all, (91 percent) said they’d vote again for the president were an election held today. This was despite the president’s conduct during the Jan. 6 violence on Capitol Hill. Luntz also found that 50 percent believe the president should continue to contest the election. Perhaps the result of most concern for communicators was that 73 percent of those surveyed said the election system was rigged. Before asking that question, Luntz reminded participants that the president’s legal team lost more than 60 court cases challenging election results. Still, 61 percent said they would never trust election results going forward.

The questions for communicators: Do you craft messages differently, internally and externally, when you know the country is divided politically, and in other ways? In addition, do you change communication to adapt to the fact that a significant portion of the electorate believes the election was rigged, and, by extension, the true winner is not scheduled to be inaugurated next week?

For Amy Brundage, managing director at SKDK and a former Obama deputy communication director, unity is part of the communicator’s remit for external messaging. “The responsibility of communicators,” she said, “is to ensure that messages rise above… division[s] and speak to a broad coalition of Americans.”

Find Common Ground

FINN Partners’ senior partner Helen Shelton agreed. “Our job is to underscore the things we have in common, which believe it or not is our diversity! At the end of the day everyone is interested in having access to education, healthcare, shelter, sustenance—they are not looking to brands to tell them how to live their lives but rather to demonstrate a commitment to serving their needs and interests as consumers. This is universal.”

Brundage argued Americans want “solutions, security, and a clear path for how we will return to normal.” She expects the incoming administration to focus on the pandemic, rebuilding the economy and ending racial injustice. “It’s incumbent upon companies and other leaders to spend less time reacting to the kind of division we have seen over the past four years and instead make clear that they will be a part of the solution,” she said.

Turning to internal communication, Hannah Peters, WE Communications’ new EVP, corporate reputation and brand purpose, says this dynamic moment means leaders have an “opportunity, and the responsibility,” to speak up. She urges leaders to engage employees in new ways and to be conscious of three things: authenticity, respect and agility.

“Lean into your values and purpose as a roadmap for when and where you comment and bring employees along for that journey,” Peters said. In addition, she counsels leaders to “separate politics from values. It’s less about taking a side and more about being true to who you are as an organization and responding to the expectations of your most important stakeholders.

Listening is Key

At this divided moment, Peters also notes that remembering to respect a range of perspectives and emotions and listening “is the first step.” It’s fine that not everyone is in the same place on issues. “Your job is to authentically communicate the values of your organization, and, when possible, to give employees space and grace to process, and ideally discuss, how they are experiencing a specific moment or issue,” she said.

While agility is crucial, Peters advises optimizing for thoughtfulness and care over speed. “Be mindful of any evolution to the external environment or stakeholder expectations and be open to revisiting or recalibrating your position if needed.”

Shelton provided guidance for communicators who may be seeking a central focus: “The nation may indeed be divided, but the role of communicators is to offer consistency in our messaging—which ultimately must be about a respect for humanity and an appeal to decency.”

Nicole Schuman is senior editor at PRNEWS. Seth Arenstein is editor at PRNEWS and Crisis Insider