FIR Interview: John "Pat" Philbin, former FEMA Communications Director – January 9, 2008

One of the bigger PR news stories of 2007 involved a press conference staged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in October to address the California wildfires. FEMA’s External Affairs Director John "Pat" Philbin was slated to take a new position as Public Affairs Director for the Director of National Intelligence, but in the wake of the press conference controversy, that offer was withdrawn.

In this wide-ranging interview, Philbin discusses the events that occurred leading up to, and the fallout from, the press conference, and offers advice for communicators who may find themselves in a similar position.

About our Conversation Partner

Pat Philbin brought more than 20 years of experience in strategic communication, public affairs, organization management and business development within government organizations to his position at FEMA, which he began in June 2006. Before joining FEMA, Philbin worked for Anteon/General Dynamics Information Technology as a Technical Director where he served as a consultant in strategic communication to the Department of Defense’s Business Transformation Agency directing and assisting in communication efforts to Congress, the Government Accountability Office, and the general public. He also served as the Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Communications for a private security firm.

Philbin served 21 years in the U.S. Coast Guard from which he retired as Chief of Public Affairs in 2004. He holds a Doctorate in Communication from the University of Maryland, a Master of Science in Public Relations from Syracuse University, and a Bachelor of Science in Government from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He also holds an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America.

About our Guest Interviewer

Kami HuyseKami Watson Huyse, APR, principal of My PR Pro, an independent agency based in San Antonio, Texas, writes about public relations and communications. She has a background in crisis communication and reputation management, executing social media campaigns, conducting focus group research, and media relations. Kami has been working in public relations since 1994. She blogs at Communication Overtones.

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This FIR Interview is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years. Information:

Podsafe intro music – On A Podcast Instrumental Mix (MP3, 5Mb) by Cruisebox.

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.