Hazel O

’leary Essay, Research Paper

From a confidential “communication plan” sent in 1994 to Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary and her chief of staff, by Audrey Hoffer, a public relations consultant employed by the Department of Energy. Last November, House Republicans called for Secretary O’Leary’s resignation after a report surfaced showing that she had used federal funds to hire a public relations firm to rank reporters by their coverage of the department. The memo excerpted below was subsequently obtained by the Associated Press.

Until mid-December 1993, Secretary O’Leary was not viewed as a big player in the Administration or one with great clout, and she wasn’t credited for her analytical abilities, her boldness, her high degree of of articulateness, or her creativity. She was the best-kept secret in the Clinton Administration.

But now the landscape has changed. With the release of the radiation stories [in late 1993 O'Leary called for an investigation of radiation experiments on human subjects conducted during the Cold War!, the Secretary has been catapulted to prominence as a member of the Cabinet, as a compassionate government official, and as an unusually forthcoming energy secretary. Press coverage has increased significantly, and she now has an identity.

Our job now is to make the coverage work for us and make it last for the next three years. All the while, though, we must remember that the public has a short attention span and an even shorter memory. Good publicity never lasts forever. We have to keep offering new pieces of information to the press to maintain their interest in DOE [Department of Energy] issues and in the Secretary.

We should showcase the Secretary’s qualities, which are that she is capable, articulate, credible, confident, smart, bold, direct, poised, strong, gutsy, trustworthy, competent, pragmatic, honest, and straightforward.


Convene meetings with business magazines including Fortune, Forbes, and Business Week. Solicit profile pieces in Washington Post Style section (in progress), New York Times (done), and other newspapers; lifestyle stories in People (in progress), Parade (in progress), and on prime-time TV.

Invite political columnist William Safire for an extended interview. (Invitation declined January ‘94. Safire said he’d call the Secretary when he wants to know about energy issues.

Meeting with reporters on a regular basis is as important as meeting with members of Congress. Schedule and don’t cancel monthly interviews with the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall S-weet Journal. Add Washington Times and USA Today if time permits. Meet separately with both beat reporter and political correspondent at each paper. This is very important, because articles by political correspondents will take the Secretary out of “just” the energy business and place her in a higher political realm.

Pitch a “Day/Week in the Life of the Energy Secretary” story to a prominent journalist from a top publication ( e.g., The New York Times magazine). Invite him or her to accompany the Secretary for a week as fly on the wall.

Before interviews, give Secretary a list of key messages to be emphasized during meeting. Press office to play larger role in this.

Solicit 1994 commencement addresses for the Secretary at Ivy League or other nationally known universities.

Solicit 1994 awards for the Secretary, such as the Frontrunner Award from the Sara Lee Corporation, which is presented annually to four exceptional women who exemplify leadership, achievement, and a pioneering spirit. Get list of all awards granted nationally and identify appropriate ones to apply for.

Make sure we’re in sync with the Administration at all times. Know their hot targets: i.e., cities and regions of the country where publicity should be sought.


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