Mooch from ‘the Mooch’: 6 PR lessons from Anthony Scaramucci

The former White House communications director provided a plethora of insights for communicators of all stripes.


Anthony Scaramucci has become an online punchline­­.

Scaramucci’s brief—and profanity-laced—tenure as White House communications director and senior advisor to the president provided a fount of lessons for other communicators, even if some derived from what not to do.

On behalf of the $14B global PR industry, we thank you, Scaramucci, for your short service to our great country. We learned so much, so quickly.

Here are six lessons for every director of communications to live and die by:

1. Insist that you report directly to the chief executive.

At least Scaramucci was right about this. If you’re on the hook for great coverage, be joined at the hip with your chief executive from day one, especially considering the 24-hour news cycle.

If the big boss insists that you report to marketing, explain that you cannot do your job as effectively that way.

2. Build solid relationships with reporters.

Notice that I didn’t say “trusted” relationships. Those don’t exist.

It’s fine to play hardball as Scaramucci did, as it can show you’re passionate about looking after the interest of your client or boss. However, bullying or intimidating journalists isn’t going to get you the big coverage you promised.

Remember, even in the age of click wars and fake news, the finest living journalists (the ones you must influence) still report with the highest degree of integrity. Members of the media put their publication’s credibility—and their own—on the front lines every day. Words matter, but so do facts.

3. Reporters will quote you .

It’s not a question of “if,” but “when.”

Whether you say something is “off the record” or not, choose your words wisely. If you have already earned a solid relationship (see No. 2) you might get away with keeping things out of the headlines.

Take it from me and my 750,000 PR colleagues: You’re playing with fire if you start sharing things that shouldn’t be written down. Scaramucci put a great deal of trust in Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker, which led to this article.

4. Fake it until you make it.

Though some might have taken Scaramucci’s appointment as a sign that you don’t have to have any PR experience to be the head of communications for a major institution, the results might not be exactly what your boss had in mind.

However, it underlines this lesson: PR executives should earn their status, just like the rest of us.

5. Use a nickname for personal branding .

Don’t be afraid of using a catchy nickname as part of your own personal branding strategy. Nicknames to consider for yourself include, “The Bomb,” “The Bird,” “The Dude” and “The Sauce.”

6. Make your boss famous, not yourself.

As tempting as it may be for you to climb your own ladder, tone down the number of times you personally appear in print.

Unfortunately, Scaramucci did not adhere to this golden rule, and it is now a lesson for us all. This is especially important if your boss prefers to bask in press-coverage glory all by himself. Ignore this advice, and you might be the next to hear those famous two words: “You’re fired!”

Aaron Cohen is a Portland-based PR consultant, graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, an award-winning writer and the founder of glitch, a PR and brand agency.

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Topics: PR

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