Sully's Blog

ell it first, tell it yourself and tell it all. That is the tried and true formula for handling a messy public relations crisis in the smoothest possible way.

When Tiger Woods let 13 hours lapse after Friday’s early-morning accident without issuing an explanation, he ceded control of his story not only to legitimate news outlets, but also to celebrity gossip mongers on the hunt for a tale –- made up or otherwise -– of adultery and mayhem. The story of Tiger’s first major off-the-course bogey was in their sights and the race was on to fill in the juicy details.

Woods hired attorney Mark NeJame, which shouldn’t raise eyebrows -– after all, the police are investigating Woods’ crash -– but repeatedly declining to be interviewed by the police makes it look like he has... +Continue Reading


Thanks to Joe Favorito for passing along “Let’s Reinvent the Game Story” – an interesting read from the National Sports Journalism Center in Indy…the writer, Jason Fry offers four options for the classic sports game storiesL  1)  Retire them; 2) Revitalize them; 3) Reinvigorate them; and 4) Roboticize them.  Here is my take,  followed by  Fry’s story:

I am in the camp that game stories get their value today from being featurized in a way that tells a story beyond the play-by-play – not by injecting opinion.  Great game stories add color and context  beyond what a viewer would have learned from watching the telecast.  In my view Washington Post Nationals beat writer Chico Harlan (referenced in the story below) at times goes too far.  His stories almost mocked the nationals at... +Continue Reading


I am not sure how many people — especially animal lovers –Michael Vick won over with his news conference Friday in Philadelphia and his “60 Minutes” interview Sunday night. But he got me.

Sure, I reserve the requisite amount of skepticism for all athlete comebacks these days, but I believe that Vick is sorry for his crimes and understands that only his actions will convince people he has changed.

There were four moments in Sunday night’s exclusive “60 Minutes” interview that convinced me:

  • When James Brown confronted Vick with a graphic recitation of the acts associated with the Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting operation, then asked him, “For those who may say it showed a lack of moral character because you didn’t stop it, you agree or disagree?” Vick didn’t... +Continue Reading


On my first day as White House communications director back in July 2006, I stuck my head   in Tony Snow’s office to say hello.  He bounded from behind his desk and said, “Come on – I     want to show you something.“

Tony, who had been press secretary a little over two months, led me out of the West Wing      and up the driveway toward the Northwest Appointments Gate.  “I do this almost every day,”    he said. When we got close to the Secret Service guardhouse on Pennsylvania Ave., Tony i  instructed me to turn around and look back at the North Portico of the White House.

“Look at that,” he gushed.   “Isn’t that neat?  That’s where we get to work.  When I worked here the first time, for President Bush 41, I was too young and too stupid to appreciate it.  This time I’m not... +Continue Reading


The profile on AP White House correspondent Ben Feller in the May/June issue of the “Penn Stater”    provides a terrific behind the scenes look at what life inside the gates is like for White House   correspondents.  Feller, the reporter who broke the story of Sonya Sotomayor’s selection as President  Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, is a 1992 graduate of Penn State.

Before working with Feller during my White House days, I dealt with him when he was AP’s national education reporter and I headed up communications at the Department of Education.  I always found him to be fair and enjoyable to work with.  This profile is must reading for anyone interested in how the press covers the President both inside the White House and on the road.

One update since the story was... +Continue Reading


As I read Mrs. Bush’s column (below, “Do Not Forget Burma”) in this morning’s Washington Post, I thought back on all of her First Lady communications firsts – milestones I wish I had room to include in yesterday’s Real Clear Politics column on the history of Presidential communications.

For example:

  • She became the first non-President to deliver the weekly radio address when President Bush turned the microphone over to her on Nov. 17, 2001 for remarks on the brutality towards women and children in Afghanistan.
  • In June 2007, she became the original First Lady blogger with her posts on from Africa.
  • In February 2008 she delivered another radio address, this time on heart health.
  • On May 5, 2008 Mrs. Bush became... +Continue Reading


The way-too-cute, pre-arranged Huffington Post moment in Tuesday’s Presidential press conference was actually a good idea, poorly executed. President Obama answering a question from an Iranian citizen is an inspired notion – but one that would have been more appropriate as on online chat at than a planted question in a press conference.

But make no mistake: President Obama’s use of digital media platforms has not only been effective, it is redefining Presidential communications.

Looking back through history, however, a pattern becomes clear: The contributions made by the pioneer of each new medium are largely forgotten when his successor – with the benefit of further advancements in technology and broader adoption of the new medium – masters it.

... +Continue Reading


Sports + Media + Politics + Entertainment + Business

Veteran White House correspondents will tell you the toughest story to break is a President’s Supreme Court nominee. So a hearty high-five to Ben Feller of the Associated Press, who beat the competition by at least a couple of minutes with the story Tuesday that President Obama would name Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for Justice David Souter’s seat.

The AP didn’t stay happy all day, however. After the word was out about the Sotomayor nomination – but before President Obama had made the official announcement – the White House made senior advisers available to reporters to discuss Sotomayor – but only on the condition the advisers’ names not be used. This is a fairly common tactic – a good way to shape... +Continue Reading


Sports + Media + Politics + Entertainment + Business

The “Week in Review” returns after a one-week absence (just too busy, which is a good thing) – special thanks to pal Jay Clark of Englewood, Colo. for noticing…topics this week range from Bruce Springsteen and the Steelers’ visit to the White House to Nancy Pelosi and Shaquille O’Neal.

THE BOSS: One of the highlights of the week was attending the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show at the Verizon Center in D.C. Monday night. Jo and I have seen the Boss many times over the years (first in November 1984 at the late, lamented Reunion Arena in Dallas on the “Born in the USA” tour) and this time we brought our two... +Continue Reading


Kevin Sullivan is the founder of Kevin Sullivan Communications, LLC. He was White House communications director under President George W. Bush, and before that was a communications executive with NBC Universal, NBC Sports and the Dallas Mavericks.

Michael Vick’s return to the NFL is inevitable. As long as there is demand for record-breaking, Pro Bowl QBs, there will be a team willing to bet that what he can contribute on the field will be worth the headaches and distractions off it.

Before Vick can put the pads back on, however, he must convince NFL commissioner Roger Goodell he is worthy of reinstatement. Vick’s fancy footwork will do him no good with the commish, who will come at him likeTroy Polamalu in the open field. After all, Vick looked Goodell in the eye... +Continue Reading