The Cabinet Room: In The Office: Philippe Reines - Amanda Erickson, whorunsgov.com
By now, you know the drill - here’s our weekly profile of a top Cabinet-level staffer. This week, we bring you Philippe Reines, who heads Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s strategic communications office.
Technically, Reines is a deputy assistant Secretary of State. But anyone who knows anything about Hillaryland knows this title doesn’t do Reines justice.
A longtime Hillary confidante and press aide, Reines has followed Clinton from the Senate to the campaign trail to the Obama administration, where he continues to handle personal press requests for the secretary.
And he’s been given an even bigger responsibility - to create and run an office on strategic communications. As far as I can tell, Clinton is the only cabinet secretary to have a staff dedicated to doing so.
In effect, Reines is developing a public diplomacy strategy for the Secretary by figuring out her media and public events abroad. “In places like Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, we’ve put a lot of effort into public diplomacy, communicating directly with the people,” Reines said.
Easier said then done. Every event Reines plans involves more than a couple of international phone calls and a team on the ground wherever the Secretary is traveling to scope out locations, advertise events, and select local media outlets to work with. This cross-communication is part of the reason Reines’ favorite media tool du jour is one he made up himself - the ‘Townterview.’
Reines describes it as a “hybrid between a town hall and an interview, combining the audience participation and public venue components of the former with the tough questions and wide distribution of the latter” and says it works in part because the fairly novel structure requires all relevant parties to talk through what exactly the Secretary is expecting. “The reason we came up with the term Townterview was so that everyone involved in planning, especially our international media partners, would pause and say, ‘That sounds like a great idea, we’re in - but how exactly do we do it?’” Reines said.
Reines does this planning in Suite 2318, which just officially “opened” last month. He has six staffers, landscapes on loan from State’s Art Bank, and Ikea couches. His office is decked out with a photo of oil firefighter Red Adair, tasked with putting out uncontrollable fires by creating even larger explosions. Reines calls this “very fitting” to his current position.