Global Strategy Group, the New York City–based public affairs and research firm, has tapped Stephen Sigmund as senior vice president and managing director for communications.
Sigmund brings a wide range of experience to GSG. An accomplished strategic communications manager, his most recent position was chief of public and governmental affairs for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he oversaw the organization’s public efforts on World Trade Center redevelopment.
In the political arena, Sigmund has served as acting communications director for former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine as well as communications director and senior policy advisor for New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller. He was also communications director for Miller’s 2005 mayoral campaign.
In the private sector, he was vice president at Robinson, Lerer & Montgomery, a strategic communications and crisis management firm, where he worked with large portfolio clients such as America Online, EMI Music and Pfizer. Sigmund has also been vice president and senior director for corporate responsibility at AOL Time Warner.
C&E recently caught up with Sigmund to talk about his new position:
C&E: Tell us a bit about Global Strategy Group.
Sigmund: Global Strategy Group is a fifteen-year-old national research and public affairs firm. It started almost entirely doing political research and strategy. Then it expanded significantly, though research is still the core of its business. For the most part, the practice does full-scale communications for issue advocacy and strategy groups and some telecommunications groups that are at the nexus of politics, government and the private sector.
C&E: You have an accomplished career. What achievement are you most proud of?
Sigmund: I just came off four-and-a-half years of working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the most important public affairs campaign we were involved in was the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. I am certainly proud of my years of keeping that project moving along, working in a very complex public affairs and government affairs environment. It has been recognized, at least in New York City, as a project that is really moving forward and going to get done.
Beyond that, every campaign I have worked for and every issue I have worked on I was proud of and believed in. I would not have done it otherwise. I have been fortunate enough to work on significant, mission-driven campaigns and for mission-driven organizations to try to achieve public goals.
C&E: What do you find most challenging about strategic political communications?
Sigmund: Honestly, I think it changes with every situation. There are some general rules: You are in a fast-paced environment. The situation changes under your feet so you have to shift and adapt to the situation. You have to be smart about the situations you are facing and get smart quickly. The one simple answer is that there are so many circumstances beyond your control, and you have to adapt in a political context. In a campaign context, ultimately the whole election is beyond your control. No matter how well you adapt, no matter how smart you are or how well you fight, in the end people make decisions that are totally independent of you. So you can only, essentially, throw the pitch. You have no determination over what happens to the ball.
C&E: What are you taking from your work at the Port Authority and with state and city government and applying to your position at GSG?
Sigmund: Lots. We are all creatures of our cumulative experience, right? Experience, relationships and abilities all play together. I have taken away a lot from the training that I got in my twenties working for Robinson, Lerer & Montgomery and working on national political campaigns. Probably the biggest thing I am taking from those experiences is that in a 21st-cetury media environment that is not defined by the daily newspaper cycle, you are trying to reach all decision makers with the same messaging. Every executive you talk to, every reporter you talk to, everything that goes up on the Internet—it is all part of the same message. When you do it well, it comes together into a communications campaign. When you do it badly, you tell different things to different people.
When I started this in New York City a decade ago, you could be certain that what you put out as your position to the newspapers the day before would show up the next day, and it would set the agenda for the day. Media relations was communicating through the newspapers. That still exists to some degree, but it is much more fragmented and diffuse today. You need to reach your audience with the same message through lots of different vehicles.
C&E: What is your primary goal for moving Global Strategy Group forward?
Sigmund: In my part of the business, the communications practice, part of the goal is building a strong reputation among advocacy groups, issues campaigns and corporations for having excellent people who apply political campaign practices and standards to develop winning communications campaigns. Like it says on our cards: to communicate and campaign to win. That is true whether it is a political campaign or a corporate communications campaign.
Noah Rothman is the online editor for C&E.