Back when he was senior VP of corporate communications for NBC Universal (NBCU), Kevin Sullivan’s favorite show was NBC’s The West Wing. Now that he works for the real deal, Sullivan’s been looking back on the playbook of his former NBCU colleague, Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol.
Sullivan, who left NBCU in April 2005 to be assistant secretary of education for communications and outreach, was named White House Communications Director in July. He told B&C in an e-mail exchange last month that he "learned a great deal about leadership" from NBCU Chairman Bob Wright and others.
But he credits Ebersol with teaching him to "approach communications with a producer’s mindset—meaning lead with the good stuff, tell your story and be concise."
But just what does being Bush’s top PR man entail? While the press secretary (another former TV guy, ex-Fox News host Tony Snow) focuses on "the news of the day and the White House press corps," Sullivan’s team "takes a strategic, longer-term view and develops plans around the various policy initiatives and issues."
That means having to get up in time to be at the White House before 7 a.m. "I used to be a night owl," Sullivan says. "Now many nights I go to bed before my kids. Of course, I appreciate my DVR more than ever."
And no, he doesn’t bounce a ball against his office wall like his fictional West Wing counterpart Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff). Says Sullivan: "The real West Wing is quieter than the TV version."