Mac on the World Wide Web:
Background Check on Mac Prichard
As president of Prichard Communications, Mac provides strategic counsel to foundations, non-profits, and public officials across the United States. Before founding the company in 2007, Mac worked as communications director of Reclaiming Futures, an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Previously, Mac served as a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Human Services, a speechwriter and deputy legislative director for Oregon governor John Kitzhaber, and Portland City Hall communications director for Earl Blumenauer, now a Member of Congress.
Prior to moving to Oregon in 1991, Mac lived in Massachusetts where he was external affairs director for the state Office for Refugees and Immigrants, a public information officer for Boston’s “Big Dig,” and a researcher in former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy’s first Congressional campaign. With the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Mac helped organize and lead four Congressional fact-finding trips to Central America. Mac was also a researcher at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a non-partisan group in Washington, DC, that monitors US-Latin American policy.
Mac is a recognized community leader. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the City Club of Portland, a former president of the Oregon Harvard Club, and served on the board of the Richmond Neighborhood Association.
Mac has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Iowa. He is often spotted in Southeast Portland taking Instagrams while walking his dog Blue, adopted via Oregon Weimaraner Rescue.
Q&A with Mac
What grade you would give local governments in the Portland area on their use of social media?
Local government in the Portland area includes so many different jurisdictions that it’s hard to give them all one grade. I also know there are many entities out there doing great work that I don’t know about. However, there are three stars that come immediately to mind:
- Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler has been a leader in the use of social media since the start.
- Former Portland Mayor Sam Adams also did an excellent job with social media and I expect will keep doing so in his new job at Portland City Club.
- Metro is center of innovation for its use of online communication, especially in news reporting.
Give three specific ideas for improving communication within our organizations.
- Once a year ask people via an online poll what works – and what doesn’t work – with your internal communications. They really will tell you what they think. The feedback you get is a gift, so use it and let respondents know how you are acting on their advice after you receive it.
- Before you start building a blog, an online forum, or the latest software, know how your people like to get information. Just a simple e-newsletter, regular emails, or a large meeting may be the answer. Again, ask people what they think and they will tell you.
- Don’t assume you understand what matters most to people within your organizations. A survey will tell you. Whatever the answers may be, address those subjects regularly.
Tell us about the three career accomplishments that you are most proud of.
Starting my own Portland-based public relations business, Prichard Communications, to serve nonprofits, public agencies, and foundations here in Oregon and across the country. Our clients making life better for their clients and communities and it’s a pleasure to serve them.
- Helping then Portland City Commissioner Earl Blumenauer with the mid-county sewer project back in 1992. In less than a year, Earl created a nine-point plan that brought significant financial relief to thousands of East County homeowners who had been ordered by the state to hook up to Portland’s sewers at their own expense. It was exciting to help shape a public policy that made such a difference in the daily life of so many Portlanders.
Building the Mac’s List online community. What started out more than 10 years ago as a simple email with one or two job postings has grown into a website, blog, and social media channels that have connected countless talented, creative Oregonians with thousands of local employers offering rewarding, interesting work. It’s always a thrill to meet someone who tells me they first learned about their job through Mac’s List.
What’s the first concert that you ever attended?
ELGL is hosting its 1st annual conference on October 4 at the Kennedy School. Help out the conference planning committee by providing three ideas for speakers or topics that will benefit those in the government arena.
I’d love to see the conference include a panel about how government can do more to engage the public through online communication. Here are three workshop topics that occur to me based on what my friends in local government say about their needs:
- Social Media: Stop Shouting at the Public and Start Engaging Them
- How Content Marketing Can Build Public Support for Your Agency
- Seven Easy Steps to Improve Your Online Communications
What has been your most challenging professional experience?
Starting my own business, Prichard Communications, six years ago at the start of the recession. Until then my career had been in government and nonprofits, so I had to master many new skills. I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but fortunately I’ve had good mentors, understanding customers – and above all – a great team to help me.
You served as the PIO for the notorious “Big Dig” in Boston. Was that an impossible job?
Our biggest communications challenge when I worked at the Big Dig from 1986 to 1988, was to make sure Bostonians understood that no homes would be demolished to make way for the new underground portion of Interstate 93 through downtown and the extension of Interstate 90 via a cross harbor tunnel from Chinatown to Logan Airport.
When the Big Dig was first proposed in the 1960s, it would have destroyed hundreds of homes in East Boston and in the North End. By the 1980s, however, thanks to Michael Dukakis, governor in those years, and Fred Salvucci, his state transportation secretary, the plan changed.
As a result, in the first years of the Big Dig, Bostonians were excited about the thousands of jobs it would bring. And because of the work of outgoing House Speaker Tip O’Neill, who represented Boston, the federal government paid 90% of the project’s cost. It was a remarkable deal for Massachusetts and one that will probably never happen again.
(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to….
Visit all seven continents (three down, four to go!)
Who are your heroes/mentors?
I’ve been fortunate to have many, many great bosses and coworkers over the years. Here are five who made a big difference:
- Larry Birns at the Council on Hemisphere Affairs in Washington, DC, gave me my first professional job after college and taught me how to work with the media.
- John McAward at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee showed me how Capitol Hill works when he hired me to help him organize congressional fact-finding missions to Latin America.
- Earl Blumenauer introduced me to Portland politics when I served as his City Hall communications director during his campaign for mayor.
- Laura Nissen, my boss at Reclaiming Futures at Portland State University, gave me a daily tutorial on how to build from scratch a national organization that now operates in 18 states.
- Ann Christiano, now a professor at the University of Florida, who encouraged me to think big and take risks when we worked together during her days at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- And I’m always grateful to my parents, Bill and Mary Anne Prichard, for the values they taught, especially the importance of community service and helping others, and for my wife Kris Swanson, who has been so supportive.