In what looks like the logical extension of its recent lobbying efforts in Washington, Facebook is ramping up its PR staff in both New York and California. Influencing politicians? Check! Influencing the media? Give us a minute.
Like its “dream lobbying team” in DC, Facebooks’s new PR hires have a strong background in politics. Sarah Feinberg, a former assistant to President Obama, joined its communications team in Palo Alto where her new boss is none other than Clinton-era White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart. But it looks like Facebook is also looking at the media itself as a potential PR talent pool–Mr. Lockhart worked for NBC in Washington. And Facebook’s newest hire is Jennifer Yuille, who will be based in New York–a former producer for MSNBC and CNN. She left her gig as a producer for Katie Couric at the CBS Evening News last year to join Silicon Valley start-up Polyvore.
All Facebook says, “As the company continues to grow and it faces the usual pressures from competitors, regulators, politicians, and the like, Facebook will need professionals schooled in crisis communications and rapid response to react to a 24/7 news cycle.” But we think there might be another motivating factor.
When Facebook leased two floors on Madison Avenue back in December, Venturebeat said it signaled a move to cozy up to advertisers–pointing out that the space could house up to 600 employees and that the 15 open Facebook positions for New York were all in sales and operations. Zuck set the tone for Facebook’s rocky relationship with ad agencies back in 2007, when he bombed his first big presentation to advertisers by declaring, “Once every hundred years, media changes.” Maybe Ms. Yuille was hired to get Facebook a warmer reception with its new New York neighbors in advertising and media.