Sep22016

Perry Communications Group Celebrates 20th Anniversary: Founder reflects on lessons learned, success, vision for future

Posted by Kassy Perry

Sacramento, Calif. – One of Sacramento’s top public affairs firms for the past 20 years, Perry Communications Group, founded in 1996 by Kathryn Edgington “Kassy” Perry, defied the odds of new business startups, used a major economic recession to restructure for future success, and is on track to a record breaking year and an expansion in 2017.

“We are grateful that for two decades our clients have placed their trust in us to help them successfully advance their missions and achieve their communications and policy goals,” said PCG Chief Executive Officer and Founder Kassy Perry.

Known for their depth of experience in health care and advocacy, PCG’s award-winning public affairs and public relations work doesn’t stop there. Perry and her team of full-time professionals and subcontractors apply the same strategic thinking and fresh creativity to consumer, education, environment, business, housing, legal, and non-profit issues.

“Kassy’s creativity and out-of-the-box approach to managing issues is what prompted PhRMA to seek PCG’s help 20 years ago,” said Jill Kronisch, Deputy Vice President, Alliance Development and Public Affairs for PhRMA. “Kassy’s expertise and experience in the life sciences and biopharmaceutical industries, and her creativity and ability to communicate with a variety of stakeholders is a significant reason for the firm’s continued success on our issues, and is what has kept us coming back.”

PCG’s highly respected employees are former reporters, government advisors, campaign staff, event planners, and advocates, and that expertise guides their success on behalf of the firm’s clients in the areas of issue and campaign management, crisis communications, media relations, social media, grassroots advocacy, and coalition development and mobilization.

Perry opened her firm in 1996 after working in television and radio news, and as a strategic communications advisor to two California Governors and a California State Assembly Member. In her final years in public service, as Deputy Communications Director for Governor Pete Wilson, Kassy oversaw communications for the administration’s health and welfare portfolio, including public health, Medi-Cal, welfare reform, the Ward Valley Low Level Radioactive Waste Site, immigration reform, and Prop 65, as well as a host of other high profile and complex subject areas.

In 1985, while in her first year of public service as the Communications Director for the California Department of Health Services, Perry drew on her background in science at the University of California, Davis, as a summer laboratory technician at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, and experience with three biotech company startups to help negotiate the state’s first research grant for an AIDS vaccine with the late Dr. Jonas Salk of the Salk Institute.

She helped create more than a dozen state programs including Access for Infants and Mothers (AIM) and Check Up, a health prevention program for low-income children that became Healthy Families. She also worked with policy experts throughout the Wilson Administration to help create and communicate a variety of programs to close insurance coverage gaps in an incremental and sustainable strategy.

In the 20 years since the firm’s inception, Kassy has continued to ensure that individuals have access to health insurance coverage and that the coverage provides adequate access to providers and treatments. Those programs include; the California Partnership for Access to Treatment (CPAT); California Chronic Care Coalition’s MyPatientRights.org; ACCESS for Mental Healthcare; Get Hip to HepC; a variety of campaigns to increase awareness of and destigmatize lung cancer for the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation; AWARxE, a campaign to increase awareness of antibiotic resistance for the California Medical Foundation; Citizens for the Right to Know and Access to Care and Treatment Alliance (ACT) to educate consumers about the need to advocate for the care they need; and the first SMARxt Card for the Senior Medication Awareness and Training Program, a partnership between the California Congress of Seniors and the California Pharmacists Association, to reduce prescribing errors for seniors with multiple physicians and providers.

One of PCG’s first nationally-recognized campaigns was created for then Today Show host Katie Couric through PCG client the Entertainment Industry Foundation. Couric’s husband died of colon cancer and the television host was passionate about increasing survival rates. Perry suggested to Couric that a bold campaign was needed, one that would encourage the public to undergo colonoscopies and reduce the stigma of the procedure because if “Katie can do it, I can do it.”

“Katie Couric was passionate about making a difference and we knew we needed to get people talking about a place on their bodies they didn’t even want to think about,” says Perry. “When I suggested that she undergo a colonoscopy and produce a segment for the Today Show about her experience, her producers and the NBC lawyers didn’t think much of the idea,” said Perry with a smile. “However, Katie loved it. She fully embraced the concept and ran with it.”

When Couric underwent a colonoscopy live on national TV in March 2000, colonoscopy rates nationwide jumped more than 20 percent in the days and months that followed. The live colonoscopy was part of a weeklong series promoting colon cancer awareness. In a USA Today news article, the University of Michigan School of Medicine dubbed the phenomenon the “Katie Couric Effect.”

Through PCG’s wide-ranging work the team has built trusting relationships with policy makers, advocates, reporters, and business leaders to help educate constituencies on the most critical issues of our time. Those include Fed Up at The Pump, a campaign by the California Independent Oil Marketers Association (CIOMA) to increase awareness of a fuel tax; the launch of a marine mammal preserve at Año Nuevo State Park; and the successful Save Our State Parks Campaign to prevent a toll road from being constructed through a state park and the destruction of California’s remarkable state park system on behalf of the California State Parks Foundation.

In 1994, before Perry started her company, she began working with a group of patient advocates who had formed Citizens for the Right to Know to ensure that managed healthcare in California was patient-centered. The partnership with Liz Helms, then of the TMJ Society and now founder of the California Chronic Care Coalition was formed. Helms and Perry have become close friends and colleagues. At one point Helms worked for Perry as an advocate for the firm, and now Perry works for Helms providing pro bono public affairs consulting services. This year, Liz Helms published her first book, one that was more than a decade in the writing, entitled “Healthcare Unhinged: The Making of a Healthcare Advocate”. In her book, Helms describes the history that brought the two together and starting on page 61, details the ways that Perry helped her achieve her goals.

“Sometimes life simply demands that you be bigger than you see yourself and stronger than you think you are. Liz shows you how to step into the shoes you were born to wear,” says Perry on the HealthcareUnhinged.com website about her friend Liz Helms.

“Kassy met me as an angry, brand new patient advocate and coached me into becoming a change maker who has testified before Congress, been the focus of a front page New York Times story, the founder of two non-profit organizations and a tireless advocate for people with chronic disease to ensure that patients are at the center of every healthcare discussion,” said Helms.

Much of PCG’s award winning work has been conducted on behalf of the Mental Health Association of California and NAMI California to reduce stigma of mental illness and increase funding. “When we started that work in 1996, we were told by several lobbyists that they had never talked to a Republican about mental health funding, that they only lobbied Democrats,” said Perry. “We helped change that dynamic and brought together ALL of the stakeholders in the mental health community, including law enforcement, mental health providers, physicians, consumers, hospitals and community stakeholders,” said Perry. “To make significant change, you have to do something significant.”

“Without Kassy Perry’s vision for a collaborative and strong coalition of mental health stakeholders to increase funding and create new programs in a significant way, we would never have laid the foundation for the passage of proposition 63,” said Darrell Steinberg, former Senate President Pro Tem, incoming Mayor of Sacramento and author of the major reforms of the mental health system and Prop 63. “She has been a driving force behind changing the way we communicated the needs of those with mental illness.”

“Our business is all about change,” says Perry. “It’s about facts and figures, statistics and statutes, but at the end of the day, in order to affect change for our clients and the people of California, our work requires strong relationships. We recognize that our success depends on the integrity of our collaborations and commitments to people.

“We love what we do and we care about our clients and partners and treat them as members of the family.”

For the past 20 years PCG has been courted for acquisition by virtually every national public relations firm and has former employees in leadership positions throughout the community.

As the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Perry has led the company through a variety of business challenges and changes. Early in the business, when the booming 90s demanded that CEO’s build a business to sell it for profit, Perry started down that path with a large office in Sacramento and an office in Washington D.C. with more than 25 employees. “I was managing people and their problems, rather than client solutions,” said Perry.

With the recession on the horizon and recovering slowly from a serious horseback riding injury that required major surgery, Perry consolidated employees in Sacramento, and made other changes to ensure the viability of the company. Those efforts were successful and the firm was able to continue through the recession without negatively impacting the core of the employee base and business functions.

While a merger or acquisition was not something Perry saw in the company’s future, the business discussions and restructuring over the past 20 years have solidified her vision of the future of the firm. With one daughter now in the public affairs arena working for Miller Public Affairs, a friendly competitor, and Julia Spiess Lewis, the firm’s Senior Vice President, 15 year employee and now Perry’s right-hand, the founder sees a bright future that includes expanding the ownership of the firm to a limited number of partners and the imminent signing of a new 10 year lease in Downtown Sacramento, closer to clients and the Capitol with room to grow.

“At the end of the day, I have done a couple of things well,” said Perry. “I have raised two successful daughters who are in their 20s, living on their own with careers they love. I have worked with clients to create programs that positively impact people’s lives, and I’ve created a company that provides exceptional benefits and salaries to young (mostly) women allowing them the flexibility to start families and raise their children while engaging in meaningful work on behalf of our clients. I think that’s a pretty darn good legacy.”

For a list and biographies of PCG’s team please go to: http://perrycom.com/about

For a list of PCG case studies, go to: http://perrycom.com/results/client-case-studies