If anyone had ever told me that after my 40-year career in journalism I would spend a 5th decade working in health care public relations, I would have been highly skeptical. For one thing, that would mean living into my 70s (!!) which was never certain. But even more unlikely was the idea that Peter Perl would ever go over to “the dark side.”
That’s what we called the PR industry back in the last century when I was a reporter and editor for The Providence (R.I.) Journal-Bulletin and then The Washington Post for 33 years, where I retired as Assistant Managing Editor in 2013. The truth is that many journalists regarded PR with disdain, believing that PR people were unsavory, if not outright dishonest. Over the years, I have had a handful of newspaper colleagues who left journalism to make huge amounts of money writing for major corporations, for Big Tobacco, and even for several foreign dictators who were seeking persuasive writers familiar with Washington politics to help influence Congress to continue sending foreign aid to deeply corrupt regimes.
But that skepticism was before I met Sharon Reis. A friend of mine who had left The Post to work in the realm of progressive PR suggested that Sharon and I meet each other. What began with a few freelance editing gigs eventually turned into an amazing 10-year second career as senior consultant, Chief Storyteller, and Honorary Grandpa of the youthful woman-owned health care PR firm now known as The Reis Group.
“We are committed to working with clients who are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of our nation. We are passionate about our clients’ issues and believe in the power of communications to transform lives.” That is TRG’s mission statement, and I have to confess that that journalistic skeptic in me raised a suspicious eyebrow when I first heard that claim.
Ten years later, I am still proudly here. At TRG, the team truly is passionate about health, health care, and social causes, and those values guide decisions we make about new clients we take on.
I have gotten to work with amazing colleagues and also with some of the nation’s leading medical and scientific experts in the fields of Alzheimer’s research, integrative medicine, epidemiology, vaccine promotion, interventional radiology and much more. TRG has helped organizations that are doing admirable work in promoting health equity, corporate social responsibility, domestic-violence prevention, racial justice, gender equality and children’s health.
So yes, I am still proudly here. Not exactly sure that I will be around long enough to last another 10 years at TRG. On the other hand, an unexpected benefit of this job is that I’ve learned enough new stuff about health and medicine so that I’ve developed some healthier habits and I’m planning to stick around with The Reis Group for a while longer.