When SMPA alumnus Tim Miller (BA ’04) describes his position as National Press Secretary for Gov. Jon Huntsman’s bid for the presidency, he is very matter of fact about his 16-hour days, his Blackberry addiction, and his love for a good political fight.
“As a press secretary, you have to be quick on your feet,” Tim said. “It is important to have the discipline to stay on message, not take the bait from reporters who want to focus on other topics, and clearly communicate a message. If you are hesitant in figuring out how to respond to reporters, you are losing valuable time.”
Tim’s road to becoming a national campaign spokesman began as a 17-year-old volunteer intern during a 1998 governor’s race in his home state of Colorado. He came to GW to study political science and journalism and worked on other campaigns in addition to interning at the Republican Governors Association. After graduation, he landed his first job as a candidate's personal aide in a Delaware governor’s race.
From there, Tim was a self-described “campaign gypsy” moving around to campaign races in Virginia and several in Iowa, including a high-profile role as John McCain’s Iowa campaign spokesperson. With all that experience under his belt, Tim settled back in Washington D.C. to take on economic and public affairs issues for two powerhouse firms – Berman and Company and the Glover Park Group. He joined a political action committee in February that served as a precursor to the Huntsman campaign, and soon thereafter became the national spokesperson.
Tim describes his job as very high energy and fast paced. Each morning begins the same, as he and his team scour national news and social media to monitor the success of his messaging and the messaging of his competitors. After that, Tim collaborates with other staffers to coordinate their new message goals and the focus of their overall campaign strategy before fielding media requests, coordinating candidate media appearances, and pushing out announcements and press releases until bedtime.
With the advent of Twitter and a boom of niche publications and political blogs, Tim sees stark differences between the 2008 presidential campaign cycle and the one currently underway.
“Things have multiplied on all sides to where you can monitor the conversation second by second, twenty-four hours a day,” he said. “These changes have tons of implications, especially for somebody trying to run a communications shop. It requires a lot more speed and discipline and a lot more time on the clock than before. It’s just the way the world works now.”
Tim’s advice for current GW students is to take advantage of everything D.C. has to offer to help you figure out what you like and then gain the conviction to pursue it passionately. Despite enjoying his journalism classes with Professor Al May and other SMPA professors, post-college he decided his preference was to work on the communications side of politics, and is very happy with his decision to pursue that specialty. He suggests that students be persistent in asking alumni for help and that people are more likely than not to assist, even if they are busy.
The politics bug might have come early for Tim, but he found many likeminded friends here at GW. He remembers spending hours watching returns at a 2000 election party at the culmination of the Al Gore and George W. Bush contest, and returning to his room only to hear yells from his floormates reacting to news coverage as late as 4 A.M. While much of America decided to wait for returns until the next morning, GW was abuzz with political news all night.
Some might say that not much has changed at GW since then!
Tim welcomes current SMPA students or alumni to contact him at email@example.com.