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Managing truth crisis

Firm linked to A-Rod maintains ‘war room’ for emergency public relations problems.

March 05, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

The Newport Beach consulting firm Outside Eyes is tucked away behind an unmarked, dark wood door in a quiet office park.

Founded by former White House Assistant Press Secretary and Newport Beach resident Reed Dickens, the small firm specializes in crisis management, dealing with everything from corporate scandal to disgraced professional athletes.

Dickens is the son of a preacher from small-town Louisiana. The faintest whisper of a Southern drawl is still detectable in his speech.

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Outside Eyes won’t talk specifics about its crisis management clients, but Sports Illustrated recently linked the firm to embattled New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez.

The third baseman called in the Newport Beach-based firm after it became public last month that he tested positive for steroids in 2003, according to published reports.

Outside Eyes also has been linked to Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, after his adult sons were arrested on drugs and weapons charges in 2007.

The firm maintains what it calls a “war room,” which is manned by five or six young, enthusiastic staffers whom Dickens calls “crazy smart.”

The staffers constantly monitor the news, coming up with and firing back rapid responses to the media.

Dickens’ partner is Ben Porritt, who was a national spokesman for the McCain-Palin presidential campaign. Porritt also served as press secretary for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay when he was indicted for conspiracy to violate election laws by a Texas grand jury in 2005.

One wall of Dickens’ office is filled with framed candid shots of him palling around with the likes of George W. Bush and Colin Powell.

Powell has Dickens in a friendly headlock in one photograph. Dickens is on the golf course with Bush and George H.W. Bush in another shot.

Now 31, Dickens was only 22 when he went to work in the West Wing of the White House as a press aide. He was soon named assistant press secretary under White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

“It was an amazing experience for someone who grew up in a small town to have, especially when I was so young,” Dickens said of his time in the Bush Administration. “I felt like Forrest Gump most of the time.”

Quickness and clarity were the two lessons Dickens took away from the White House. He left Washington in 2005 to start a family with wife, Sophia, the host of the Tru Television show “Hollywood Heat.” The couple have a 1-year-old son, Sam.

“I learned the need for a clear message and managing the speed that news travels,” Dickens said.

Rapid response is the key when dealing with a scandal, he said.

“There are two types of clients, those who bring you in with time to plan and the client who brings you in too late,” Dickens said. “When they do reach out to us, they expect us to be a magician, but it’s just too late.”

For the most part, Dickens said he advises his clients to tell the truth, when it won’t put them in legal jeopardy.

“The No. 1 rule of crisis management we try to advise our clients to live by is always assume that everybody will know everything eventually,” Dickens said. “Come as clean as the lawyers will let you.”


Reporter BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at brianna.bailey@latimes.com.

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