Power 2008: The Elements of Influence
Case Study: Jan Saragoni, founder, Saragoni & Company; Michael Goldman, senior consultant, Government Insight Group
ALL POWER IS DERIVED in large part from relationships, but in Boston — where media, politics, and PR are connected to
the point of symbiosis — those who manage to move gracefully among the three (i.e., schmooze like a champ) may find themselves disproportionately successful. Exhibit A: Jan Saragoni and Michael Goldman.
Saragoni professes hatred for the word "schmooze" because it sounds "slippery and superficial." She prefers to describe her job as "czarina of public relations." Whatever you want to call it — working a room, chatting up the press, making introductions and connections, trafficking in information — she’s got a gift. A former Associated Press reporter, she worked for Kevin White and Michael Dukakis before founding her own boutique PR agency; combined with her service on the boards of the Greenway Conservancy and the Mass. Women’s Political Caucus, it’s a résumé that’s ensured she’s always got juicy gossip to share with journalists, many of whom then become happy to return the favor. "When I was at the Globe, everyone took her calls, and everyone was talking about what she was pitching," says Doreen Vigue, now a NECN spokeswoman. "She’s a news junkie. She’s everywhere. And she knows every power broker in town."
For his part, Goldman does not share Saragoni’s reservations about the dirty word: "Schmooz" is actually in his e-mail address. After 200-odd political campaigns and untold numbers of panicked phone calls from reporters on deadline, he remains constantly available to trade gossip, unleash a devastating joke, provide contacts, or relay a story about an old legislative battle. (Over the years, he’s turned up in so many articles that the Globe has had to periodically ban reporters from quoting him.)
One Democratic operative recalls being in a campaign meeting when Goldman received a tip. "I watched for 12 minutes while he made 15 phone calls. He turned one bit of information into seven hits. It was a flurry." It was for that aptitude that Deval Patrick’s chief of staff, Doug Rubin, tapped Goldman to serve as an informal adviser to his boss, who’s certainly needed the help. "He really believes what he says. It’s not just spin," Rubin says. Though at meetings, he adds, "it’s tough to get a word in edgewise. You’ve got to set aside a little bit more time for the conversation." —Paul McMorrow