Tag Archives: Dwain Schenck

Dwain Schenck’s PR: From Barbara Bush To Guy Smith

Dwain Schenck first met Guy Smith at a refugee camp in the Middle East.

It was the first Gulf War, right before Kuwait was liberated by allied ground forces.

Dwain Schenck

Schenck was communications director for Americares. He lived in Jordan, helping coordinate medical relief airlifts from the US. Working together, the two men became fast — and lifelong — friends.

Schenck has had an intriguing career. He was the first Western TV reporter in Armenia after a devastating earthquake. He worked in disaster areas and war zones around the world, including Iran, North Korea, Nicaragua, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda and Bosnia.

In 1993 he traveled with former first lady Barbara Bush to the war-torn Croatian port of Split, on a humanitarian mission, delivering medical relief supplies to hospitals. He wrote several speeches for her.

Bush was “inquisitive and very compassionate,” Schenck recalls. “She was also tough and a real trouper, braving cold and difficult conditions at clinics and refugee camps. She was a class act, with a down-to-earth style all her own. She looked like America’s grandmother, but she was young at heart and full of energy.”

Dwain Schenck and Barbara Bush share a moment.

Schenck, his wife and 3 children moved to Westport in 2003. It’s a town he’d always loved, from his early days with Stamford-based Americares.

Today he owns Schenck Strategies, a boutique PR and strategic communications firm.

Last December, Smith called. He’s running for governor of Connecticut. Schenck signed on as communications director.

Smith is a Democrat from Greenwich. After Americares he joined Diageo as a senior executive. He was a special adviser to Bill Clinton during the president’s impeachment proceedings.

But, Schenck says, Smith is “not a career politician or a career candidate.”

Guy Smith

Schenck calls him “the right man for the job, at this point in our state’s history.” His communications director says Smith brings people together, and can “break through the divisiveness that keeps government from working for the people of this state.”

Westport is not exactly ground zero in the gubernatorial race. We do, however, have 2 candidates: Republican Steve Obsitnik and unaffiliated Marisa Manly.

Now another neighbor is helping a Democratic candidate.

There are about 25 candidates in the ever-changing list of hopefuls to succeed Governor Dannel Malloy. May the best man or woman win.

Dwain Schenck: “Reset” Yourself After A Job Loss

In 2012, Dwain Schenck lost his job as vice president of public relations for a major US company. Nearing 50, it was his first layoff ever. But he was not worried.

Schenck figured that with his background — a journalism degree from USC, decades of experience with non-profits and big corporations, and a proven record of success — he’d land a new gig pretty quickly.

It didn’t happen.

“The world had changed radically” since he entered the workforce, the 10-year Westport resident says.

“The Great Recession was over, but the job market was still horrendous. There were no jobs for a VP of corporate communications.”

Especially one who was — in his words — “middle-aged, balding, a little heavy.”

Dwain Schenck

Dwain Schenck

Schenck went on plenty of interviews. They went well, but nothing panned out. No one told him why he was not hired.

His kids — 2 at Staples, 1 at Coleytown Middle School — were thriving. But Schenck’s self-confidence quickly crumbled. He realized he had “connected all of my self-worth to my job. Nothing equipped me to be out of work, and with no control over my destiny.”

One night, at dinner with longtime friend Mika Brzezinski — they’d grown up professionally together at AmeriCares, and her husband and Schenck were briefly fellow reporters at News12 — he told her of his tough experiences.

As she realized the toll it was taking — on Schenck’s personality, marriage and home life — she said, “you have to write about it.”

Finally, he had something he could control.

Schenck interviewed job-seekers, business executives, psychologists, and celebrities like Donald Trump and Larry David.

The result — Reset: How to Beat the Job-Loss Blues and Get Ready for Your Next Act — is a hit. It’s the 6th best-selling business paperback — and a lifesaver for readers, as well as Schenck himself.

Reset bookDespite the topic, it’s hardly gloom-and-doom. Schenck writes with humor, insight and plenty of personal experience on topics like insecurity, networking, maintaining a social life, and “Welcome to Hell: HR and Interviewing.”

It’s heavy on reinvention. Which is fitting, because Schenck reinvented himself by the very act of writing a book.

He’d never considered it before. But, thanks to a job coach who helped him look at his “constellation of skills,” rather than just one skill set, he realized he was more than just a public relations executive.

By the time Schenck finished writing, he had the confidence to relaunch himself as  PR consultant to high-end clients. He got good gigs, helping CEOs with their messaging and external communications.

Schenck has a website that brings in work, and does motivational speaking too.

He no longer commutes to New York. He works from home and onsite, at clients’ Fairfield County headquarters.

He wouldn’t be where he is, he says, without Westport. It’s an “artistic, comfortable, tolerant town with a lot of heritage,” he says, and his family loves being here. He moved here for the schools, and if he’d gotten a job in Silicon Valley — as he almost did — he would have commuted cross-country.

At 50 years old, he is “doing what I want, and like, to do,” Schenck says. “I’m probably using 75% of my skills, for the first time ever.”

He’s making more money than before he was fired.

But he’s less focused on that. He’s “reset” his life. As his subtitle says, Schenck definitely beat the job-loss blues. Now, he’s well into his next act.

(Dwain Schenck will be at the Westport Barnes & Noble at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 22 to sign copies of Reset. Mika Brzezkinski will be there too.)