A Visit with Greg Crist
Executive Vice President, Public Affairs
Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed)
In January, you moved from the American Health Care Association to your present position. Why the switch?
The American Health Care Association is a great organization, and I’d been there since 2013. It was a great run, but AdvaMed gave me a chance to reconnect with an old and trusted colleague, J.C. Scott, its chief advocacy officer and head of external affairs. We’d worked together on Capitol Hill, for [Ohio Rep.] Deborah Pryce, when she was chair of the House Republican Conference. Working with J.C. at AdvaMed keeps me in the health care sphere, but with a twist. Now I’m working for companies in manufacturing, not for providers. This keeps me in public affairs, but now I have greater involvement in investor relations and international relations, which I enjoy.
You started out working for then-Gov. George Allen of Virginia, right?
I was his assistant press secretary. I also worked for two Republican congressmen before joining Deborah Pryce’s staff. And I worked in communications for the 2008 Republican National Convention.
Folks won’t remember what you told them as much as how you made them feel. That’s the key.
With that political background, how did you read the 2016 presidential race — in real time?
I was surprised by the outcome, too. I wasn’t terribly surprised that Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, because there never was a real front-runner, and the attacks against his candidacy in the Republican primaries had a real hit-and-miss quality. It wasn’t sustained. One opponent would throw a few glancing blows and then kind of disappear for a while, and then another would criticize Trump, sometimes, it seemed, just to remain relevant. After Trump got the nomination, I believe he won the general election in part because Hillary Clinton’s campaign had a kind of passivity about it. And then the polling — including the independent polling — seems to have missed a lot. I can’t say my analysis was any better than anybody else’s!
How is 2018 shaping up?
Friends who make a living tracking this stuff tell me that even though off-year elections can be rough on the party that holds the White House, they think the Republicans might pick up seats in the Senate. Three of the Democratic senators up for re-election are from states that went for Trump.
What would you say are the biggest challenges facing the public affairs profession?
There’s no question that technology has been a major “disruptor,” if you will, on the public affairs side. But that’s good. The challenge I see — even for the foreseeable future — is the challenge of authenticity.
In this day of superlatives and hyperbole, how do you get your message through in an authentic way? That’s so important, because the message is going to resonate if it’s authentic and will permit so many people to relate to it. Folks won’t remember what you told them as much as how you made them feel. That’s the key.
Your wife works in public affairs, too, right?
Yes. She is director of communications for the Global Intellectual Property Center of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Her office is concerned with copyrights, patents and related issues, from a range of industries, from pharmaceuticals to movies.
How do the two of you escape politics and D.C. shop talk?
We like to travel, and this past Easter  we were in Paris, Rome and Florence, ending our trip in Venice. I studied Greek and Roman art in college, so Italy—from an art perspective—was a truly exceptional experience. To turn the corner in a museum and see Michelangelo’s David or to visit the Colosseum in Rome is almost surreal.
Reach Greg at 202.783.8700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more “Visit with…” profiles in the Impact archives.