PR Week: Biden campaign’s Anita Dunn heads back to SKDK

Diana Bradley, 11/12/20 – WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign adviser Anita Dunn is heading back to SKDKnickerbocker’s team post-election.

Dunn joined the Biden team in its very early stages.

“I started working with the campaign before President-elect Biden announced,” she said. “It was not a full-time role. I served as senior adviser on part of his strategy team as he went through the decision-making process. After he announced, I remained at the agency, though on an increasingly limited basis through August 1, when I took a full leave from SKDK.”

Dunn said she helped with debate preparation and message coordination, in particular with SKDK. The agency developed the Biden campaign’s vote-by-mail program in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona, it said in a statement.

Dunn noted that direct mail continues to be an important channel for campaigns, especially in this election marked by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Once the challenge of COVID-19 began in March, direct mail assumed an even more critical function because of the need to tell people how to vote,” she explained. “This is the only campaign I can think of that spent this much money in terms of broadcast, digital and direct mail talking about not only why people should vote but how to do it because of early voting in part and ensuring people knew the dates for when to get ballots and to return them. I think the comms challenge in 2020 was enormous.”

Dunn has a long history of working on Democratic campaigns, including an internship with former President Jimmy Carter’s unsuccessful 1980 re-election run and a senior staff role during President Barack Obama’s 2008 push.

But this one was different, she said.

“This campaign had all the aspects of the best campaigns,” Dunn said. “The candidate knew why he was running and the staff knew how to amplify the message… [but] it was a campaign unlike any I have ever worked on. It didn’t have the exhilaration of 2008 but it had the urgency of 2020.”

While the pandemic placed restrictions on the kind of events Biden could hold, Dunn said President Donald Trump’s overpowering media presence unintentionally evened the playing field.

“It was not a bad thing to have Donald Trump out there as much as he was because it was making the election a referendum on his failed leadership. That’s how you beat incumbents,” Dunn explained.

Nearly all major media organizations called the race for Biden on Saturday after he passed the Electoral College’s winning threshold of 270 votes. Trump has not conceded and has contended both in person and on Twitter that he won the race.

Dunn said she’ll continue to work with the Biden organization throughout the transition but will also move back to agency life, though she probably won’t do any election campaigns.

“[I’ll] slowly ease my way back into the agency,” she said. “I had not been doing political campaigns. My practice had been focused on advocacy for nonprofits and I did have some private sector clients. I will return to doing work I love; helping people with good causes effect change.”

Though Dunn has made that promise before. “After the 2008 campaign, I said I was done,” she said. “But this time I mean it.”