Kassy Perry has made her public relations firm Perry Communications into a multimillion-dollar success. The Sacramento Public Relations Association is honoring their peer, Thursday, with a lifetime-achievement award. Perry recently spoke to Capitol Weekly about working with Katie Couric, OxyContin-fueled business decisions, and the relative merits of different horse names.
Why did you gravitate to health-care issues?
I grew up at a lab bench in La Jolla. My father is a researcher, scientist and physician who, at age 75, still researches at Scripps. All my summer jobs were at laboratories. One year, I had to remove the spleens of 300 mice. But that was better than my brother’s job of delivering buckets of placentas from hospitals.
Given your background in science, why did you go into journalism?
At UC Davis I majored in biochemistry and English literature. After graduation, I stalled. I couldn’t decide on medical school or law school. I took an internship at the last minute. The only one available was as an associate producer and writer for KCRA 3. I loved it.
At Perry Communications, you mainly represent companies and organizations drawn from the health-care field. Still, your client list varies from the California State Fair to a private elementary school. How do you choose which clients to take on?
We have a strong ethical, moral compass as far as who we represent. Some people would say, “How can you represent pharmaceutical companies?” However, I know that the pharmaceutical industry is creating the cures that will save our children and our children’s children. But, I didn’t start out to create just a health-care firm. We very actively–and strategically–work to broaden our client base. I think we sometimes miss out on opportunities to do good work because we’re thought of as a health-care firm.
You worked with Katie Couric, whose husband, Jay Monahan, died from colorectal cancer, to fund research and raise awareness of the disease. What was it like working with her?
Katie Couric is one of those women who just wants to get things done. So, it was very easy to work with her. She was also very brave and spontaneous. When I suggested that she have her colonoscopy on the Today show, she said absolutely. Her lawyers and handlers freaked out.
What was the risk?
The risk is associating Katie Couric with your colon. No one wants to think about that area of your body. In fact, when we did some early research there were some older women who kept saying, “I can’t get colon cancer. That’s a man’s disease.” I’m like, “No that would be prostrate cancer. You have a colon.”