Penn, Mark J. 1954–

views updated

Penn, Mark J. 1954–

PERSONAL:

Born 1954; married Nancy Jacobson (a political fund-raiser and advisor). Education: Attended Harvard University.

ADDRESSES:

Agent—The Leigh Bureau, 92 E. Main St., Ste. 400, Somerville, NJ 08876. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Polling analyst and advisor to major corporations and heads of state for more than thirty years, with clients including McDonald's, AT & T, Coca-Cola, American Express, Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and U.S. Senator Hilary Clinton. Penn, Schoen, and Berland (PSB, polling firm), president and cofounder, 1975—. Burson-Marsteller (B-M, public relations firm), worldwide chief executive officer, 1995—. Guest on CNN, Fox News, and other television programs.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Pollster of the Year award, American Association of Political Consultants, 1996, 2000; New Politics Institute (NPI) fellow.

WRITINGS:

(With E. Kinney Zalesne) Microtrends: The Small Forces behind Tomorrow's Big Changes (nonfiction), Twelve (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

SIDELIGHTS:

Mark J. Penn is an experienced and influential polling analyst and advisor who has provided public relations services to numerous corporations, heads of state, and political candidates. He is the worldwide chief executive officer of Burson-Marsteller (B-M), a powerful public relations company with global influence, and president of Penn, Schoen, and Berland (PSB), a polling firm he cofounded in 1975, while still an undergraduate at Harvard University. PSB continues to use research to create communications strategies for politicians and corporations, and for helping with crisis situations. Penn is known for his ability to identify and utilize small but important trends. He discusses this topic and identified movements that will be important in the near future in Microtrends: The Small Forces behind Tomorrow's Big Changes, which he authored with E. Kinney Zalesne.

Penn's client base includes many highly influential individuals. He served as a key advisor to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. He advised Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and provided services to Microsoft as well. Penn was also a key advisor to Michael Bloomberg for his mayoral campaign in New York City and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton during part of her presidential campaign. Occasionally, however, Penn's extensive influence led to some allegations regarding conflicts of interest. For example, some labor union leaders protested that Penn, though working for pro-union candidate Hillary Clinton, had provided services to anti-union companies through B-M. Later, Penn resigned as chief advisor to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign after controversy arose over his talks with the Colombian ambassador to the United States about a free-trade agreement, which Clinton was known to oppose. B-M had contracted with Colombia to promote the free-trade agreement among members of the U.S. Congress. Though he did resign his post as chief advisor, Penn continued to provide polling and advice to Clinton and her campaign.

As an advisor, Penn is particularly noted for his skill in identifying and understanding small but influential niche groups. For example, during Bill Clinton's 1996 presidential reelection campaign, it was Penn who singled out the group that became known as "Soccer Moms"—affluent, suburban mothers who had not yet made up their minds about the election—as a group that could be critical in winning the presidency. Focusing attention on Soccer Moms may well have been a critical point in the campaign that helped secure Clinton's eventual victory.

Penn's decades of experience as a pollster, and the insight he gained as such, informed Microtrends. In an interview for Microtrending.com, Penn stated that he was inspired to write the book so that people would have a chance to better understand how the world looks through an analysis of numbers. As a pollster analyzing trends for national and international corporate, political, and social sector clients for thirty years, he has learned that, most often, "the key to success is finding the small, under-the-radar groups who are doing or thinking things that run counter to conventional wisdom." He added that "this type of group can [tip] an election, make or break a business, or trigger a social movement … yet many conventional commentators on society either don't see them or deny them outright."

In the same interview, Penn defined a "microtrend" as a "small but growing group of people, who share an intense choice or preference that is … often counterintuitive and has sometimes been missed or undercounted." He also stated that a microtrend can be "as small as 3 million people, or about 1 percent of the American population, and even if that group never grows, it can still have enormous impact on society." Penn divides his book into fifteen chapters, each with subchapters, defining seventy-five different groups representing microtrends. They include Extreme Commuters, who travel more than ninety minutes to and from work each day; Impressionable Elites, who are well-educated but poorly informed voters; Surgery Lovers, who have multiple, repeated plastic surgery procedures; and the Working Retired, who continue on in their jobs despite being of retirement age. Other microtrend groups include the Upscale Tattooed, Permissive Parents, and Shy Millionaires.

In a review of Microtrends for Business Week, Diane Brady found that while not all of the material and insights in the book were original, nevertheless, the book is "fun" and full of "food for thought." She also noted Penn's "sleuth-like love of seeing the people behind the numbers." Michelle Archer, in a review for USA Today, stated that "the strength of the book lies in Penn's analysis of the implications and opportunities of each microtrend." She found that while Microtrends is packed full of enough facts to make it "a trivia-lover's dream," it is far from a dry collection of statistics because "Penn adroitly manages to convey the relevance of such minutiae to the world at large."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 2007, David Pitt, review of Microtrends: The Small Forces behind Tomorrow's Big Changes, p. 9.

Business Week, September 17, 2007, Diane Brady, "Name that Demographic," review of Microtrends, p. 100.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of Microtrends.

Library Journal, September 15, 2007, Heidi Senior, review of Microtrends, p. 68.

New Statesman, October 22, 2007, Matthew Taunton, "Target Markets," review of Microtrends, p. 58.

Newsweek, September 6, 2007, Karen Breslau, "Tattoos and Knitting," review of Microtrends; September 17, 2007, John David Sparks, "Quick Read," review of Microtrends, p. E2.

USA Today, September 10, 2007, Michelle Archer, review of Microtrends, p. 9B.

Washington Post, April 7, 2008, Anne E. Kornblut, "Clinton's Chief Strategist Steps Down," p. A1.

ONLINE

Burson-Marsteller Web site,http://www.bursonmarsteller.com/ (June 24, 2008), author biography.

Leigh Bureau,http://www.leighbureau.com/ (June 24, 2008), author biography.

Microtrending.com,http://www.microtrending.com/ (June 24, 2008), author interview.

Sourcewatch.org,http://www.sourcewatch.org/ (June 24, 2008), author biography.

About this article

Penn, Mark J. 1954–

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article