Nancy Todd hadn’t done any international work before she attended her first meeting of the International Association of Political Consultants (IAPC). But as her reputation grew from winning casino gambling initiatives around the United States, opportunities abroad started to come her way.
“For me, I had really done all that I could in the United States and then took my expertise to places like Malaysia and Macau. I had a natural opportunity there because I brought that credence,” said Todd. “There’s not as much demand for the traditional direct mail and phone banking [consulting] as there is for polling or another highly specialized area.”
Todd, an issue-campaign specialist, is the newly-elected president of the IAPC — the first female president in the organization’s history. Todd was part of a slate of officers elected at the industry group’s world conference in Mexico City that wrapped Nov. 14. She broke a precedent of 22 male presidents going back to1968.
Todd, who succeeded Ilkka Ahtokivi of Finland, spoke with C&E about the state of international consulting, her plans for her two-year term and what it feels like to be the first woman in her position.
C&E: Did the recent film “Our Brand Is Crisis” hurt the image of international consultants?
Todd: Our brand is crisis. Some of us actually specialize in crisis management. It might have been an insight into the work.
C&E: Do you need a second or third language to do international campaigns?
Todd: You don’t need additional language sets. When I go into a country, they provide a driver and a translator. You just have to have a burning desire to take your skills into another arena.
C&E: What are your goals for the IAPC?
Todd: We’d like to see more younger members come in and expand the organization. It’s just something I look forward to every year. There’s no better way to learn what’s going on in Russia than sitting and learning from a guy who just did campaigns there. But you don’t actually have to be involved in international consulting to be involved in the IAPC. I wasn’t involved in international work when I first attended a meeting. I’d also like to bring in more women.
C&E: What does it mean for you to be the first female president of the IAPC?
Todd: It does mean something to me. There are 22 men that have preceded me. I just think it’s time. This organization needs to have a woman at the helm and I’m certainly proud to be the first. I’ve been doing this since 1979. It’s always been the same; we’ve always been a minority. I’m here to be a role model, but also to show men we bring something to the table. I think women view things differently. Any woman who’s been successful in a male-dominated field knows you have to work a little bit harder.
C&E: Terrorism is dominating the headlines, are you hearing safety concerns from consultants?
Todd: None. That’s an American point of view. I recently had the privilege of talking to someone who had extensive experience in Egypt and he said it’s much safer than we’ve been led to believe. I think Americans hold that view that the world is not a safe place to travel, but not the consultants who are lucky to be working in those other countries.
C&E: Are U.S. consultants still considered the world’s top practitioners?
Todd: We are viewed as the leaders — half of our members are U.S.-based. I think American politics is held in high esteem by anyone outside the country.