Mark DeMoss Talks About Surviving Cancer and Closing His Famous Christian PR Firm

Mark DeMoss speaks at a news conference ahead of the Billy Graham memorial service on March 1, 2018, after the famous preacher’s death in February. Photo courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

For once, Mark DeMoss is on the other side of the story.

The longtime public relations executive, who has represented prominent evangelical organizations for more than three decades, announced Tuesday (Jan. 15) that he is going to close his Atlanta-based firm at the end of March.

In an interview with Religion News Service after his announcement, DeMoss talked about how he relishes helping ministries in crisis and promoting prominent Christian leaders but, at 56, no longer wants to be a businessman as public relations adapts to a digital age.

Having represented a total of 200 clients — from Ebola patient Kent Brantly to the Museum of the Bible to Willow Creek Church — DeMoss said he had a unique “front row seat” to evangelical history since the 1980s.

He has been in business long enough to have crossed paths with two pairs of fathers and sons: Billy and Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwells Senior and Junior. In the interview, DeMoss defended his “good friend” and client Franklin Graham but chose not to comment on the younger Falwell, leaving as his last word remarks DeMoss made more than two years ago distancing himself from Falwell’s support for President Trump.

DeMoss talked to RNS about surviving cancer, his concerns about incivility and why he’ll never write a tell-all book.

The interview was edited for length and clarity.

Mark DeMoss is closing his Atlanta-based PR firm after nearly three decades. Photo courtesy of DeMoss

How would you sum up why you decided to close your firm after 28 years?

I just became more and more aware that what I really love is the practice of PR and not the business of PR, meaning the responsibilities that come with owning and leading an agency. I still love doing PR. I love giving advice and counsel. I love trying to solve problems and I love writing. I love messaging. I love storytelling. But I’ve never considered myself a businessman. A lot of people assume because you own a business, you must be a businessman or an entrepreneur and I’m really not wired that way. And so, I just felt it was time. I’m not retiring from productive contribution to Christian work. I’m retiring from the agency business and I’m too young to do nothing.

How has the evangelical ecosystem changed in recent decades and how much do those changes have to do with you no longer representing it?

I don’t have any false sense or ego that we are the PR firm for evangelicalism. We’re not and I’m not. It’s a big world. I don’t disagree with the assessment in your question about the evangelical political dynamics of the last several years. I have strong personal feelings about that, less so professionally. Ultimately every person and certainly every leader and every Christian leader has to do what they believe they’re called to do. I may disagree with what somebody else is doing and they would probably make a case that that’s what they felt called to do.

Your firm represented Billy Graham late in his life and his evangelistic association now led by his son Franklin Graham. Has it been more difficult for you to represent Franklin, given his greater public involvement than his dad in politics, including Franklin’s defense of Trump?

No, for several reasons. Franklin’s the first person I went to see after I told my staff on Friday that I was closing my firm. I flew to meet with Franklin Saturday morning and took my wife with me. I have a wonderful, 27-year relationship with Franklin and his ministry. For all the attention that Franklin might get for his relationship with the president, I think about how 157 million children have now gotten a Christmas gift through Operation Christmas Child. I was involved in that project from the very first shoebox that was ever packed. I see what Samaritan’s Purse has gone in and done. That’s the kind of thing that has drawn me to Franklin Graham and made me not only a friend but a donor, a personal donor to his ministry. He’ll always be my friend. We won’t agree on everything.

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Source: Religion News Service