Recognized by Time magazine as one of “40 Under 40 Rising Stars” while he was still a student at IWP in 2010, Brendan Steinhauser was foundational in helping several key national leaders get elected. His campaign management experience includes the successful 2014 reelection bid of Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). He now runs his own consulting firm, Steinhauser Strategies. Brendan achieved all this with lessons in political warfare, strategic communication, and the art of diplomacy, which he learned at IWP.
After becoming interested in politics through classes and campus debates at the University of Texas, Brendan got heavily involved in his campus’s discussions about the cause and response to the 9/11 attacks, which occurred during his sophomore year. As a result of this new interest in international relations, he became a reader of Foreign Affairs magazine, where he saw an ad for IWP. The curriculum and scholar-practitioner professors sold him on the school, and he began his studies at the Institute shortly after moving to D.C. for work. During this time, his professional work and graduate studies shared similar themes.
“While I was working on domestic campaigns and grassroots political movements, I was taking a class on public diplomacy and [strategic communication] at IWP,” Brendan said. “We read about political influence and debate going back to the ancients. We read the history of those who tried to spark grassroots movements — about people who chose to fight back against big government, in a sense.”
Brendan, inspired by the way people created mass movements in the past, including the Solidarity movement and the American civil rights movement, set about building a successful nationwide grassroots movement while working for a political group in the Washington area. “By studying this history, knowing the importance of earned media and of organizing, we were able to launch a huge movement, and made a big impact in politics,” said Brendan. In 2009, he led what has been described as the largest protest by activists for limited government in U.S. history.
People across the globe became interested in the ideas in Brendan’s grassroots movement, including in Israel, Japan, and Australia. Armed with knowledge from a course with Dr. Lee Edwards on international media and public policy, Brendan was well prepared for interviews with foreign media. He was able to spread his message to people who were empathetic to his cause around the globe.
Along with his wife Randan, Brendan launched Steinhauser Strategies, a public relations, government affairs, and campaign firm based in Austin, Texas, in 2014. “A lot of what I do is influencing the ideas of legislators and the public,” comments Brendan. “Whether I am pitching an issue campaign or promoting a candidate, I employ a diverse set of tools — just as international relations uses diverse tactics.” His study of propaganda, psychological warfare, and communication has been key in his efforts to organize such campaigns, which involve the writing of op-eds, digital marketing, media engagement, and visits to legislators.
“We wanted to offer the kinds of things we had both done in our careers while supporting the clients we wanted,” Brendan commented. “We are focusing on Texas and local clients, as well as some statewide and international work.”
Brendan’s company is rapidly growing and serving clients in businesses, nonprofits, and candidates for state and local office. IWP teaches the importance of nations using all the arts of statecraft to achieve their strategic goals, and Brendan uses various methods of communications and influence to help clients achieve their own objectives.
The lessons Brendan learned with the late IWP professor Ambassador Thomas Melady in his class on the art of diplomacy have also been helpful. “So much of what I do is the art of diplomacy — dealing with legislators and staff, media, business leaders, ” Brendan said. “Having served as an Ambassador in Burundi, Uganda, and the Vatican, Amb. Melady emphasized the importance of personal relationships and using strategies to influence people. That’s what I do every day.”
Brendan finds that the most rewarding part of his work at Steinhauser Strategies is seeing the impact he is making with each client, and seeing what they can help each candidate or group achieve in a fairly short amount of time. “The creative tactics we use are not as widespread as you would think,” he comments. “It’s exciting to me to help our clients think differently about politics and public policy.”
In the future, Brendan looks forward to growing his business, both nationally and internationally. “I want us to be known for effective, creative work, whether it’s a cause or a candidate,” he said. “I want to make an impact locally and in my state, and help others become state senators, representatives, and governors. I will continue to employ the things I learned at IWP. The school had a profound impact on my work, and I think people will be able to see that in Texas as the years go on.”
Above: IWP Advisory Board Member Steve Fausel, General Michael T. Flynn, Brendan Steinhauser,
IWP President John Lenczowski, and IWP Chairman Owen T. Smith
at Commencement in May 2011.