Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A PR Legend

Hope you all get a chance to read PR Week’s special Career Guide supplement out this month. There is a lovely tribute to legendary PR veteran, Harold Burson of Burson Marstellar.

Many years ago when I was with Cohn & Wolfe (then a sister agency to Burson Marstellar) I had the unique opportunity to actually meet and talk with Mr. Burson. I was in Connecticut on a three day training session (the agency was well-known for internal education) and during one of the session breaks we had a special visit by Harold Burson. There was a sea of people crowding Mr. Burson in a scrum formation and I thought I would never get a foot into the conversation. I waited patiently, then got my turn. Here I was face to face with the master of PR, the “father of modern PR” and already a legend back then. What do I ask this accomplished man? The role of PR in the 21st century? Corporate citizenship? What makes a great leader? The secret to a solid client/agency working relationship? My mind was racing. But when I opened my mouth, all I could muster was, “So Mr. Burson, what makes you get out of bed in the morning?”

He smiled and chuckled then told me how much he just loved the business. Everything about the business interested him. The clients, the work, the people, staff. He was hard-pressed to say anything negative and he said he felt lucky and blessed at the same time to be doing something that gave him so much satisfaction. As he spoke there was such a quiet elegance about him. Dignified, classy, a real gentleman. Here’s a guy running the world’s largest PR agency and you’d think you were talking to your dad. I wish there were more leaders like him in the world (or at least in PR) that can inspire and lead with such grace and intellect. They don’t make them like that anymore ... sigh.

Before he left I managed to get one of the photographers snap a pic of us. I keep the photo on my desk to remind me I have a long, long way to go in this business ... and why the hell was I dyeing my hair red!!

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