Museum of Public Relations opens Harold Burson exhibit

More than 50 items on display mark the groundbreaking career of the godfather of PR.

Industry legend Harold Burson at Monday night's event
Industry legend Harold Burson at Monday night's event

NEW YORK: Harold Burson, the 98-year-old founding father of PR, was honored at a reception on Monday as the Museum of PR in New York opens an exhibit honoring his storied career. 

The display features more than 50 items from Burson’s career, from his start as a reporter in Memphis to his coverage of the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, to the founding of Burson-Marsteller in 1953 and beyond. 

The event was attended by employees and alums of BCW and its predecessor, Burson-Marsteller, including Jim Joseph, global president of BCW, and former Burson-Marsteller U.S. president and CEO Pat Ford. Holding company WPP merged Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe in February 2018. 

"There's a famous quote about Helen of Troy that she had the face that launched a thousand ships," Ford said. "And all I would say is [Burson’s] is the face that launched probably 30,000 or 40,000 careers and enhanced another 100,000 or 200,000. Beyond that, everybody in our business that's touched Burson, whether they worked at his agency or not, are profoundly grateful for all that he's done for them."

Burson’s introduction to PR came just before World War II, when he represented an ammunition plant during a labor dispute. During the war, he served in an engineer combat group before covering the Nuremberg Trials for American Forces Network. After returning to the U.S., Burson started his own PR firm and joined with Bill Marsteller to form Burson-Marsteller in 1953. 

"I’m very happy to be here. In fact, at my age, I’m very happy to be anywhere," Burson said. "If I believed everything that has been said about me so far tonight, you all would be in real trouble. My life has been a charmed life, and I have to admit that I really haven't had any reversals that have been very serious or that have deterred me from what I wanted to do."

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