What it was like to work with Harold Burson

Burson-Marsteller alums, associates on what they learned from the PR pioneer.

L-R: Harold Burson and mentee Cheryl Procter-Rogers. (Image via Procter-Rogers' LinkedIn account)
L-R: Harold Burson and mentee Cheryl Procter-Rogers. (Image via Procter-Rogers' LinkedIn account)

Jano Cabrera, chief communications officer, General Mills

Chris Chiames, chief communications officer, Carnival Cruise Lines

AnnaMaria DeSalva, global chairman and CEO, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
"He played such a fundamental role in the development of the profession that has given me so much joy and purpose, and...he mentored and inspired many of the people who played a large, positive role in my own development."

JeanAnn Morgan, Jam Creative Communications

Bill Nielsen, former corporate VP, Johnson & Johnson
"To know Harold Burson was to touch the very soul of public relations. Throughout his long and storied career, Harold championed the emergence of a practice, the discipline of communications, that has literally become too big and too important to fail. It was Harold who first made his way to the C-suite, interacting with corporate leaders across many industries over decades of time, to insist that it was not so much what they and their organizations said, especially in times of crisis, but how they behaved. Decision-making and behavior consistent with values and conducted in the public interest was the only way to secure and sustain public trust, he insisted. To know Harold Burson was to expect that he would always have a well-informed and timely point of view, articulated with clarity, purpose and passion. It was Harold who could always maintain the context of the times and counsel organizations down the most appropriate paths."

Mike Paul, president, Reputation Doctor LLC
"It was my first month at Burson-Marsteller in 1992. My first day in, I got up the courage to ask Mr. Burson to be my mentor. We kept our mentor-mentee relationship a secret for many years. Only a month into our mentor-mentee relationship, I shared with Mr. Burson over lunch that my dad lost his mom at age three and I lost my grandfather on my father’s side when I was only eight. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Well, you have another grandpa now.’ It melted my heart then as it still does today. I have so many fond fond memories talking, visiting with him and sharing personally and professionally with him. He was an excellent active listener. He was also so humble, yet firm and had an amazing knack for getting to the heart of an issue and offering a clear solution. I miss you, "grandpa." I am very sad today, but I also know you would want us all to celebrate your life and smile today. I will have much more to say about Mr. Burson in the near future."

Jeffrey Peel, founder and managing consultant, Quadriga Consulting

Cheryl Procter-Rogers, strategist and executive coach, A Step Ahead Consulting and Coaching

Kim Sample, president of the PR Council
"[It’s a] sad day for the industry, and we extend our condolences to Harold’s family, the teams at BCW, past and present clients of the agency and all of the talent in our industry who had the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by Harold Burson."

Jeffrey Sharlach, chairman and founder, JeffreyGroup

Shelley Spector, founder, Museum of Public Relations
"At our event in July honoring the opening of the Harold Burson Exhibit at the PR Museum, his last public event in New York City before he moved to Memphis, he took the mic and spoke without notes for 45 minutes straight, not about his own life, but about the lives of the hundred or so students and summer interns in the room."

Christine Voliva, principal, Schoolhaus

Bill Whitman, former communications leader, McDonald’s and the U.S. Postal Service
"Blessed to have known, learned from, and consider Harold Burson a friend, colleague and mentor. His legacy and indelible imprint on marketing communications will influence public relations practitioners for generations to come. Rest In peace, my friend."

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