Magazine article Management Today

You Live & You Learn: Harold Burson, Co-Founder, Burson-Marsteller and the Father of Modern PR

Magazine article Management Today

You Live & You Learn: Harold Burson, Co-Founder, Burson-Marsteller and the Father of Modern PR

Article excerpt

In my mother's eyes, there was nothing her son couldn't do. She gave me a strong sense of security and was my biggest influence. My father was gassed in World War One and his health never recovered. He had a hardware store that failed during the Depression. My mother supported us, going door to door selling clothes in black neighbourhoods in Memphis.

I served in the combat engineers during the war and stayed in Europe afterwards to cover the Nuremberg trials for the American Forces Radio I moved back to the US and set up my own PR firm. I met Bill Marsteller in 1952 through a friend at the New York Times. People say when we started we didn't have any competition. That's not true. There were several hundred listed in the New York phone book, but only a dozen of us are still around.

Office life in the 1960s was much more relaxed. There was always alcohol at lunch. You'd have a martini and sometimes two, although drinking in the office wasn't as widespread as Mad Men would have you believe.

There's no doubt the PR industry has changed. My generation was still getting used to TV. Now digital is much more powerful. It's ubiquitous and reaches a lot of people at low cost. …

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