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The Business of Persuasion: Harold Burson on Public Relations Hardcover – October 3, 2017
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“This is the book everyone in public relations hoped Harold Burson would write. A comprehensive chronicling of Harold Burson’s phenomenal experiences on a fabulous journey from solo practitioner to the world’s most accomplished communications executive.” ―Donald K. Wright, Harold Burson professor of public relations, College of Communication, Boston University (Donald K. Wright)
"A must read for any PR professional!" ―Jack Welch, executive chairman, Jack Welch Management Institute (Jack Welch)
“Inspiring from start to finish, Harold Burson, the godfather of public relations, takes readers on a compelling and fascinating journey by chronicling pivotal moments in his career and offering meaningful takeaways of lessons learned. Essential read for every student, academic, and practitioner!” ―Tina McCorkindale, president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations (Tina McCorkindale)
“Harold Burson is to persuasion what Socrates was to wisdom.” ―Karen Hughes, counselor to the president for President George W. Bush (Karen Hughes)
About the Author
Harold Burson is the co-founder of Burson-Marsteller, one of the largest public relations firms in the world. Born in 1921, Burson played a leading role in transforming the practice of PR from a cottage industry to a global enterprise over the course of the 20th century. He has been called “the [20th] century’s most influential PR figure” by PRWeek―a reflection of his role as a counselor for generations of CEOs, government officials, and public sector leaders.
Burson entered Ole Miss at age 15 and paid his way by serving as a campus correspondent for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. He later joined forces with Bill Marsteller to establish Burson-Marsteller in 1953, which today operates in 60-plus wholly owned offices on six continents.
He has received numerous awards from PR organizations including Hall of Fame designations by the Public Relations Society of America, PRWeek, PR News, and the Institute of Public Relations. He was awarded an honorary degree by Boston University in 1988, and a chair in PR was established in his name in 1995. He was also active in numerous public service organizations, principally the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He was chairman of the Council on Economic Education in the early 1990s and chaired the Private Sector Public Relations Advisory Committee for the US Information Agency during the terms of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He has been a Presidential appointee to the Commission on the Fine Arts, a member of the board of trustees for the Museum of the American Revolution, and a public relations advisor to President Reagan.
Harold Burson was married to Bette Foster Burson for 63 years. He has two sons and five grandchildren and lives in New York City. At the age of 96, he continues to appear in his office five days a week.
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Mr. Burson has plenty of advice for prospective PR practitioners. For instance, decide on your career early, develop good writing skills, learn to listen, cultivate networks of like-minded pros, take calculated risks and know the business top to bottom.
Early on, the author describes important personal characteristics like adapting quickly to new environments, always telling the truth and understanding customer requirements thoroughly. A large part of PR work involves convincing the client to embrace a specific course of action.
An old saying tells the story completely. "A man (person) convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." A good PR person not only gets agreement but also secures a complete understanding of the chosen course/alternative by the client.
The author explains that there is no such thing as international public relations. Rather, companies implement strategies on a country-by-country basis. Social norms, values, linguistics and many other aspects of living overseas do not lend themselves to uniform approaches for problem solving. The idea of maintaining a common PR culture globally is an extremely difficult task to accomplish.
Overall, "The Business of Persuasion.." by Harold Burson is a very complete guide on the dynamics of applying solid PR principles in a host of complicated and highly variable business contexts. Listening skills are paramount as are writing skills and the ability to empathize with the client.