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Harold Burson’s 90th Birthday

“What was it like to attend the Nurenberg trials?” inquired a student from the audience.

Harold Burson didn’t hesitate his reply, “Awesome.”

I recently had the honor of attending Burson-Marsteller’s Founder Harold Burson’s 90th birthday party. Located at Boston University, the birthday celebrations applauded Burson of his seven decades leading the communications industry, followed by vanilla cake and singing a simple rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

Introductory speeches were given by BU PRSSA President Mary Kate Joyce, Vice President of Edelman Sarah D’Souza, President and Senior Partner with Ketchum Rob Flaherty and Dr. Stephen Greyser, Richard Chapman Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Business School.

Each speaker described their admiration for Burson’s lifetime commitment to establishing public relations as a respected industry, managing high-end clients and countries. Mr. Burson’s 90 years of inspiring accomplishments further increase my enthusiastic motivation and fierce passion to enter communications.

When 90-year-old Burson spoke, I was amazed by his precise dialect, intellect, and sincerity of his brilliant words. Previously, I had skimmed oveMr. Burson’s blog, foolishly assuming an employee was writing Burson-Marsteller thoughts. That idea was quickly tossed as my mouth gaped in amazement at Burson’s integrity, humor and outstanding reputation. Burson’s sophisticated speech reaffirmed my BU studies: PR is about remaining authentic, transparent and honest to the world.

He discuss his biggest regret during his life, creating “New Coke” to combat the PepsiChallenge results that America preferred sweeter Pepsi to Coke. He was astounded by the intense brand loyalty to the original Coke formula, which consumers felt belonged to them. But Burson turned the negative publicity around by reinstating the “Original Coke” formula, prompting sales and restoring consumer love to Coke.

Mr. Burson advised us to continue to build our networks, touching on his valued friendships and public support that helped enrich his long life.

“Write often and write well” was another timeless wisdom he recommended. But hearing it from a 90-year-old PR legend made the words dance gracefully around my mind. Next blog post topic? Which Real Estate Law case should I choose for my essay? How can I build viable relationships with journalists? Burson inspires us all to use our intellectual gifts to beyond the best of our abilities.

Bravely, I raised my hand and asked Burson if he has ever had a favorite client.

You have ten fingers,” Burson’s eyes smiled behind his thick frames as he held his palms to me, “Do YOU have a favorite?”


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