Oral Histories

Al Golin

Interview Segments on Topic: Ethical Decisionmaking/Behavior

Al Golin Biography

Al Golin, founder of the international public relations firm GolinHarris, began his career in 1951 as a field press representative for MGM Studios.  In 1957, when he was with Max Cooper & Associates, he placed a cold call to Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s.  That conversation eventually grew to a partnership that changed McDonald’s from a fledgling company to one that has grown to 37,000 locations worldwide with 243 Ronald McDonald Houses in 25 countries. Al Golin developed the term “TrustBank” with Ray Kroc, believing trust as the greatest intangible at the heart of every long-term business or personal relationship. GolinHarris currently has 30 offices worldwide with corporate headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.


Interviewer: Does the reactions of other agencies that may be nailed for either over billing or underpaying their employees or not being totally forthcoming in hiring of certain people to perform certain acts. Does that in your judgment tend to pollute the environment for everybody or is that something that you can just move on and not particularly worry about?

Golin: No I think that is certainly a negative influence. I think that well this may not be the same the right answer to your question. But for example we have never represented tobacco companies. We just feel like that’s not our style. Now some of the major companies do, major public relations firms. And I’ve had that discussion with them about that. And their answer has always been well these companies deserve representation like anybody else. And I’m sure it’s true and that’s a good legal answer. But we don’t want to just do things that are legal if you will. We want to do things that we feel good about. And if we don’t feel good about representing certain kinds of clients we just don’t take them. And I’m not saying that we’re not in business. Of course we’re in business and we’re herein business to make a profit. But I think t hat you can be short sided in taking certain kinds of clients on if your people are not happy about representing them. Or if you don’t feel good about it. So I think that you have to be very careful about quick fixes and short term solutions with things. Look at the bigger picture.

Interviewer: I think you provided an unusually good answer for ethical situations in where there are agencies that are willing to take either side of an issue and occasionally there are agencies that are in the process of taking both sides of a controversial issues whether it’s maybe something that is political or otherwise. And what I’m hearing you saying is that GolinHarris probably would not do that or take any client that they were not comfortable representing regardless of what might be they might earn in the way of feeling some. Is that fair?

Golin: Oh that is fair. We have turned down. We’ve turned down tobacco companies over the years for that very reason. And we turned down a country or two believe it or not that wanted representation because we didn’t feel that they were the right kind of country for us to represent. And we didn’t feel our people again would be happy working on that kind of business. So I think we have to be sensitive to that area about A about what we feel in our own mind because if we ever have a doubt about something we usually take a pass on it. And I think that’s true in life in a lot of things. That usually your gut feeling is more right than wrong.