Oral Histories

Al Golin

Interview Segments on Topic: Arthur Page/Principles/Society/Center

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: One of the things that I wanted to definitely touch on because we are doing this for the Page Center in Penn State which is also associated as I think you know with the Arthur Page Society. The two are working together and one of the things that both of them has set out as a course of action is to help individuals to become counselors or better counselors to leadership within the basically corporate world. How do you think these organizations or individuals can help fulfill or realize an objective like that of helping individuals to become “counselors to leadership” which is largely something that you have done very successfully?

Golin: Well I think they have to and I do I know in many cases bringing people who have had direct firing line experiences and not just the professors. Professors are important and that’s great but I do think they need to have people who have had good case histories and things that they’ve learned from. The good, the bad, and the ugly of some of the activities they’ve been involved in. And I think that’s very important for the Page Society to continue to do. And I think they’ve done a great done in that sense so far and I hope they continue.

Interviewer: The Page Center is starting out and in the early stages of its development and really wants to become a center that will be recognized actually worldwide for a source of learning about ethical and responsible behavior on the part of individuals, of corporations and this particular activity is a part of that but they also asked professors from around the world to submit papers on this general subject which they plan to republish or make available on their web site. Are there other things that might occur to you that the Page Center could do to help encourage people to act more responsibly or ethically? Are there other devices whether it be speeches appearances before conferences, or competitions whatever.

Golin: All those are good. I think certainly competition is good. It points up the need for it and I think that the word competition idea is good to bring it to all the various schools that are offering communications and public relations and journalism wherever it fits to have maybe a national Page award for a student that has written something that personifies what the right ethical behavior is for a company in a certain kind of situation. That’s the concept. But if you will almost a Nobel Prize of Ethical Behavior. And that might be a great thing for Page to do. And or to cite really or maybe to single out a company that best personifies that sort of thing on an annual basis.  You know the Pritzger Prize for architecture is always a prestigious thing and always gets a lot of good attention and that’s our business so we should know. We try to recognize the right kinds of public relations opportunities for ourselves and that might be a good one to have the Page Prize for something that to be given maybe on an annual basis of that nature. And maybe to tie it in with a dinner, an annual dinner. Maybe where you bring in students and honor some students around the country at that dinner. And of course certainly honor the companies and I know they do some of that kind of thing you know at various at the Page conferences. But maybe open it up to a broader business audience.

Interviewer: Well your thought is a wonderful extension of the case writing competition that the Page Society does now. And I think really is something that the center could focus on. I’m down to about my last question or so. And one of the things that I didn’t cover earlier is whether are bothered by the fact that many many people have dropped using the term public relations as part of their title and they are now vice presidents of corporate communications or communications or something else. In fact Page Society directory it’s like five or six to one as far as the terminology that public relations sort of is diminishing title. Does that I know that this affects you and your business as well. Does that resonant with you or is it a concern or is it just part of the way things are.

Golin: Well it’s never really. I can’t say that I’ve lost any night’s sleep over it but I do think that I do think that we’re getting overly sensitive to it. I mean when somebody asks me what I do. If I’m out playing golf I meet somebody I still say I’m in the public relations business. And if I and I'm not, you know, I don’t think I'm embarrassed to say it. Because I think sometimes if you say I’m in the communications business that is so broad that you could be almost anything and it takes away for what we really do. So I still think the term is relevance and I’m continuing to use it so I don’t think it’s a negative at all.

Interviewer: Now to wrap this up I have to say that I was more than pleased to get on your calendar that had the list of some things that you have learned. In fact there were 12 things that you had learned over the last 50 years. And I thought that that was sort of an inspired list of things, which started out with trust is in everything. It’s the only thing. And you had a thing very characteristic of you and that if you got it don’t flaunt it. And doing good, is good for business. And don’t over promise. One of the latter and you said selling is not a dirty word which I think you amplified here. But one of the great things that you wound up with was love it or leave it. And I think that you’ve been an example of a person who loved what they are doing and I think we are all fortunate and blessed that you never even considered or think of leaving us so we appreciate that and we appreciate your time.

Golin: Thanks Jack. I appreciate the opportunity and I hope somebody might learn a few things. I know I enjoyed doing it and I do I still enjoy coming to the office. I said I hate to see people who resent going to the office on Monday mornings. All they think about is Friday afternoon. I think it’s great to think about Friday afternoons but you have to look forward to Mondays too.

Interviewer: One of the things I want to say while the camera is still rolling here is that you appreciate that everything that we’ve just done is going to become the property of Penn State and the Arthur Page Center in Pennsylvania at Penn State and that you and all of us here basically have just made a wonderful contribution to the Center and that if there is any significant changes in editing or things that were said that you would be notified but basically what we’ve got is what we’ve got and so I want  you to know that and say that we appreciate that on behalf of the people in State College.

Golin: My pleasure.

Interviewer: Thank you.

Golin: Thank you.