Oral Histories

Bill Nielsen

Interview Segments on Topic: Characteristics/Qualities of PR Professionals

Bill Nielsen Biography

Consultant to management of for-profit and non-profit organizations; retired corporate vice president of Johnson & Johnson.


INTERVIEWER: Just a final kind of a wrap up. We’ve talked a lot today. We’ve really drilled down on values and ethics and corporate character, among other things. Anything that you want to add that we haven’t talked about that you think is important when you think about those issues?

NIELSEN: I think that recognizing the importance of what we do has a lot to do with sense of purpose that we bring to our lives of work. We talked earlier about young people wanting to make a difference in the world. I mentioned Alexander Hamilton and the work he did and it was a real sense of purpose that drove him. I think the sense of purpose is a distinguishing characteristic of our business—public relations and corporate communications. Not that a CEO and others don’t also have a sense of purpose but in the main they’re judged, and incentives provided for them, to meet their responsibilities by their fairly well-defined disciplines, whether it’s law, finance, HR, you name it. I think that we come to a sense of purpose because our commitment is to the truth. It’s rooted in values that are based on principles that we also agree to of this practice; together with the strong sense of the totality of the enterprise and the organization. I don’t think you can seriously touch this work without all of a sudden having a great sense of purpose about who you are and what the organization ought to be accountable to. Because you know what it’s capable of and it’s been successful. And so stretching beyond that is very much a part of who we are. That’s why public relations and communication can be so effective in building businesses, building brands. Because we, by the nature of who we are, carry a strong sense of purpose.

INTERVIEWER: All right. That was terrific.