Oral Histories

Ed Block

Interview Segments on Topic: Transition to Corporate World

Ed Block Biography

Edward M. Block was Senior Vice President -- Public Relations, Advertising and Employee Information for the AT&T Corporation for 12 years until his retirement in 1986. He was responsible for corporate communications during AT&T's historic divestiture of the Bell telephone companies and its expansion into international markets. He also held the additional post of assistant to the chairman of the board from 1980 until his retirement and was a member of the Office of the Chairman.

While at AT&T, Block was a director of AT&T International and AT&T Information Systems. He established the AT&T Foundation and was its first chairman of the board. It was on his initiative that AT&T provided the funding ($10 million a year for five years) to establish the MacNiel-Lehrer News Hour on PBS.

In 1980, PR News chose Block as the Public Relations Professional of the Year. In 1993, he received the lifetime achievement award from Inside PR and also, the Hall of Fame Award of the Arthur W, Page Society. In 1997, he received the Gold Anvil from the Public Relations Society of America. Most recently, he was cited by PR Week as one of the 100 most influential public relations people of the 20th century.

Transcript

Foster: I got labeled as being the loyal opposition, and that didn’t become too difficult because I had come out of a city room where there was a lot of loyal opposition.  And when I went to New Brunswick to Johnson & Johnson to help form its first public relations department, I had a lot of influence from the city room carry over into the Boardroom. And obviously you have to be careful how you present the loyal opposition. You can’t be a recalcitrant constant nag unless you are right more often than you are wrong.

Block: Well as I said earlier, don’t bring problems to the boss, bring solutions so you can be the loyal opposition.