Oral Histories

James Grunig

Interview Segments on Topic: Selecting a PR Career

James Grunig Biography


INTERVIEWER: If I’m a young person and I’ve earned that public relations degree and I’m going out and I’m now going to be a public relations practitioner but I aspire to move into that counseling role and develop the expertise you talked about, what should I do?

GRUNIG: Hopefully it began when you were a student. And not just studying communication or public relations but taking courses in management, taking courses in political science and social science and developing an interest in policy and in management and that sort of thing. So, that’s crucial to have that interest. Then it’s a matter of finding the right job. Now that’s not always easy because it’s often just finding a job that’s important. I’ve just thought of one of the people that I admire the most that I didn’t mention: Pat Jackson of Jackson Jackson & Wagner. I’ve probably learned more from Pat Jackson than anyone else having worked with him for some time. But this question came up with Pat at one point. He said what he would recommend is counseling from below. So, you may get into one of those positions where you’re mostly a messenger and you don’t have much of a managing role but if you kind of keep your head above water and constantly think, ‘what would I do if I were in a more senior position and what would I recommend before I’m asked’—at some point someone may ask you. Or the opportunity may come in the elevator or something in which you’re talking with management, to provide that kind of knowledge and that kind of expertise. I think I would also try to be involved in research in whatever way I could. I would want a student to have studied it and be competent as a researcher because I think research is the future of public relations and if you can’t do research, I don’t think you’re going to be successful in public relations. There are many, many public relations research firms. Working with them or in them is a good way to gain expertise and knowledge that could be useful in many different ways.

INTERVIEWER: All right, anything you want to add that I didn’t ask you about?

GRUNIG: I think that every human being needs relationships to survive in the world. And I think every organization does. And public relations is the function that was invented to help develop and cultivate relationships—I won’t say manage relationships because I don’t think you can manage relationships, you can only manage the communication processes that produce relationships. I think that’s a really exciting and challenging way to spend one’s life, to help organizations develop relationships. I would hope that young people would be very interested in that role.

INTERVIEWER: All right, thank you. That was terrific.