Oral Histories

Jim Murphy

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

Jim Murphy Biography

James Murphy is the chairman and CEO of Murphy & Co.

Murphy was the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Accenture and current Chairman and CEO of Murphy and Company, a management consulting firm specializing in corporate marketing and communications.  Mr. Murphy successfully let the effort to rebrand and reposition Accenture in 2000 - 2001 which won widespread recognition for the company.

Mr. Murphy also chairs the PR Coalition, which focuses on issues of interest to all communications professionals and has been recognized for his expertise in government and investor relations, editorial and media activities, corporate advertising, crisis communications, marketing communications and philanthropy, plus many others professional skills.


Interviewer: Now something, in some of the articles in the recent things that I’ve read about your experiences, you have really gotten into public diplomacy and it has gotten to be a passion for you. Now you wrote, and I don’t remember where I read this, that you believed that it was a huge mistake when the US government dissolved the USIA the United State Information Agency…. and that happened in 1999.

Murphy: Right.

Interviewer: And then it spread its responsibilities around to other entities. And then it slashed the budget of those entities. Now, Arthur Page worked with three presidents in times of rapid change in the world and advised them how to communicate with those various constituencies. So can you talk a little bit about how the Page Principles are applicable to the realm of public diplomacy?

Murphy: Well let’s go down the principles. Public relations should be, you should conduct it as if your the life of your business was dependent upon it.  I used to conduct public relations for America like America’s life is dependent upon it. You have to deal with the truth. You have to have fun while you’re doing it. They all apply. With USIA it was like a large corporation eliminated the PR department and cut the budget. I mean, and who’s going to tell you a story? Every little division is going to tell no it isn’t going to work that way. And that’s what happened to the US government. The US government outside of the big defense department, state department and the administrative political, they are almost all politically governed activities. There’s no one agency that is there, sitting there telling the American story, the US story, like it used to.  And USIA and Voice of America and all those tools were very instrumental in ending the Cold War. And we have an even greater challenge today in the war of ideas with the rest of the world, the Islamic world in particular, where there’s ideas absolutely shooting at us that we don’t have an adequate response or defense that is unified and coherent. And I think that’s a big mistake, and I don’t understand why our administrations don’t get it.  It’s so simple at one level. I assume it was all eliminated because of some set of politics that wanted to get rid of USIA. But the State Department and Karen Hughes is well meaning and they are doing interesting things, but it’s still very splintered and not cohesive enough and not enough of a partnership yet with the private sector and that’s what we’re trying to do with our, with the cooperative thing we did with the State Department, is call attention to all the terrific things that the private sector is doing around the world. And put a spotlight on it and encourage more of it. And the report that we published had 11 steps, practical steps, companies could take to either emphasize what they are doing already or to step up and do some new things that could help in this cause of building the reputation, rebuilding the reputation of America around the world.

Interviewer: I'm going to ask you to talk a little bit more about that. We’ve got a crisis across obviously the United States. You mentioned the PR Coalition and the State Department and what you are trying to do for American businesses. Tell me what the PR Coalition is all about.

Murphy: The PR Coalition is a loosely knit group of 20 some organizations, such as Arthur Page Society, the Public Relations Society of America, all public relations public affairs oriented organizations representing about 50,000 professionals in the US.  I helped organize it when I was president of Arthur Page because what we saw was all these various organizations doing similar things but with no crossover, no inner play, no cooperative effort. So the first thing was just to get together to see what we were all doing. To see if there was any common ground to work on, so out of that came a number of initiatives on two or three of these organizations working together and it was positive. But we decided we wanted to identify key issues that we could work as a Coalition and conduct what we called Summit Meetings and we did one on corporate trust which was five years ago, I think it was. And four years ago it was one on diversity in the industry and the last one we did was last year on public diplomacy. And what it does, it serves as a catalyst. ,The PR Coalition has no staff, no budget. It’s sort of myself and a bunch of guys who call men and women who get together now and then representing these organizations. The theory is we do these summits and the organizations themselves take all that material and disseminate it.  And theoretically, 50,000 of the professionals in the US have received the materials coming out of the PR Coalition efforts through their own organizations. In addition, with the State Department cooperation they’ve disseminated our report all over the world, certainly throughout their own diplomatic corps, and last week the final letter went out, a joint letter  from Karen Hughes and myself to the thousand CEOs heading the thousand best companies in the US., the Fortune news, so that’s been just done, and it’s urging companies to take a look at this. It’s a small step. I mean public policy is going to be the big factor in our reputation around the world. But as long as business is doing as well as we do around the world, we ought to take some credit for it and that’s the theory behind it.

Interviewer: Must be exciting work.

Murphy: It is. It is. It’s very hard, because you can’t see, it’s not like changing Accenture name 0101 into this huge success, okay. It’s just like a dripping faucet. It takes so long to make progress.