Oral Histories

Joyce Hergenhan

Interview Segments on Topic: Ethical Decisionmaking/Behavior

Joyce Hergenhan Biography

Joyce Hergenhan began her career as a journalist for Gannet newspapers, was Vice President and Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Consolidated Edison Company, and eventually, in 1982, landed at General Electric as Vice President of Public Relations.  Hergenhan also served as president of the GE Foundation.  As GE’s senior communications executive, she worked closely with then-CEO Jack Welch during the company’s transition from manufacturing to diversified technology and services. She remained at GE for 22 years, retiring in 2004.

Hergenhan’s professional recognitions include the lifetime achievement award in public relations from Women in Communications (1999) and a lifetime achievement award from Inside PR (2000).


Interviewer: So how important is this communication?

Hergenhan: Totally, it’s totally important. Why is it important, how can you leverage? Things are transparent now. If you start talking about the New Media, that it’s instantaneous... It’s unbelievable. I mean, the combination of Sarbanes-Oxley and the New Media has totally changed communications. It’s just amazing, because Sarbanes-Oxley, and I'm on a corporate board of directors, and it’s amazing what Sarbanes-Oxley makes a corporation do. Of course the New Media is just absolutely amazing. 15 years ago, who'd have thought of telephone cameras, or YouTube, or video streaming or any of this stuff? I was just thinking the other day about the whole Hilary Clinton thing where she said that she was dodging bullets in Bosnia. She was telling the world she was dodging bullets in Bosnia, and some TV network pulled out a clip of that very arrival in Bosnia, which was all sunshine and flowers and cheerfulness and within hours, probably less time, it was on YouTube and it was being e-mailed around the world, I think everybody must have gotten multiple copies of that, and just think how long ago none of that would have been possible? So that just shows why telling the truth is so important, because there’s very few places to hide anymore.