Oral Histories

Joyce Hergenhan

Interview Segments on Topic: Trust/Credibility

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: In June 2005, you received the Arents Award from Syracuse University for excellence in corporate communications. In today's society, how important is corporate communications in fostering trust and credibility with the public, and also, do you see a problem with that change in terminology? In other words, instead of being quoted "the PR person," suddenly the more general terminology of communications, in charge of communications is being used. Do you see a problem with that? Is that making the value of PR less important?

Hergenhan: Well, I've always considered it more communications, because as I said a little bit ago, there's so many audiences out there, including your employees, and I don’t think employees should think that they're getting something that’s meant for an external world. I think communications is the better term. I think in some corners, public relations has become a majoritive, and I think communications is a more neutral word.