Oral Histories

Ron Rhody

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

Ron Rhody Biography

Ron Rhody's long career in public relations includes serving as executive vice president and director-corporate communications and external affairs at BankAmerica and corporate vice president and director of public relations and advertising for Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. 

He became CEO of his own Consultancy and is the author of “The CEO’s Playbook” and “Wordsmithing: The Art and Craft of Writing for Public Relations.”  He has worked with and advised CEOs and senior executives in the business, academic and not-for-profit sectors on a variety of communication and public relations issues.  He has received numerous awards and honors from professional groups and organizations.

Transcript

Interviewer: So you’ve talked about numerous CEO’s that you’ve worked with in your career as the CPRO, as you said, the corporate or chief public relations officer or as a private consultant. And you used all these experiences to write your book, The CEOs Play Book from the perspective of the counselor giving advice to CEOs. So talk a little bit about this book. Why you wrote it. How it’s been used. You really talked about the duties of a Public Relations practitioner and you talked about relationships. What has come about because of this play book?

Ron: Well, maybe something I can’t imagine that anything of real consequence has come about as a result of that. I got a lot of things off my chest in it. It pretty well summarizes what I think game is. I use game imagery in a positive way. Not that’s it’s been substantial. But it’s very very important, this game of winners and losers. But it’s used in college classes. Some CEOs have used it one or two told me they thought it gave them good ideas. But I think that’s probably about the extent of the books. Although as I say it gave me the opportunity. You may notice if you read it and perhaps you haven’t. I wouldn’t be surprised. There is a chapter in here that is intended to educate the CEO. To explain to him that public relations isn’t marketing function. That is is a CEO function. These are the things that ought to be part of that function and it all ought to report to you because the things that it gets done are so important to you that you can’t afford to have amateurs do them. So that chapter I hoped may have helped a little. There are other things in there that are useful. This started as a series of memos to young executive with whom I was working at the time who was in line to be CEO. He was going to be the CEO and started as a series of memos to him. Explaining to him things I thought he ought to know as he got ready to do his job. One of which is that if you concentrate just on managing the company you’re going to lose a large part of your function is to mange all these outside forces that affect your ability to make a profit. Which sort of speaks as well to the Page Principles. The book makes specific reference to them I think Page was dead right and continues to be dead right, in that all our companies operate at the pleasure of the publics they serve. And we had better serve them well. Better look out for their interests. We’d better be responsive to them WE need to operate in such a way that they will give us permission to operate profitably. That could mean a couple of things. But a lot of simple [inaudible] things like try to do the right thing. Tell the truth.

Interviewer: You mentioned the Page Society, how important has the society networking been to individuals like yourself?

Rhody: I think the network, I think the society is a remarkable society. I think the people who put it together and made if grow have done an absolutely fantastic job. People like Ed Block and Larry Foster and Marilyn Laurie, just a fantastic job and a real service to the profession by putting it together. Not just putting it together but for making it grow and grow into the sort of organization that it’s grown into. The networking has been absolutely invaluable. Continues to be invaluable and is one of the big rewards that anybody who comes in to the organization gets. I mentioned luck in my career. I’ve been very lucky in my career. In having a lot of people who were and having good mentors. Harry Toles who was in the department of fish and wildlife resources was one. My dad was one. Larry Foster at Johnson & Johnson. Not a mentor so much, but, a but a colleague who was more senior than me. Had more experience than I had at the time. And always was very, very important in bouncing ideas off of. Ed Block the opportunity to have access to world class professionals like that is absolutely is priceless and that’s one of the things that Page offers. The other thing that Page offers and that I hope is being played very strongly among all the is this principle. We are responsible. We have to understand that with the shareholders we work with; the public too. We’re not going to be allowed to do the other thing.