The passing of a legend

harold burson

I just wanted to acknowledge the passing of a friend and one of the true greats in the PR/marketing/advertising industry.

Harold Burson died this week at the age of 98.

Mr. Burson, who was described by PRWeek as the 20th century’s “most influential PR figure,” founded the powerhouse public relations firm Burson-Marsteller with Bill Marsteller in 1953. The firm created the concept of total communication strategies that became the industry standard for decades.

Mr. Burson became a friend when he helped guide me on my first book Return On Influence in 2011 (he also wrote one of the testimonies in the book).

He was nearly 90 when we chatted in his Manhattan office and even then he was still coming to work every day. Mr. Burson was a journalist by trade and as an officer in the U.S. Army, he covered the Nuremberg Trial in 1945. He showed me priceless mementos from that assignment, which he had on display in his office.

I was amazed at his boundless energy. When I met with him he told me that he was writing a book, which became The Business of Persuasion, published in 2017. In 2018, I documented one of my conversations with him as he described his strategy for crisis management.

He told me that he really had no great regrets in his very long life and attributed his success to knowing when to say “yes” when a door of opportunity opened up to him.

Mr. Burson pioneered many of the PR best practices we take for granted today, but beyond that, he helped define the role of the corporation in society today, mentored many of today’s brightest leaders, and was a relentless advocate for strong ethical standards.

I will miss him.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

I took this photo of Mr. Burson in his office in 2011.

All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast that I co-host with Brooke Sellas.

View details

Top-rated social media speaker and keynote presenter

Mark is one of the most sought after marketing keynote speakers. He specializes in marketing strategy and social media.

View details

Close

Send this to a friend