Happy World Book Day

It’s #WorldBookDay 📚 and we are sharing one of the great books of 2018/2019, “Diverse Voices,”.

It illuminates the careers, experiences and the voices of minorities in the public relations field. Featuring interviews of more than 40 multicultural corporate, organizational and agency leaders, it offers great value for students, educators and managers of all levels in the corporate communications and public relations industry.

Get your copy of this one of a kind, indispensable work here.

PC: Diverseleadership.net

PC: Diverseleadership.net

In Conversation with Finn Partner's senior partner Helen Shelton

Finn Partners Senior Partner Helen Shelton was featured in the 2018 PR Museum Press publication "Diverse Voices: Profiles in Leadership," which was designed to shine a spotlight on diverse communications professionals who share their experiences and insights in the communications industry. Published in partnership with the PRSA Foundation, the book features interviews with more than 40 multicultural corporate, organizational and agency leaders.

Recently, we spoke with Helen again about the foundations of her career, the passion that drives her strategic mindset, and what’s top of mind for her today.

PR Museum: You’re a unicorn – a native New Yorker – Harlem born. Tell me about your parents.

Helen Shelton: My mom is one of the smartest people I know – meticulous in everything she does. She was a traditional homemaker, but very active in our schooling – a big force in the PTA, raising thousands of dollars for scholarships, and keeping us all on schedule. She is a librarian by training. This is why I love to read and am rarely without a book. She worked part-time at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. As a youngster, I would sit under her desk with a book and wait for story time. I got my dreams from my mom – but I got my drive from my father. By his grit and determination, he became one of the most powerful executives in the newspaper business after literally starting in the basement – the composing room – and rose to become Vice President of Circulation of the New York Times. He was in fact, the first Black person featured on the New York Times masthead. My parents worked well together – and still do. Our beginnings were humble but happy. We had love and we had each other. My mom never let us feel sorry for ourselves. My dad would say, “The world is made of sheep and wolves. And super wolves eat wolves. I didn’t raise sheep.” Yes, I got my drive from my dad. (laughs)

You have to understand your intrinsic worth. People will come for you. You will be challenged. You have to know who you are.

PR Museum: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Helen Shelton: When I was a young child, I wanted to be an actress. I later took acting classes, but a career on the stage and screen was not for me. As I got older, in middle school, I wanted to be a judge and study law.

PR Museum: Was there a turning point for you in your teens?

Helen: I started school at the age of three – so I‘ve always been on the fast track. (laughs) I took the admissions exam and made it into Hunter High School. I was very happy in my community in Harlem – but when I went to Hunter, it was a big adjustment. I remember being shocked that one of my classmates had gone all the way to Switzerland for Christmas, or that we could just walk out of our classroom without permission slips and go to Grand Central to study the architecture.I had always been at the top of my class, and a straight A student, but at Hunter I began to appreciate and value academic challenges. Math was never my strong suit, but I was always a strategic thinker. I had a plan. I knew I wanted to go to a great college, so I got a math tutor and faced my fears. Through determination, I took trig and chemistry, which helped me get into Dartmouth.

PR Museum: Were you pressured to achieve?

Helen: I never thought I had to compete. My parents just asked us to do the best we could. I never felt I had to get A’s to please my parents.

PR Museum: So you intended to go to law school. How did you transition into PR?

Helen: Getting out of school, everybody seemed headed for Wall Street and finance. I took the LSAT and did well on it – but I decided I really didn’t want to be an attorney. I had always been fascinated by the entertainment industry. Rather than being a performer, I was always interested in what went on behind the scenes. Even at a very young age I used to follow the power moves of top entertainment executives like Barry Diller, Sherry Lansing, and Dawn Steele. I was interested in the business of entertainment. I didn’t know what to call it. That’s how I ended up in PR. I studied PR and communications at Boston University, where I received my Master’s degree as an RKO Scholar. As part of that, one of my first jobs was as an intern at KISS-FM Radio in New York, where I had the chance to handle promotions for a variety of musical artists, films and events.

PR Museum: How has this life-long interest impacted your approach to your work?

Helen: Culture and the arts are universal, they’re a connector – something that celebrates our differences, and unites us. Everyone, every culture, has a connection to artistic expression – it’s a bridge. We can all enjoy these things, and learn from one another. I’ve leveraged the arts and artists as a way of bringing people together, and raising awareness about health, particularly in the black community. The arts and culture are part of everything I do.

PR Museum: Do you have a mantra or a phrase that keeps you inspired?

Helen: Yes – I have a simple phrase my mother taught us, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.” A simple distillation of a complex idea. She emphasized that nothing and no one could hold us back. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have mentors. I had people who helped me. So mentors and the mantra carried me along. But at the end of the day, it’s all up to you.

PR Museum: I know giving back is very important to you. Is mentoring part of that?

Helen: Yes, I mentor. I oversee Finn Partners D&I program; mentorship and education are some of its principle components. Three of our mentees are now hired. I’ve also partnered with community organizations that expose students to art and culture. For example, we had an initiative to take inner city kids to the Metropolitan Museum to see the work of da Vinci. We gave them art supplies. Some of the kids had never had a sketch pad. Educating a child is also saving a life, opening up doors to a life experience that will change them and their community. I’ve always had a component of giving back in what I do. Mentorship and paying it forward is what I owe the world for how I’ve been able to persevere – and learn. It’s the least I can do.

PR Museum: Is there anything you’d like to share with us that’s top-of-mind for you today?

Helen: I am so happy to see the shift, to witness that the dialogue about D&I, women and equity is driving action, concrete actions and outcomes. Not just talk. If we all commit to it – we can make a difference. It doesn’t take a lot. I am happy to be a part of the conversation – and more so – part of the action to make a difference. It inspires me to get up every day to go to work. I want the momentum to continue.

PR Museum: Parting thoughts?

Helen: Good always prevails, but it takes a lot of strength and confidence. We were taught that nobody can stop you. If you don’t have that foundation, it’s hard. It’s hard for me, even with my solid background. I’m a gladiator – I’ve been in this arena for a long time. I’ve had my share of victories, but I work at it every day.


Boston PR pro Adam Ritchie Visits the Museum of Public Relations

Since the Museum is tagged on Google Maps, many people stop by because they happen to be in the neighborhood. Such was the case last Friday when Boston PR pro Adam Ritchie and his mom, Lynne, stopped by for a visit. Here they check out the unpublished 1928 manuscript from Ivy Lee, "Mr. Lee's Publicity Book," part of our cherished collection of archives from Lee biographer Ray Hiebert and his wife, Sheila Gibbons Hiebert; Arthur Page's famous pipe and ashtray (thanks to the generosity of The Arthur W. Page Center) and an original framed 1923 letter from Western Union commending Edward Bernays on his idea of making the brand synonymous with telegrams, from our extensive collection of artifacts given to us from the Bernays family in 1995 (with many thanks to daughter, Anne Bernays and grandson Lucas Held.) It was the collection from Bernays that launched the Museum in 1997.

Dear folks

From Steven Barnes, O'Dwyer's Public Relations News: 
"The initial description of Bill Doescher’s “Dear Folks” would be that the book tells the story of both Doescher’s personal life and of his long, distinguished career in the PR industry. "But as readers of the book will discover, 'Dear Folks' doesn’t tell two stories, it tells one. From his childhood in Utica, NY to his post-PR days selling real estate in Scarsdale, there is a clear line connecting the man who was senior vice president and chief communications officer at Dun & Bradstreet (as well as president of the PRSA Foundation and PRSA-NY) with the teenage boy whose main goal in life was to make his Aunt Elsie proud of him..."

Published by the PRMuseumPress, "Dear Folks" can be purchased here.

Magazines from the past

1895-Who knew? In the late 19th century, an American society lady in St. Louis, Rosa Sonneschein (below), published the first English language magazine for the newly emigrated Jewish woman. It was published from 1895-99, appealing to the upwardly mobile educated Jewish communities, starting their European lives all over again in St. Louis, Boston and other U.S. cities. Literature, lifestyle, living arrangements were just some of the topics written by and for this new sector to be assimilated into and influenced by American society. Have a look here!

1971-- First issue of Ms. Magazine, co-founded by Gloria Steinem, debuted in New York Magazine, and continued as a supplement until it spun off on its own in Spring, '72. One of the pieces was a satire, "I Want a Wife," written by Judy Syker, herself a housewife and mother: (Read here): "...I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it. I want a wife who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook..."

3rd Annual celebration of "PR Women Who Changed History"

We extend our thanks to Andi Zales Hughes, Patrice Tanaka, Karen Miller Russell, Tracey Wood Mendelsohn, Caryn Euting Medved and the entire standing-room-only crowd who joined us for our third annual celebration of "PR Women Who Changed History" last night. And a special thank you to all our wonderful sponsors for enabling us to keep alive the memories of the women who came before us.

Have a look at the pictures below:

Celebrating Marilyn Laurie

1987--A Bronx-born former housewife is named senior vice president of public relations for AT&T, becoming the highest ranking women in company history and the first woman to head the PR for a Fortune 50 company.

In 1970, Marilyn Laurie caught the attention of AT&T as a co-founder of Earth Day, the campaign responsible for creating the environmental movement. In fact, AT&T hired her a year later to create the company's environmental policies and set up conservation programs for all the Baby Bell companies. Her rise up to the top of the PR ladder--which was done within a primarily all-male environment--included stints as head of Bell Labs, corporate advertising and speechwriter for the CEO. Along the way, she managed the company's responses to several national crises, including those involving mass layoffs, Planned Parenthood and claims of racism within its ranks.

Prior to the company's trivestiture, Laurie was managing a PR staff of some 800 professionals operating around the world. At the same time, she served as chair for the AT&T Foundation, distributing more than a billion dollars to arts and educational programs to communities across the U.S. She was also one of the founders of the Page Society, an organization named for AT&T's first vp of public relations, Arthur Page.

In her lifetime, Laurie won awards from every PR organization, including election to the Page Society Hall of Fame, several lifetime achievement awards and selection twice as a PR Week Allstar. Since her death in 2010, she continues to win accolades from the industry. At the recent The Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication awards dinner, her long-time colleague and successor, Dick Martin, spoke about Laurie's contributions to the field and presented a trophy posthumously to her daughter, Lisa Laurie. See the video from the Page Center.


Are you popular?: Film that shaped attitude towards women in 1949

1949--Are you popular? "Girls who park in cars with boys are never really popular," warns this social guidance film. "Find out what really makes a girl well-liked." Dozens of "social guidance" film reels were wheeled into high school classrooms in the post-war period, teaching, among other things, how boys should ask a girl on a date and how girls should behave on one. According to this film, the secret to popularity is to have a "good personality," and to be nice to everyone.

.Note that today's corporate and political leaders of a certain age grew up with social guidance films like these which may well have shaped their attitudes toward women in the workplace in the decades that followed.

PR Women who changed history

1980-- Doris Fleischman Bernays, the industry's first known professional woman, dies at age 88, after a career working alongside husband Edward Bernays, who died in 1995 at age 103. In this NYT obit, Fleischman is recognized for co-creating the phrase "counsel on public relations" and providing the foundation of the "principles, practices and ethics" for PR. Presidents from Coolidge to Eisenhower, Edison, Ford, Freud, are listed among the many dozens she advised. She joined up with Edward Bernays in 1919, making this the centennial year of professional women in the public relations field.

If you don't already know Muriel Fox, you should. When Fox applied for a writing job at the Carl Byoir agency in the 1940s, she was immediately rejected. "Women aren't writers here," she was told, "they're secretaries." But Fox's persistence not only got her hired, it drove her quick rise up through the male-dominated ranks, becoming Carl Byoir & Associates' first woman vice president in the early '60s. In 1963 she met feminist author Betty Friedan, and the two co-founded the National Organization of Women (NOW). As its PR chair, Fox issued NOW's first press release, announcing the organization's plans to fight for equality and women's rights at work and society. Fox donated the original copy of this release to the Museum at our opening in Sept., 2014, and it's become one of our single most popular exhibits in the collection. See Fox's artifacts at our Mar. 7 exhibition at our 3rd annual tribute of "PR Women Who Changed History," Mar 7, 6pm, @WeWork 85 Broad. 

1944-- At 3 a.m. one night, Denny Griswold woke up her husband, Glenn, with a game-changing idea: to publish a weekly newsletter for the fast-growing PR industry. It would be a "how to" for best practices, report on client wins and staff promotions, and contain a PR case study in each issue. Most important, it would be the industry's first publication it could call its own. The time was ripe: In the 20 some odd years since the first agencies had opened in Boston and NYC, there were now nearly 100 firms throughout the U.S. and big corporations were quickly developing their own in house departments. So important was the newsletter to the field that the NYT published stories about its 20th and 25th anniversaries in its Advertising column. Griswold was known for her relentless advocacy for the profession, handing out "PRoud to be in PR" buttons to everyone who would wear one. She was also heralded for her advocacy on behalf of women in the field, co-founding Women Executives in PR in the 1970s. The Museum holds original materials from PR News, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Peggy Olson's legendary rise from secretary to copy editor to Management is also the story lived by thousands of PR women in the MadMen era. If you wanted to work in a PR firm, you'd most likely be asked to take a typing test (even a Masters degree made no difference if you were a woman). The young men, not surprisingly, were given writing tests. Once in a while, a woman would get a break, as Peggy did when the account team desperately needed a "woman's voice" for a pitch to a lipstick client. Besides having "billable" talent, women like Peggy would need to be accepted as "one of the guys" (being "one of the girls" meant you were seen as a -- God forbid-- secretary again). So it was important to keep up with politics, talk passionately about the Yankees and Knicks, and learn how to wield a cigarette and shot glass with your left hand so you could shake a guy's hand with your right. Starting sometime in the eighties PR women no longer had to "prove" how good they were for the company. Now it became the company's job to "prove" how good it was for the women.

2000-- "Public relations is fundamental to a democratic society where people make decisions in the workplace, the marketplace, the community and in the voting booth," said Betsy Plank, upon accepting the esteemed Alexander Hamilton award, given annually by the Institute of Public Relations. "Its primary mission is to forge responsible relationships of understanding, trust and respect among groups and individuals – even though they often disagree." Known as the First Lady of Public Relations, Plank (1924-2010) was the first woman to head a division of Illinois Bell, the first woman to serve as president of the Publicity Club of Chicago and first woman president of PRSA (in 1973). She is considered one of the field's foremost champions of PR education. In 1989, Plank made possible the PRSA's first-ever scholarship endowment fund-- providing support for PR education at 40 U.S. colleges and universities. She was also one of the founders of PRSSA. Today the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, headquartered at Plank's alma mater, the University of Alabama—carries on her legacy: encouraging mentoring, diversity, leadership training and PR education. Learn more here.