PR Legend: Frank Wylie*


This post is part of The Plank Center’s Legacies from Legends in PR Series that was begun in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the Public Relations Student Society of America in 2007.Wylie Photo

British War Relief: promotions. Harvard: A.B. (sociology, psychology, anthropology). U.S. Army: signal company to Office of the Chief Staff. PR: Chrysler Corporation; NASCAR; President: PRSA. CSULA.: PA director, teacher, M.A. Ed. Admin. CSU, Long Beach: professor, chair of journalism. Author and writer. Book review editor: PR Review. American Cancer Society: PR volunteer.

The magic of public relations rests on the critical nature of the calling, the excitement of doing thorough and creative research on the probable and the possible and the excitement of planning and executing programs that demonstrate leadership and caring.

How does one accomplish all that? Without intellectual curiosity it would be impossible. Without delighting in the analysis of all the variables and subjects of “what if,” the real excitement would not invite the person to enjoy the ultimate challenges and the excitement of executing plans that impart success.

In public relations, the media are often the better teachers for they tell different stories every day, highlight the challenges which others face and the “what if’s” challenges public relations leaders must meet. Consider the daily “what ifs” imagine how each of us would address a similar or more complicated problem or opportunity and then excitedly, creatively, considerately and effectively plan for success.

Public relations involves other fascinating challenges. Media relationships are vital, and they’re measured not in whom you know, but who knows and trusts you. It requires the ability to win the trust of many people, in all echelons of responsibility and interest, not just the immediate boss or primary client. A broad spectrum of public trust is essential, and it must be won by constant integrity, demonstrated concern for others and superior communications skills.

A true practitioner must be a thoughtful futurist who recognizes, studies and enjoys the challenges of change. It is the future that matters. The past has come and gone, its errors and successes relegated to history. While the past may impart a chronology of historic successes, they are now part of the past and substantially irrelevant to the challenges of today or tomorrow.

What was once a somewhat local practice now involves knowledge and thoughtful understanding of international interests, concerns and methodologies. The understanding of foreign history, customs and language are essentials. We who have been a rather separatist society, basking in our economic leadership, now must accept the reality that our lease as the ultimate superpower is about to expire. International politics now challenge our local concerns for priority of interest. We must become far more alert to, and understanding and appreciative of the mores of other civilizations: those which exist both at home and abroad.

Yes, you must write and communicate well. That is a given. The excellence of your skills is what will be appreciated. You should love to read, and delight in writing and speaking, and must realize your role as the interpreter of fact and definer and clarifier of complexity. She/he who explains best is the most likely to convince. Remember, our PR job is learning, planning, executing a thoughtfully planned program and explaining in an easily understood manner. Never forget, you are in the convincing business. Also, never forget that integrity is the first order of your day.

Planning includes dedication to the known, or immediate, and the potential of any opportunity or adversity. Having created the plan, a PR person must then sell the concept and win the support of others in management, as well as the client, media and public.

Public relations is certainly among the most fascinating of jobs. Your job is to anticipate the future and educate your bosses and clients on the dangers and opportunities of present and future. If you delight in thinking, considering, planning, convincing, executing and explaining, then you will enjoy public relations. It can be the greatest opportunity and most exciting job on earth.

Go for it.

Wylie Sig


Published: 2007
* Deceased (1924-2014)