PR Legend: John F. Budd, Jr.*


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.

John F. BuddFormer chairman and CEO of the Omega Group.  Author of ten books and winner of 16 professional awards, including eight Silver Anvils and one Gold Anvil. Served on 23 non-profit boards.

Do you want a job or a career in public relations?

Easy question? But they are not equivalents. The symptoms may seem the same, but the roots differ significantly. Both require diligence, patience, writing skills, media relationships and, simply, hard work.

The dictionary defines a “job” as part of the routine of one’s occupation. A career is an intellectual action. If that’s too esoteric, let me simply say that building a career hinges on curiosity – one word, WHY. Why am I doing this? Why now? Can’t it be done better, faster?

  • A JOB makes it hard to get up in the morning and takes a while to get started.
  • A CAREER propels you out of the bed and into high gear.
  • A JOB is defined by hours, days, weeks.
  • A CAREER is seamless. You often don’t know what time it is, and sometimes even forget the day of the week.
  • In a JOB you look forward to holidays, weekends.
  • In a CAREER these are interruptions.
  • In a JOB you often watch things happen.
  • In a CAREER you make things happen.

I’m sure you get it.

So, now, clutching your parchment validation as a certified public relations practitioner, you can’t wait to get into strategic planning, mission statements applying the principles of behavior modifications or sorting out cognitive dissidence, etc. Your academic credentials are excellent, and you are snapped up by a PR agency (I’ll get into the corporate milieu later). Assignment: promote Absolut vodka, or a new line of candles, a skin care treatment, a new line of laundromats, a fancy hot dog.

What’s this nonsense? Four years of study to be a publicist? Ye’ Gods! Well, friends, that is how it begins. I, the youngest – and cheapest – staffer to join the prestigious Carl Byoir & Associates, tackled in my few first years thermostats, door locks, a new bible, rivets, greeting cards and electronic watches. Know what? I enjoyed it.

I learned to write fast, to know to whom I was writing, to do research, to get to know reporters in person, to build relationships. A humble beginning? Yes. I never took anything for granted; conventional wisdom was an anathema to me. You’ll hear your colleagues pontificate wildly.  Listen, but don’t absorb. You are a probationer, a novitiate. Have patience. As you get increasingly difficult assignments–and you do more than is expected–the real principles of public relations embedded in your DNA emerge.

Should you choose the corporate route, you’ll be low on the communications food chain…probably assigned to employee relations, and all the mystic wonders of emails, iPods, blackberries and webcastings. Promotions come about as fast as a melting glacier. Turfs are clearly defined and impenetrable. Your boss is probably responsible for the market share of his product line. He wants free publicity, period! Don’t try to tell him/her all you know.

Do more than asked for…more than expected. It will ultimately be recognized, and you will move slightly upwards. But, you will learn the business, the traditions, the culture and the idiosyncrasies of the players. This is a pervasive weakness of agency life; there’s never enough time–or legitimate charging hours–to gain these invaluable insights.

Budd Sig


Published: 2007
* Deceased (1923-2011)