PR Legend: Del Galloway


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.CDGHeadshot (2)

Del Galloway, APR, Fellow PRSA has a gift for “connecting the dots” between organizations and stakeholders, brands and consumers, key influentials and communities. It is his understanding of relationships and his ability to convey the right messages at the right time – when to push and when to pause – that have made Del a trusted advisor to clients worldwide. His 36-year-career includes practice in the agency, corporate and nonprofit sectors, and he is a public relations educator. In 2004, Del served as President and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America, the world’s largest organization for public relations professionals. In 2018, PRSA honored Del with its Gold Anvil Award, recognizing lifetime achievement in public relations. Del is a founding member of the Universal Accreditation Board, and he is a past President of the Florida Public Relations Association – receiving FPRA’s “Dillin Award” for lifetime achievement in public relations. Del is a member of the ACEJMC – the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications – the governing body that administers accreditation to education programs.

Accidental Karma: One Leader’s Journey to “Trusted Advisor”

Public relations is an exciting, dynamic field – often on the cutting-edge of issues, opportunities and challenges. I encourage you, seize the power of public relations – to forge opinion and shape ideas. Recognize we are storytellers, and through the gift of language, used strategically, we advance society.

In The New York Times, John Leland writes about storytelling: “We remember the stories we tell about our lives; we invent our lives in the remembering.” Powerful stuff, and considered through the lens of public relations, it is a call to action: to shape opinion and, I would argue, to do so with a positive spirit of intent. To advance the common good.

Successful, seasoned communicators are known as Counselor. Thought leader. Trusted advisor – and these certainly are descriptions to which I aspired as I began my career.

Now, on the cusp of 37 years in the public relations profession – through the rough-and-tumble of time and experience – I have discovered a revered and welcomed place that guides my point of view: I am a trusted advisor.

My career has crossed a variety of sectors – agency, corporate, nonprofit and academia – and included fascinating assignments: the launch of a multinational company, the North American introduction of a European-based beer (that was a particularly fun piece of business), as well as campaigns focused on education, the environment, health, financial security and the advancement of LGBTQ equality.

I imagine there are many of you who, like me on the threshold of my career, consider “trusted advisor” as elusive and out of reach. Not so, as I discovered. What I knew then and now recognize even more clearly, is my good fortune – I’ve learned from the best.

Early in my career, I experienced world-class leadership through the examples of industry titans: Marilyn Laurie, Dick Martin, Bob Schauer and others who led public relations at AT&T, a multinational corporation. As head of Communications at an AT&T business unit – American Transtech – I met and collaborated regularly with these folks. From them, I experienced first-hand what leadership looks like: uncompromising ethics, integrity, good judgment and guts. I learned how to counsel clients and make tough decisions; how to inform and influence. In other words, I learned how to lead.

My “ah-ha” moment on the road to trusted advisor occurred in the early 90s when a new leader – Monica Mehan – was named president and CEO of AT&T American Transtech. Monica greatly valued public relations. She reorganized senior level positions and made me part of her leadership team, reporting to her directly. It was then I realized my point of view – my perspective – was highly valued.

Through PRSA, other professional organizations, and certainly through peers who I am fortunate to call friends, I’ve experienced leadership up-front-and-personally. Those experiences inform who I am today; they shape my point of view, and it is in retrospect – as if by accidental karma– I have discovered that the revered space of trusted advisor was long taking shape in me. I suspect it will take shape in many of you, too.

As you chart your course, consider these insights, which may prove helpful as you create a successful career and a better life:

  • Be curious: It’s much more important to be interested than interesting.
  • Have a point of view: Inform yourself and share your pov. It builds credibility and confidence.
  • Be you, boo. Show up and experience life as your authentic self. Authenticity is powerful, and when you’re comfortable in your own skin, it allows others to do the same. As a gay man, I’ve discovered I’m my best when I’m “me.”
  • Shape an organization’s culture: Recognize and navigate its current state, and then inform and influence it.
  • Be a servant leader. Invest in the common good – improving lives and strengthening communities; and,
  • In the words of Yogi Berra, baseball great known for his pithy and unorthodox quotes, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

You will illuminate and create a bright future for our profession. I wish you well as you find your way to “trusted advisor.” Celebrate along the way. The journey can be magical.


Galloway Signature






Published: April 15, 2019