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On the Case With…

Each month, as part of “The Business Case for Public Relations,” PRSA asks an industry leader to reflect on his or her career and make a “business case” for public relations.

More from “On the Case With…”

On the Case with James Donnelly


February 1, 2011

James Donnelly is senior vice president, crisis management at Ketchum with experience in issues/crisis management, crisis training, communications training, corporate public relations and global corporate communications. He works out of his home in Charlotte, N.C. where he says he has a better chance to improve his 12-handicap in golf.

Name: James Donnelly

Childhood ambition:
I wanted to be James T. Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise. Maybe I still do — just to get access to that great commander’s chair. And a phaser.

Current livelihood:
I’m one of the three senior leaders of the New York-based specialty team.

What changed (i.e., how you became interested in public relations):
As an intern reporter on the city desk of a Connecticut newspaper, I asked my editor about journalists’ pay. She said,“If your focus is money, you should consider public relations.” She was right — by about 2 percent.

First public relations job:
I joined another PR agency and then Ketchum as a global internal communicator and “affiliate liaison,” not a PR professional.

What you know now that you wish you’d known then:
I remember meeting with new business prospects called Cisco and Oracle — and a colleague advising me to buy some stock in these small companies. I didn’t. I think he’s retired now.

Best piece of advice ever received:
Don’t slow-play pocket aces — in cards or in life.

Greatest professional accomplishment:
When clients no longer need our team’s help with crisis preparedness or crisis management — they’ve embraced everything we offered and now can do it themselves

If you weren’t in public relations, you’d be:
Dead broke, chasing a dream of carrying a PGA Tour card — or carrying clubs for a PGA Tour player

Desired legacy:
Is there a “60 under 60?” 

Make a “business case” for public relations:
How long would a submarine last if it didn’t have radar, a periscope or a system to communicate with other vessels or ports? Not long. The same goes for any organization that does not have a Chief Reputation Officer — in title, or in practice — or a well-organized PR department.



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