Remembering Harold Burson (1921-2020)

Feb. 1, 2020
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Harold Burson, APR, Fellow PRSA, the distinguished founder of one of the world’s largest PR agencies, died on Jan. 10 in Memphis, Tenn. He was 98. Business leaders and communications executives from around the world left tributes to the co-founder of Burson-Marsteller. Here’s a selection via the Burson Cohn & Wolfe website:

“Harold Burson embodied everything good about the profession. When I was around him, I felt I was in the presence of greatness. The room shifted when he entered; he possessed this positive aura and energy.” 

Tina McCorkindale, president and CEO, the Institute for Public Relations

“In a profession where seemingly everything changes every day, Harold has been our cool-headed voice of reason, calmly reminding us of the true nature of PR and the value it delivers.”

— Gary Sheffer, the Sandra R. Frazier Professor of Public Relations, Boston University

“There’s no one I hold in higher esteem in our field than Harold — as a leader, counselor, mentor and friend. He is the lodestar for our industry, a star that guides us and serves as an inspiration and model.”

Barri Friedman Rafferty, president and CEO, Ketchum

“More than any other individual, Harold professionalized our business and, in the process, earned a voice for our discipline in the C-suite and at the boardroom table.”

Andy Polansky, executive chairman, Weber Shandwick

“To know Harold Burson was to touch the very soul of public relations. Throughout his long and storied career, Harold championed the emergence of a practice — the discipline of communications — that has become too big and too important to fail.”

— Bill Nielsen, former corporate VP of public affairs, Johnson & Johnson

“Harold Burson did more than anyone to make public relations a true and respectable profession. For him, public relations was a social science — understanding the intricate mechanism connecting what people believe and how they behave.”

Jon Iwata, former SVP and chief brand officer, IBM

“No matter where you worked during your career, Harold was proud, offered advice and remained an industry pioneer, pushing us to do our best and give back to the profession. There is only one Harold and his legacy lives on in so many of us.”

Cheryl Heinonen, EVP of corporate communications, Macy’s Inc.


"To be with Harold was to be with greatness — and everyone felt that way with him."

— Jim Joseph, global president, Burson Cohn & Wolfe



photo credit: burson cohn & wolfe