I must commend PR Week's 2010 career guide. It's chock full of information that's as useful to an undergrad as it is to an agency principal.
Stories include a roundtable discussion on the importance of a master's degree in PR (color me skeptical) and a fascinating profile of Harold Burson and his legacy to the agency that bears his name.
Burson produced a plethora of industry leaders over the years, including Ketchum's Rob Flaherty, CA's Bill Hughes and PulsePoint Group's Bob Feldman. The latter said his training at Burson began the day he joined the firm from Utica College in 1978. Feldman recalls a training program that mandated ALL writing done for clients was to be first reviewed by a former newspaper editor on staff. Feldman says the procedure made a great statement about the firm's commitment to quality.
I agree. I had the exact same experience as a young junior account executive at Hill & Knowlton. We, too, had a former editor check each and every piece of copy before it went to a client. My editor's name was Victor Wigotsky and he made a big impression on me.
Victor was a very demanding editor. Before he'd even give you his edits, he'd ask you what the story angle was and why it mattered. He'd then ask you what primary or secondary research supported the angle. Only when you'd provided the correct answers would Vic deign to review your copy. And, boy oh boy, was he ever meticulous in his edits. I cannot tell you how many times he'd send me scurrying back to my office because I'd buried a lead, hadn't nailed the 5Ws in the lead graph or neglected to correctly attribute a quote.
Victor was never mean, but he was strict. And we learned as a result. I'll never forget how happy I was when one of my initial press releases finally earned a 'VWW.' Those were Victor's initials and secretaries (yes, we all had secretaries back then) were under orders not to mail (yes, snail mail only) releases or bylined articles unless they saw the VWW stamp of approval.
I wish today's PR agency model had the time and financial wherewithal to mandate at least one Wigotsky in every firm. Unfortunately, between the 24×7 demand for constant content and the worst economic downturn in memory, there are few, if any, firms who insist ALL copy be reviewed by a Wigotsky-type first. As a result, I continually hear or read about poor writing when I attend events or scan our trades.
It's too bad that Wigotsky (and his Burson counterpart) are gone with the wind. I think everyone's writing would benefit from a VWW every now and then. Mine included.
Thanks Ralph. I would have liked to have known him.
The editorial director at Burson was John Artopeous.
Thank you for this, RepMan. I do miss editorial quality control. Everybody needs an editor. I have noticed that online writing brings up sloppier habits; my particular sin seems to be leaving out verbs.
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Love it. Just love it. I assume Mr. Burson was none the wiser about this antic? Thanks for sharing.
Back in the day, there was nothing more entertaining than sneaking into Harold’s unoccupied office, picking up his AT&T Merlin and doing that call-return function (I can’t remember the name of it) to your co-worker’s phone lines. The unknowing victim of this prank would see a blinking light on his phone; upon pressing the appropriate display button, he would be informed that Harold Burson had been calling for him and would like to speak with him urgently. The key, of course, was to get back to the victim’s cubicle in time to see him retrieve this message and begin the process of sweating through his shirt.