"Sixty years of what?" you ask. Sixty years of the world's first graduate degree program in public relations, that's what. You see, COM is the place where that happened, and the main attraction at the event, a spirited debate by a panel of distinguished alumni, quickly justified the reasons why we COM alumni venerate our school with such gusto.
A crowd of nearly 200 gathered to listen to the panel contemplate the event's title: "Progress and Public Relations: A Look at Where We've Been and Where We're Going." The panel's very composition, a coterie of industry luminaries, screamed the depth of COM's longtime influence on the profession of public relations:
- Harold Burson, founder of PR powerhouse Burson-Marsteller and inspiration for the honorary Chair of Public Relations in his name established at COM in 2002
- Carol Cone (COM '78), chairman and founder of Cone Communications, Inc. and pioneer in the cause of Cause Branding®
- Dr. Otto Lerbinger, sage of the public relations industry and professor emeritus at COM, where he has been on the faculty for almost as many years as the number celebrated at the event
- Graciously and aptly sitting in on short notice, Paul Rand, president and CEO of Zócalo Group, a freestanding division of Omnicom Group subsidiary Ketchum Inc., whose own CEO and Senior Partner Raymond Kotcher (COM '79), the originally scheduled panelist, found himself at a conflicting, last-minute meeting with a client halfway across the globe
Moderator Dr. Donald Wright, professor of public relations at COM, tossed the ball into play and then got out of the way. The panel discussion gave rise to a sprawling yet keen Q&A that meandered, just as any proper discussion of communications these days should, into the topic of online communication's effect on PR.
I found myself casing the many rows, keeping an eye on the guy at such events who mills about the audience as he carries the microphone. Fighting the urge to raise my hand and share my two cents, I ultimately resolved to refrain from speaking -- out of restraint, really. After all, I have this blog for that sort of thing. I'll share with you all some of the topics discussed, and my thoughts on them, over the next few weeks.