Remembering Ward White and Ed Block Through Their Words of Advice for Young PR Pros

Memorial Services were held over the weekend for two of the great thought leaders of public relations, Ed Block and Ward White. Throughout their accomplishment-rich careers, Ed and Ward helped advance the credibility and authority of public relations. They also were dedicated mentors, who shared their wisdom with colleagues and aspiring PR pros. In this blog post, you’ll enjoy reading some of their thoughtful career advice.

Ward White’s advice from his 2011 Career Capsule was cited by his brother, Richard White, during an eloquent eulogy at Milwaukee’s Pfister hotel on Saturday. Ed Block’s wise words first appeared in “Legacies from Legends in Public Relations,” published in 2007 by the Plank Center for Leadership In Public Relations to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Ward White, 1940-2016

Ward White, 1940-2016

In his own words, here’s Ward White’s encouraging advice based on the job search that launched his career.

The employer says, “You have no experience, how can I hire you?”  You say, “How can I get experience if no one will hire me?”  This chicken-and-egg dilemma makes landing your first job one of life’s toughest challenges.

Here’s my story of landing that first job.

I’m a career changer.  Seriously over-educated after advanced degrees in two fields, I started out teaching college in Houston.  Before long, it became obvious to me that I needed a lot more action and adrenaline than the classroom could provide.

The how-to-get-a-job classic “What Color Is Your Parachute?” pointed me to public relations as the best field for me.  Boy, was I lucky!  Almost 40 years later, I can tell you that it’s been absolutely the right career for me — challenging, endlessly fascinating and richly rewarding in every way.

But I didn’t know that in 1973.  I was living alone in Houston, unemployed and searching for that first PR job.  Faithful to Parachute’s counsel, I was networking like crazy.  Late one afternoon, working out of the Main Reading Room of the Houston Public Library, I returned a phone call to a networking contact.

“Standco wants to interview you at 9 tomorrow morning.  They want a corporate communications person.  Can you be there? “

Be there?  You betcha!

I at once jumped into doing what I knew best – fast, down-and-dirty research, a side-benefit of all those burn-the midnight-oil term papers.  My best credential for landing this job was labeled “Being a Versatile Writer,” but I had no work samples to show, beyond academic stuff.

Trying to turn that weakness into a strength, I set out to cobble together a profile article on Standco Industries, some proof that would show I could write.  There were hurdles.   I knew next to nothing about the industry, oilfield manufacturing.  I had never heard of the company.  It was privately owned, which meant that information on the company would be scarce.  No Google in those days, remember.  And no personal computers yet.  The only computers in that era were a few monster-size mainframes at big companies.

I dug and dug, all manually — Houston Post, Chronicle and Business Journal, Hoover’s Directory, Thomas Register, trade journals, following every lead and taking notes feverishly until closing time at 9 p.m.

Next, a drive on dark streets to Standco’s main plant produced only an uncooperative nightwatchman.  I had wasted a precious hour.  It was after 10 when I reached my $125-a-month single-room apartment and started putting words onto paper on my clunky Smith-Corona typewriter.  By 3 a.m., I had a 750-words article and called it a night.

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