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2017 Page Society Honorees: Ron Culp and Jim O'Rourke

2017 Page Society Honorees: Ron Culp and Jim O’Rourke

I’m just back from this week’s annual conference of the Arthur W. Page Society—stimulated by many great sessions, speeches and one-on-one conversations with PR leaders from around the world.

At one of the closing sessions, Chip Heath, author of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, talked about memorable powerful moments in our lives.

Well, the Page Society certainly created one of those moments for yours truly. It began a month ago when the organization’s sage former chairman Bill Nielsen, retired corporate vice president of public affairs at Johnson & Johnson, called to inform me that I had been selected as this year’s inductee into the Arthur W. Page Hall of Fame. For some reason it was kept a secret until Sunday night’s dinner which added to the excitement of the occasion that I had the honor of sharing with a long-time friend, Notre Dame’s Jim O’Rourke, who received the Distinguished Service Award.

Both Jim and I were joined by our immediate families, so it was fun to be able to introduce them to our “other” family—communications leaders from corporations, agencies and universities who we see at least twice a year at Page events.

During our acceptance remarks, Jim and I shared a similar theme—the need to increase the business acumen of public relations professionals. In Jim’s speech, he called for the hiring of more business graduates to work in the communications roles.

In my remarks, I agreed that PR pros must increase their business savvy, but I jokingly said they could do so by simply buying my book, Business Essentials for Strategic Communicators, which I co-authored with DePaul colleague Matt Ragas. It got the laugh I was counting on. However, the time has passed that PR majors can continue to avoid left-brain courses. Students must make a point of taking courses that help them understand the basics of business. Doing so will separate future PR leaders from order takers.

The second plea in my remarks centered on the critical need to increase diversity and inclusion in public relations. Citing a lot of talk but insufficient forward progress to date, I encouraged PR pros to expand their roles to become leaders and advocates for diversity and inclusion. Fortunately, there are positive D&I initiatives coming from Page and sister organizations such as the Institute for Public Relations, PRSA Foundation and the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Also, some corporations and agencies are putting stakes in the ground, knowing that to deal with their increasingly diverse employee and customer bases, they must do a better job of addressing diversity and inclusion. Hope you have a chance to read the full text of my remarks, and please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions with me.

I’m now back in the office after a Cloud 9 career high point that I’ll never forget. Heading to class shortly with 16 bright future leaders of our profession, who I hope will have many of their own memorable moments filled with what Chip Heath describes as elevation, insight, pride and connection. I’m certainly filled with all four thanks to my friends and colleagues.

8 comments on this post.
  1. Kevin Petschow:

    Well said and written, Ron.

    I concur … we (PR pros) need to be business savvy. In fact, we are business stewards, first, and communicators, second.

    Onward and upward we go.

  2. Culpwrit:

    Thanks, Kevin. Wish I had worked in your last sentence in my remarks–“business stewards, first, and communicators, second.”

  3. Pat Ford:

    I am delighted to join the entire PR universe in expressing unbounded joy for the selections of Ron Culp and Jim O’Rourke to the Hall of Fame. And I could not be more passionate in support of the two principal areas of focus in Ron’s remarks: diversity & inclusion and the need for greater business acumen among PR professionals. Bravo!

  4. Hope Todd, writer/editor at Platform Magazine:

    Ron,

    First, big congratulations on your induction into the Arthur W. Page Hall of Fame! Definitely well deserved.

    Second, thank you for the advice to move away from right-brain courses. As a senior studying PR, I tend to gravitate towards these. I hope to incorporate a business course into my last semester.

    Finally, I agree with your D&I remarks. It is one thing to say we support D&I, and another thing to see it through. I’m hopeful, though, that the coming years will see even more positive growth in this area. After all, there can’t be change without first talking about it. Thank you for encouraging that.

  5. Culpwrit:

    Thanks, Pat. Your extraordinary leadership in this areas of focus are helping the profession gain important traction. Appreciate your kind words.

  6. Culpwrit:

    Greatly appreciate your comments and all the good work underway at the University of Alabama to help achieve positive forward motion in the areas of diversity and inclusion. Anyone not familiar with Platform Magazine should make a point to check out this extremely well-written student publication.

  7. Tressa Robbins:

    With your wisdom, Ron, it’s no wonder you were selected for the AWP Hall of Fame!

    Thank you for pointing out the business overlap. I’m constantly telling PR students that they need to get out of the Mass Media department and minor (or at least take electives) in the B-school. At least take a couple marketing classes (preferably one that focuses on metrics, analysis). Unfortunately, for many, it’s too late as their courses are already mapped out (they’re too close to graduation).

    As a result, I’m seeing more and more now going on to get their Master’s degree or a certificate program in marketing and/or business stats. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but if they knew this earlier on in their degree program, they could save a lot of money (on grad school) as well as get “out of the gate” after graduation much faster.

    PS – Also pushing D&I initiatives but most of the ‘kids’ I work with are pretty good at this part already. :)

  8. Culpwrit:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Tressa. Continue advocating for more “left brain” elective courses for PR students. Don’t worry about the grades, focus on the knowledge necessary to become true business partners. Also, I totally agree, our students get D&I. We simply need to make sure agencies and corporate hiring managers have similar awareness and buy-in. Again, always great hearing form you.

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