Remembering Al Golin

PR legend, mentor and friend Al Golin, 1929-2017

PR legend, mentor and friend Al Golin, 1929-2017

When Al Golin was growing up, his mother always wanted him to become a doctor. While honorary doctorates from DePaul and Roosevelt universities may not be what his mom had in mind, there is no doubt that Al helped shape the lives and careers of countless individuals who mourn his passing today.

Al Golin, 87, died Saturday morning at his second home in Scottsdale, Arizona, after a long battle with prostate cancer. Al so loved his profession that he never retired. He remained engaged with the firm that bears his name until the very end.

Longtime colleague, mentee and friend Fred Cook, Golin chairman, concisely sums up the qualities that made Al such a remarkable leader:

He was honest. Whether he was talking to his clients or his people, he always told it like it is.

He was hard-working. No one loved coming to work more than Al.  He was in the office every day, meeting with staff, talking to clients and reading his beloved newspapers.

He was humble. Al never liked being in the spotlight. He always preferred his clients get the attention. Even though his office is filled with awards, he never boasted about his accomplishments.

He was curious. Al was more up to speed on what’s going on in the world than anyone else in our company. He read books, went to plays, attended concerts, watched movies and devoured news.

He never took himself too seriously. Al told a lot of funny stories. Most of those stories were about him — falling out of a chair at a meeting or introducing a client to a chimpanzee in the elevator.

These traits allowed Al to successfully launch his own agency after the legendary cold-call on fast-food start up entrepreneur Ray Kroc some 60 years ago. That visit helped create McDonald’s, one of the best known brands in the world. The Golin-McDonald’s relationship is one of the longest agency-corporate alliances ever.

Golin Vice Chair Ellen Ryan Mardiks witnessed the evolution of the agency first hand since becoming an account executive there in 1984. “When I joined Al’s firm we had one office in one town, Chicago. Look what’s happened since then. All because of this man, a giant in our industry who never acted like one. There was no pretense about him, ever.” Golin now has 50 offices and more than 1,200 employees worldwide.

“Over the 22 years I worked with Al, first as an employee and then as a client, he exhibited the greatest curiosity, integrity, diplomacy and energy of any public relations professional I have known,” said former Golin staffer and later McDonald’s executive Chuck Ebeling. “McDonald’s trusted Al with building their public reputation, and he never let them down.”

Long-time friend and former colleague Keith Burton said, “Al loved the firm he created and the energy of the public relations agency profession he built along with competitors Dan Edelman and Harold Burson.”  Burton, now chair of the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, recalls Al telling him that his proudest moment came when a Golin alum told him, “Through all the years, I’ve never met a soul who said anything but the most positive things about your firm.” It was true.

Al frequently used the Woody Allen line, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Burton said Al never saw his leadership of Golin as work. “It was a passion, and he loved the many men and women who built their careers at the firm.”

Al’s Advice for Students

Page 1 of 4 | Next page