Two legends in their own time… and me

And now for further introductions… I’d like to introduce the two gentlemen I have invited to join me on this blog as authors and contributors: Lawrence G. (Larry) Foster and Willard D. (Bill) Nielsen. Full bios are linked as separate pages, but what follows are a few highlights.

Larry Foster was Corporate Vice President of Public Relations for Johnson & Johnson from 1957 to 1990. He established the public relations practice for Johnson & Johnson, and became a biographer of the noted corporate leader Robert Wood Johnson, authoring a book titled, Robert Wood Johnson: The Gentleman Rebel. Larry is one of those people who already has an award named for him, putting him in the category not only of being a legend, but a downright institution. Larry had the extraodinary opportunity to be heading public relations for Johnson & Johnson during the Tylenol crises of the 1980’s.

Bill Nielsen was Corporate Vice President of Public Affairs of Johnson & Johnson from 1990 through 2004. Bill retired from Johnson & Johnson in December, 2004, after more than three decades in public relations and communications, having spent his first 18 years with Carl Byoir & Associates and Hill and Knowlton. Throughout these years, Bill has been a tireless proponent of the deep importance of public relations and communications to the pursuit of business, and by extension to progress in society itself. Read his talk at the Institute for Public Relations called The Character of PR at 2005. Phenomenal.

Larry and Bill are truly legends in their time.

Me? I’m Ray Jordan, the current Corporate Vice-President of Public Affairs and Communications for Johnson & Johnson, having been in this position since 2005. Are you detecting a pattern? Good, you’re catching on fast.

So, Larry, Bill and I share a common history of responsibility for the communications function in one of the world’s most extraordinary companies. Now, with that heritage, you’d expect this blog to be all about Johnson & Johnson, right?

Well, wrong. Our heritage is shared, and that gives us a perspective on the profound importance of communications and public relations in business, especially in an era like ours with its extremes of communications speed and transparency. Our shared heritage will be used to comment on the functions of communications, public relations and public affairs. We will not opine on the ongoing activities of Johnson & Johnson, however.

Think about it: dealing with the ongoing businesses and reputation of Johnson & Johnson is my day job (ok, I’ll admit, night job too). And as much as I truly cherish the friendship and counsel of Larry and Bill, you would understand that the last thing I need is two generations of predecessors using a public forum like this to advise me day-in and day-out on how to do that job.

So, this forum is framed by the shared experience of three professional communicators who care deeply about their profession and who respect each other’s perspectives. I cannot tell you in advance about the specific topics we will find compelling, nor the synchrony or discord you will find among our views. All I can do is implore you to sit back, adjust your RSS reader, and enjoy…

(Posted by Ray Jordan)

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2 Comments

Filed under Communications / PR

2 responses to “Two legends in their own time… and me

  1. Bruce Harrison

    Ray, congratulations to you, Larry and Bill for creating this conversation channel. It’s much needed, and we’re lucky to have you leading it. The Wikipedia posting is a great beginning for solid recognition of the strategic value of the CPGH officer. A question: should we consider “Chief Public Relations Officer” as well? As you know we have put this into the lexicon at the Arthur W. Page Society, but “PR” continues to carry its heavy-side layer. And, on the other hand, what’s the difference between “Communications” officers and IT officers? Are we in communication (the one-to-one synergistic Grunig model of shaping relationships and influencing behavior? Or are we in the connections business, and ready to explain that this doesn’t mean we know how to string wires or tune wireless or fix the telephone? Are there in fact CCO and CPRO titles in play? You are terrific for giving us thinking room, and I feel calmer already.

  2. Ray Jordan

    Thanks for the note, Bruce. Wish I could give you a flat out “C” vs “PR” perspective on this. But it brings up all the to-and-fro arguments re “communications” and “public relations” in my own mind. I must say I’m kinda’ warming to the Chief Connections Officer notion…

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