If there were a PR Mount Rushmore, Pat Jackson, APR, would be there along with Edward Bernays and two others. From my experiences, both people have had a lasting impact on our public relations and communication profession. (During my career, I was fortunate to have worked with both of these luminaries.)
And if there were a Museum of Public Relations, Pat Jackson would certainly deserve to have his own exhibit.
But wait, there is such a museum, thanks to the folks at Baruch College in New York City. And now a month-long exhibit about Pat is on display until September 30th.
On September 8th, I was honored to be a panelist for the launch of the exhibit and NSPRA was one of the sponsors for the special evening. NSPRA Board members Vicki Presser and Evelyn McCormack also attended. It was great to have a chance to give back to Pat because he gave so much to NSPRA for nearly 20 years in many ways unknown to our members.
NSPRA Connection Through Anne Barkelew
In case you are unaware, Pat was a major force in our profession. In 1956, he founded his own firm Jackson, Jackson & Wagner (JJ&W). His firm started out as a public interest firm and then expanded its scope to providing service to major corporations, nonprofits, and government organizations. His real connection with NSPRA came in the early 1980’s when he was president of PRSA and Anne Barkelew, APR, was NSPRA President. These two leaders collaborated with other PR organizations to form a council to tackle major issues in our collective fields.
A Credible Advocate for the School PR Professional
Pat was one of the first major PR gurus to fully understand how truly substantive, talented, and experienced NSPRA professionals are. As an example, in our own archives, we have audio files of Pat speaking about many new communication pros who start at corporations like Motorola and who may become pigeon-holed into working only on internal newsletters for 10 years, while NSPRA’s school PR pros may write and edit both internal and external newsletters, deal with teacher strikes, face a major life-threatening crisis, and also help pass a bond referendum after just being on the job for 18 months.
Pat Jackson “got us” and promoted our work wherever he could. And during his monumental career, he gave more than 4,000 speeches over 26 years alone.
Pat Was Always the Go-To Session at the NSPRA Seminar
Throughout the years, Pat’s Seminar sessions were always jam-packed with people sitting on the floor and others standing near the doorway just to catch a few of his teachings. He is known for his behavioral process of making public relations a vital and necessary function for any organization.
He also firmly believed in doing low-cost, “dip stick,” actionable research to shape your PR activities. Pat translated the statistics of public opinion research into messages that stuck with our members. We all found that we could actually use his translation to sell new programs to our bosses.
He believed in going around the gatekeepers and building relationships with the public opinion leaders in the school community. During his career, Pat work with schools in 41 states and 4 Canadian Provinces. He taught us so much about behavioral research and the practice of PR. Plus, Pat gave back to NSPRA by never charging us for his presentations as we only picked up his expenses for these annual events.
Best of All, His Advice Still Works Today
As I reflected on Pat’s work in preparing for this recent panel, I focused on some take-aways from Pat’s teachings that demonstrate his relevance to us today:
- Go directly to the stakeholders that are important. Cut out the gatekeepers.
- When recommending a new PR tactic, always ask, “Why are we doing this? To what end?”
- Risk analysis has to be part of what we do. Assess the risk potential of misunderstanding the problem or the risk of bad messaging or no messaging at all. (Use this strategy to sell new strategies or tactic to your decision-makers.)
- People want to be served, not sold. They want to be involved, not told.
- People who attack us often take charge of the issue. No, we need to take charge of the issue. (Think Common Core.)
- Preach to the choir and call choir practice.
I Saved the Best for Last
Each year Pat produced with his team 50 issues of pr reporter for 26 years. As a young professional, I found it to be the one newsletter that quickly became a “must-read” in my life.
And now you too can learn from that very publication because Stacey Smith, APR, of Jackson, Jackson & Wagner announced at the exhibit launch that all back issues of pr reporter as well as other items like Pat’s papers and presentations are continually being updated on a new website at www.PatrickJacksonpr.com.
NSPRA still sells an audio collection of Pat’s presentations at the NSPRA Seminar and the proceeds go to the Pat Jackson Scholarship Fund which enables a member to attend our National Seminar. Just go here at nspra.org.
I thank Stacey Smith and all the folks at JJ&W for completing this project so that we can share more of Pat’s career and counsel with our members.
Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director