October 15, 2013

Harold Burson's Blog

‘Being More’: A Part of Burson-Marsteller DNA

Posted By Harold Burson

Unknowingly, the term “Being More” has been an apt descriptor for Burson-Marsteller’s underlying aspirational goal from its start in 1953 as a firm offering public relations services to business-to-business clients. Since our clients were technology-based, we mainly hired engineers/writers as account executives — individuals who knew the clients’ business and understood their products. We aimed at “Being More” than our competitors by offering, with Marsteller Advertising, “total communications,” now popularly referred to as “integrated marketing.”

With the formation of the European Common market and the expectation that many American companies, including our clients, would establish manufacturing facilities in Europe, we opened an office in Europe in 1961, the second U.S. public relations firm to do so. Our overseas coverage — another manifestation of our underlying “Being More” spirit — continued with offices in Asia starting in 1973, Latin America in 1978, Australia in 1980, and mainland China in 1985.

In the mid-1960s, we strived toward “Being More” to our clients and providing fresh opportunities for our growing staff. We expanded geographically in the United States and equipped ourselves to offer clients an expanded range of services. We opened offices in Washington, Los Angeles, Houston and Toronto. We hired specialists in corporate and financial public relations, consumer public relations (at one time we had four registered dieticians in Chicago) and later in healthcare and Silicon Valley high tech. We hired individuals talented in staging large scale events like the AT&T Olympic Torch Run for the Los Angeles Summer Olympics and the award presentation ceremony at the Calgary Olympics featuring a then-gee whiz laser display. We introduced New Coke at Lincoln Center and reintroduced Coca-Cola Classic (the original Coke) six weeks later. We represented the Government of Mexico in the build-up to the history-making North American Treaty Alliance. Our Oslo office developed the presentation that won the small town of Lillihammer the Winter Olympics, and we were the agency of record for the Seoul Summer Olympic Games. We staged the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington attended by a crowd of 110,000 without a serious incident.

Our objective has also been “Being More” in how we managed our business. We were the first public relations firm to have an IBM 360 computer to do now-routine client cost accounting and understandable billing. We were first to adopt word processing, and the first to become globally computerized. We pioneered hiring women for mainstream account handling and management positions in public relations and have diligently pursued greater diversity in staffing. Our training programs and summer intern program are cited as models for our line of business.

The “Being More” spirit also shines through in our thought leadership — starting with our total communications concept. We recognized the role of corporate social responsibility as early as 1973 when I addressed that subject in a speech at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. Today, our offices on six continents regularly report on trends in public attitudes in political and economic matters and are widely quoted in leading media. Our commitment to “Evidence-Based Communication” is our commitment to identifying the real problem and delivering a tested solution.

While “Being More” has just recently been adopted as our publicly stated objective and commitment, it is both recognition of our past and a directional beam for what we know will be a shining future. We can hardly fail: “Being More” is part of the Burson-Marsteller DNA.

Harold Burson
October 15, 2013