Bill Nielsen’s Career Capsule: Opportunity to Make a Difference Defines Career

Bill Nielsen

“This is KLOO, 1340 on your a.m. radio dial, ‘The Big Sound In Town’.”  That was my voice as a top-40 DJ and commercial salesman. That town was Corvallis, Oregon, home of the Oregon State University Beavers where I majored in business but never learned about public relations.  But the job at the radio station exposed me to business and community promotion work and I loved that first job.

Then, five and a half years in the Air Force, mostly as a public information office at Andrews AFB near DC and in Japan – together with a graduate short course in PR at Boston University – convinced me PR was my field.  While in the Air Force I gained experienced in crisis management, handling aircraft accidents, dealing with anti-war protesters and conducting media relations for The President in connection with his trips on Air Force One.

Following a wonderful experience in the Air Force, I joined Carl Byoir & Associates and stayed with that venerable agency for 18 years – through our merger with Hill & Knowlton.  How do you possibly account for all you can learn and the great experience you gain working for an agency?  In the early years – actually from day one – I learned “the value of an hour.”   I’m writing an article about this because it is both a daunting and thrilling aspect of agency life and the character-building lessons last a lifetime.  To have to explain what you did all day, hour-by-hour, and to show that you added value is the daunting part.  The thrilling part is when your client actually pays your invoice, thereby acknowledging your hourly rate and your worth.

Initially, the invitation to join Johnson & Johnson in 1988 wasn’t all that appealing to me because I loved the agency work.  However, once I took stock of the opportunity, I never looked back.  Reporting to the CEO, being well-funded and given an unusually broad span of influence in an already well-respected, values-based organization, was a dream job.  Although time sheets were not required, the responsibility was 24/7.

It was in that job that my passion for this career field deepened.  I have seen the essential role public relations plays in the management mix or C-suite. When connected at the core and centered around organizational values, it represents the glue that holds the entire organization together and allows it to flourish in its industry.  The opportunity to make a difference in one’s life of work truly is a cherished aspect of this field.  

-Bill Nielsen

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