PR veteran and long-time McDonald’s PR head Jack Daly died over the weekend. He was 62. Jack was going to write a Career Capsule for this blog, but others will now do so.
I got to know Jack about 20 years ago when he moved into the top PR job at McDonald’s and I was at Sara Lee. Jack’s career spans almost every aspect of communications–media, agency, academia, government and corporate.
Early in his career, Jack was press secretary for the governor of Ohio before accepting a research fellowship at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania while also working as a sports reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1983, he hung up his own shingle — J. Daly & Associates — and continued as managing director of the public relations division when it was acquired by Fahlgren & Martin in 1986. Shortly afterwards, Jack joined Golin/Harris in Chicago as vice president on the agency’s national McDonald’s account. He was promoted to senior vice president in 1988 and executive vice president and deputy general manager of the Chicago office in 1990. In 1991, Jack moved to Taco Bell as vice president of public affairs, a position he held until he was recruited away for the McDonald’s job.
I asked some of Jack’s young colleagues at McDonald’s for their reflections about this remarkable leader. Here are their insights:
Joe Curry, social media manager, described how Jack helped him and 10 colleagues launch McDonald’s Young Professionals Network (YPN), which now numbers more than 200 members at the company’s Oak Brook, Illinois headquarters. YPN plans to expand to other McDonald’s U.S. regions this year, a further tribute to Jack’s support of young professionals.
Joe, who is now co-chair of the YPN, says: “Jack had a true passion for developing people and encouraging them to grow. One testament to that was his wholehearted support and sponsorship of a Young Professionals Network to develop the future leaders of McDonald’s, and the YPN will be just one part of his significant legacy with the Golden Arches.”
Erik Gonring, Corporate System Communication, tells a personal story about how he got to know Jack. “Having been at McDonald’s for just under two years, I only knew Jack when he was fighting cancer. When I was hired, we had that in common. And that actually helped me get to know him, perhaps more-so than others. His reputation as a ‘master of issues’ is well known amongst management, and our Brand will surely miss having him to defend us against… well, everybody. I regret not having the chance to learn more from him. It would have been awesome to see some of the ‘sausage-making’ behind the scenes. Fortunately, he has taught many here the master of his craft.”
Erik also noted that Jack was a guy who “lived to work,” adding: “And to his credit, he did it until he was no longer physically able. He retired only days before his death.”
McDonald’s veteran Kathleen Bannan, who manages the company’s CSR group, praised Jack for exemplifying the company’s core values. She described him as one of the most real and genuine people she has ever met. She shared this recollection: “Sseveral years ago, Jack advised a group of us that the key to happiness and success was leading with your strengths. He was a ‘words guy’ so that’s what he led with and he had never regretted it. I think of that advice almost daily.”
Danielle Drzayich, Communications Lead in the Atlanta Region, sent Jack a thoughtful personal letter just a few days before he died. Her recollection of several events, including one that surely brought a smile to his face. Danielle’s story recounted: “Last week I was walking through the office and found myself snapping my fingers. . .and I instantly thought of you.” Danielle said she could always tell if he was in a good mood because he’d snap his fingers without realizing it. She also thanked him for giving her the confidence to become a better writer and PR pro. She told him she was lucky to have had him as a boss, friend and mentor.
We’re all lucky to have known Jack Daly. I’m counting on him to look down on us and occasionally snap his fingers to let us know he’s happy about what we’re doing in this profession.