Chet Burger, A PR Founding Father

Chester Burger

Many years ago, Chet Burger told me to rewrite my resume before applying for a job I really wanted.  He was right and I landed the job.  I’ve long remembered his insistence that I include measurable accomplishments, not just job descriptions.  

Even though that advice was given more than 35 years ago, it instantly flashed through my mind when Jim Arnold shared the news that Chet Burger died this afternoon.  

For those of you not familiar with this classy 90-year-old gentleman, Chet Burger is considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of PR–right up there with Edward Bernays, Carl Byoir, Moss Kendrix, Arthur W. Page and Ivy Lee.

Chet was the ultimate PR consultant whose advice and counsel was sought and followed by many, including AT&T for whom he consulted for some 33 years.   In 1988, Chet retired from Chester Burger & Co.,Inc., the nation’s first communications management consulting firm.  A devoted servant to his country, Chet received the Medal “For Outstanding Service to the United States” in 1995.

Beginning his career as a Page Boy at CBS in 1941, Chet worked his way up to National Manager of CBS Television News before leaving in 1955.   While at CBS, he developed methods for reporting world news on TV news broadcasts which were just being launched.  In April 1946, he became the nation’s first television news reporter.  He was first president of the Radio-Newsreel-Television Working Press Association of New York.

During the years of the civil rights campaigns, Chet served on the board of the National Urban League.  He was a founder of the Black Executive Exchange Program, and received the Outstanding Mentor Award “for 21 years of counsel and support to minorities in Public Relations.”  The United Negro College Fund awarded him its Distinguished Service Citation.  He received many other national awards for outstanding service to his country and the profession of public relations.  The Museum of Public Relations carries a bullet-point career capsule of Chet’s early days, jobs, books and awards. 

Chet’s acceptance remarks for the prestigious Arthur W. Page Society Hall of Fame Award which he received in 1992 are as relevant today as they were back then.  The speech title summed up the remarks perfectly:  “Phony Communications is Worse Than None at All.” 

Fortunately, the Arthur W. Page Center at Penn State University conducted an oral history interview with Chet–excellent viewing for those who never had the opportunity to know Chet, and a good memory jogger for those of us who did.  The profession lost one of its true legends today.

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