Graduation Words of Advice From Al Golin

"Dr." Al Golin and me at Depaul's Commencement on Sunday where he received an honorary degree.

It was a proud moment on Sunday as this “pracademic” watched several of my students accept their degrees during commencement ceremonies for the College of Communication at DePaul University. I’ve only been teaching for a year, but more than a dozen of my students received their degrees as parents and friends cheered enthusiastically.

While the pomp and circumstance were memorable, my thoughts kept coming back to remarks made by Al Golin at Saturday’s elegant brunch for graduates and their parents.  The founder and chairman of global public relations agency Golin Harris discussed the start of his career more than 50 years ago–before PR was very well defined and the communications business was simpler.  He said he worries about technology making it too easy to avoid discussion today.  “I’ve found myself guilty at times when the person I’m calling answers the phone–when I would have preferred leaving a voice message.  This is a danger of many of us dismissing things much too quickly when a situation clearly calls for more discussion.”  He noted that even the late Steve Jobs, “the most heralded techie of all time,” admitted to hating the loss of touch these days.

Just as he advised the late Ray Kroc at McDonald’s some 55 years ago, he urged students to build a “trust bank” (a term he coined years ago).  He said the “trust bank” helped McDonald’s build “deposits” of goodwill in case they might need it for “withdrawal” when a crisis or sensitive issue arose.”  Al submits that there is a positive connection between trust and results.  Those individuals and organizations that build strong trusting relationships are best prepared to fully deliver on their missions and achieve results.

While urging young people to be current, creative and curious, Al also encouraged them to live a balanced life by giving back to their professions and communities.

“I interviewed a young person the other day who thought he was impressing me when he described himself as a ‘workaholic’ and thought I was the same,” Al said.  “I promptly told him that he should think of developing outside activities so that he would be more interesting to his family and friends, and, of course, his business colleagues.  I firmly believe that my interest in art, music, theater, literature and sports, in addition to community involvement, helped me lead a full life.”

Al also said he surprises young people who approach him after his speeches and lament that their roles aren’t appreciated within their organizations.  “They always ask me, ‘How can I convince them what I do is meaningful to the success of their business?'”  Al shocks them when he suggests that they should quit their job and go somewhere where managment does understand and appreciate them.  “When I was a young guy starting out, a wise man once said something I never forgot: ‘Find a job that you love–and you’ll never work a day in your life.  That’s the way it’s been for me, and I hope you have the same life.”


3 thoughts on “Graduation Words of Advice From Al Golin

  1. I worked with Al in the 70s when the “trust bank” concept was first articulated. It was based on Ray Kroc’s philosophy of giving back to the communities that contribute to an organization’s success. While trust can be compromised in an instant, the American second-chance ethic still makes the “trust bank” the best place to invest.

  2. As the former head of Communications for McDonald’s USA, I’ve known and had the pleasure of working with Al Golin for more than 15 years. As a long-time student of Public Relations and Communications, I’ve been learning from him for much longer. For those of us that know Al Golin and consider him a friend, it’s no surprise that he’s still teaching. Congrats Al!

  3. I’ve had the good fortune of knowing Al for nearly 30 years and he has always been one of the real gentlemen in our profession. He deserves every honor that can be given him….

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