March 27, 2018

Tom Harris, the “Harris” of GolinHarris and Al’s partner and friend, died yesterday after a long illness.

Tom not only was a smart and influential PR person in his own right, he was instrumental in growing Golin into a marketing PR powerhouse.  Al and Tom were an unbeatable pairing when they joined forces in the late 1970’s.  While Al focused on growing the McDonald’s relationship, Tom focused on winning and serving new clients.  It worked, the agency diversified, and we grew into a major, multi-office agency.

Tom had an impressive career after leaving Golin as an author, consultant and teacher.  Through it all, he was an energetic thinker and a great guy.

Tom left the agency in the mid ‘90’s.  But his imprint on our agency remains today.  We don’t have Harris in our name anymore, but we do have his legacy in our client base and in our people.  Especially here in Chicago.

As we remember Tom, I wanted to share some wisdom that seems very appropriate for today.  As we mourn his passing, we should be grateful for all he did for our business, and for the PR business overall:

“When I concluded 14 years of teaching grad students at Northwestern University, here is what I told my last class: ‘Truth is what we are all about. Not hype. Not spin. But truth. If public relations is to retain its position as the credible source, we must not blur the line between information and propaganda, between advocacy and salesmanship. The old description of public relations as ‘the conscience of the corporation’ is more relevant than ever in today’s complex society. The highest calling of PR is to keep our organizations on straight paths, to counsel the powers-that-be not just to say the right thing but to do the right thing. Our greatest value to our organizations, the media and our stakeholders must always be to separate information from misinformation and disinformation, and tell it like it is.”

Services are tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Am Shalom in Glencoe, Illinois.