When a Company Invests in its Heart Surprising Things Happen

GolinNY Takes Their Al’s Day to Ronald McDonald House Charities New York 

By: Denise Paleothodoros, Executive Director 

This week Golin employees around the world will take part in our 10th annual day of service. We call it ‘Al’s Day’ in honor of our legendary founder, Al Golin and his June 19th birthday. It’s also a time to reflect on his modern legacy as a PR industry pioneer and our responsibility to carry that legacy forward.

Al intuitively believed a company that built goodwill within the communities it serves would reap significant rewards. In the 1960’s, the concept was a head-scratcher. Invest your own money and time not on your business, but instead on others’ needs and interests. Oh, and expect no short-term return at the cash register this week, or month. He coined this concept the ‘Trust Bank.’ The idea is to make regular deposits of goodwill that will sustain your business in times of crisis. How so? Because over time you’ll have earned customers’ and employees’ trust in your good intentions.

Al didn’t have analytical proof the Trust Bank would work. He had no audience surveys or focus groups. No test market data. No ROI projection analysis. All he could sell was what he believed in his heart. “Trust isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” he’d say.

In the early days of Al’s start-up PR agency, one client shared in Al’s belief. That client was Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s. He fully bought into the Trust Bank, investing more in PR than advertising during the first ten years, and creating an invaluable brand in the communities McDonald’s served. McDonald’s fast climb to success was tangible proof – Trust Bank contributes to long-term growth.

I recall 10 years ago, our current co-CEO Gary Rudnick, proposed the idea of Al’s Day to elevate our agency’s investment in its own Trust Bank. After all, it’s a concept we sell to clients and it’s worked for their business. Why not our own? At that time, volunteerism in the b-to-b world, and especially agency world, wasn’t fashionable. It took courage for an agency with short-term financial accountability to a public holding company to propose that hundreds of employees invest an entire day of billable hours toward community service in honor of its founder and presiding chairman at the time.

Did Gary have proof such action would build our brand? Or attract more employees or clients? Or ensure our client work won’t suffer? No, he didn’t. Like Al, he just knew this was a good idea.

From our many Al’s Days, here’s what we know about its long-term effects for Golin:

  • Employee morale and culture spirit is high
  • Giving back has become a way of life for Golin, from supporting organizations important to us, and in which our employees self-organize to volunteer for causes they personally care for
  • It’s infectious – today our offices around the world look forward to Al’s Day
  • We can proudly demonstrate our own brand authenticity to prospective clients
  • It’s a major recruiting asset for top young talent

While we might experience a short-term revenue dip each year during Al’s Day, a surprising thing has happened. It turns out that many of our employees are happy to ‘make up this time’ for our clients. We’ve learned the culture Al built is something special and breeds a contagious energy. Pride in our culture and our client work both matter. This is what we believe in our heart and soul.

To mark our 10th year, we’ve made a special effort for our offices from the Americas, the U.K. and Asia to donate our time and resources to one of Al’s most beloved organizations in which he was a founding board member. It’s also the charity of choice for our longest client, McDonalds – Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). This week we’ll begin more than 2,300 hours of service to Ronald McDonald Houses. Our teams will help cook and provide care packages for families, contribute to beautification and restoration projects, host fun activities for kids, roll up sleeves to clean and organize, and offer pro bono PR services to inspire community support of the charity.

In addition, we’ll have volunteer teams donating another 2,300+ hours in support of other important local community initiatives in support of youth and safety.

No doubt Al would be proud that his legacy lives on at Golin.