Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chester Berger, RIP

Sad to hear that Chester Berger passed away. A PR legend and pioneer in both public relations and television news. He certainly was well known on the East Coast, but his reach was international and lasting.

The PRSA release offers some great insights into his achievements, but as you can imagine only scratches the surface. Chester's career and engagements in a variety of important endeavors goes much, much further. Check here for some additional insights.

Some of his most amazing achievements?

  • Chester, in some circles, is credited with being the first television news reporter. His pioneering experience in television made him a leader in how public relations determined specific strategies in how to work with television news. What seems routine to many of us now was uncharted territory then.
  • He was a pioneer in promoting the advancement of minorities in public relations.
  • His effective and trusted public relations counsel to AT&T is credited with raising the profile of public relations in the c-suite across the United States. See below.

My father, Robert B. Wolcott Jr., had the pleasure of working with Chester during my father's leadership at PRSA and in the early days of PRSA's Counselors Academy, which my father helped create. It is because of the efforts by these (and other) early pioneers that the senior executives of public relations agencies are now trusted advisors to the CEOs of major worldwide companies.

I had the chance to meet Chester several years ago when I traveled to New York City for PRSA leadership training. Somehow, PRSA had arranged for Chester to provide a "bonus" session for us - but it wasn't about public relations. In addition to everything Chester did and loved, he had a passion about history. As it turned out, he took several of us on an eye-opening "behind-the-scenes" history tour of lower Manhattan. Chester delivered on his promise that we would see and hear things no one gets from a local tour company. We heard a book of little known facts, like how the "crowns" on the top of fence posts around Battery Park had been knocked off by colonialists during the Revolutionary War. Millions of people pass by this fence and never realize this piece of history. But, Chester did.

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