Remembering Harold Burson (1921-2020)

Hburson-(1).jpgThis week, CPRS pays tribute to Harold Burson, who passed away Jan. 10 at age 98. As the chief architect of the modern public relations profession, Burson’s impact was widespread and included collaborations with many members of the Society over the years.  
Today, a few of them have shared memories of Mr. Burson with us in honour of his legacy:
I had the great privilege of knowing Harold Burson when I started my public relations career at Burson-Marsteller/Toronto, in 1980. Toronto was one of the first international offices opened by B-M in the 1970s. There were only six of us on staff when I joined but we grew quickly and Mr. Burson (we always called him Mr. Burson, even if he said to call him Harold) was a frequent visitor to the office.
Mr. Burson took an interest in everyone in the office and no matter your title or position, he stopped by your desk to ask how things were going and what clients and projects you were working on. If you were wondering how to solve a client’s communications problem, he was quick to help you with his sage advice or to point you in the right direction: “Call so-and-so in our Hong Kong office; he dealt with a similar issue!” Mr. Burson had his finger on the pulse of everything going on in the vast global network that B-M became.
A visit to the B-M New York office was not complete if you didn’t stop by Mr. Burson’s office to say hello. He sent handwritten notes to congratulate you on a promotion or work anniversary and I loved his personally-signed Christmas cards that usually included a picture of his West Highland terriers.
Harold Burson was the consummate public relations professional. He was a quiet leader who led by example and inspired all those who were fortunate enough to be his colleague.
Thank you, Mr. Burson.


Carol Panasiuk, APR, FCPRS LM
Fmr. Executive Vice President, Cohn & Wolfe Canada
Fmr. Vice President, Burson-Marsteller
I met Harold several times when I was a young “Burson person” managing one of our key clients in the Toronto office in the 1980s. In my mid-20s, I could have been intimidated but instead I realized that this highly successful leader was humble, wise and a careful listener. He took an interest in people and wanted to know we were doing our very best work for clients. He was appreciative and thanked everyone for their hard work. He was often accompanied on his Toronto visits by Lloyd Kirban, the agency’s head of research. It underlined how Harold knew that research, analysis and insights were key to effective public relations. Harold Burson was a great role model, as a practitioner, a leader and as a kind human being.


Bruce MacLellan, APR, FCPRS LM
President, CEO of Proof Inc.
Fmr. Vice President, Burson-Marsteller
The public relations world has lost a giant with the passing of Harold Burson last week, a man who built what was for a time the largest firm of its kind in the world. As a young man working for Burson Marsteller in their Montreal office in the early 1980s, this agency instilled in me a professionalism demanded of all employees, which went from presentation techniques to speech patterns to grooming. The brightest and the best passed through their doors as consultants and clients, and the time I spent there impacted the way I approached both work assignments and people for the rest of my career.

Gordon McIvor, PhD, APR, FCPRS
Fmr. Sr. Manager, Corporate Communications Accounts, Burson-Marsteller
As a former Burson-person I give much thanks to the legendary Harold Burson for my successful career in PR.  Burson-Marsteller formed many of my opinions, skills & approaches to public relations & communications. Today we embrace & celebrate his global impact & legacy.


Eileen Tobey, APR, FCPRS LM
CPRS Senior Fellow in Residence, Humber College
Fmr. Senior Account Executive, Burson-Marsteller

Harold Burson was a legend and a pioneer of modern public relations and communications.
I was proud to work at Burson-Marsteller, which was at that time the largest and most successful PR agency in the world. The structured thinking and research-based approach to solving client problems was a great training ground for PR practitioners and provided a discipline that made us all better professionals.  


Janet Wile, APR, FCPRS
Fmr. Client Services Manager, Burson-Marsteller

Our deepest condolences to the Burson family for their loss. 

Rest in peace Mr. Burson.
CPRS National.