Gorkana Meets…James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA

What gets me up in the morning is...

Always Barbara Ann. She is my sunshine girl. We have been together since we were teenagers, now married 49 years. She gets up happy every day, and if the morning is sunny, well, she is off the wall happy.

What made me want to get into PR was...

I discovered public relations later in life, at age 30. It was a fortuitous comment from a friend that led me to seek out Gerry Wollan, now retired, a PR exec at Padilla & Speer. We had a long cup of coffee together… in the course of which my life changed forever.

My first public relations job was…

An adult internship in former Minnesota Gov. Wendell R. Anderson’s press office as a low-level deputy press secretary enabled me to engage firsthand with a wide variety of public policy issues, public players and citizens with serious problems.

My philosophy of communications is…

  • First: All problems in organizations and business are management and leadership problems before they are any other kind of problem
  • Second: Few problems in an organization are crisis.
  • Third: All crises are management problems.
  • Fourth: All management problems are leadership problems.
  • Fifth: All leadership problems are followership problems.
  • Sixth: Staff functions exist to help management solve problems.
  • Seventh: Staff’s role is to find and present options for management consideration.
  • Eighth: Every boss at every level thinks they are great communicators.
  • Ninth: If communications advice is all you have to suggest, you won’t be called much.
  • Tenth: It’s their bus; we are passengers brought aboard only to help leaders and managers achieve their goals.

My greatest inspirations come from…

The discoveries I make every day generated by my insatiable curiosity about just about everything. The accomplishments of successful people, new discoveries in science and society, stories of great leadership and great sacrifice, getting things that matter accomplished, helping someone else achieve their goals and aspirations from their perspective, people who can inspire and lead others. I am a lifelong learner.

My childhood ambition was…

To try to find ways to do things that mattered. As a 14-year-old explorer scout in Minneapolis, I volunteered to become part of a rescue squad started by the Minneapolis Fire Department. Providing peripheral first aid and assistance to victims and firefighters was my first exposure to crisis situations.

Three things I seek from my colleagues are…

  • First, be ready to work when I call.
  • Second, be early with what you promise.
  • Third, everything you produce must be in final form and format.

The PR figure I most admire is…

Chester Burger (1921 - 2011). He brought Barbara and I to New York in 1986, and introduced me to American Public Relations, and beyond. He was in the process of retiring at that time, so I asked him what retirement meant to him. His reply was instantaneous, “I will no longer work for money.” He put in nearly another thirty years of work in service to America and many noble causes. My latest book, Lukaszewski on Crisis Communications, released in April 2013, is dedicated to his memory.

What I know now that I wish I’d known earlier in my career is…

The real beauty of public relations: that everything I did during my life would become useful to me in my PR career every day. I would have lived my early life a little harder and learned a lot more, sooner.

The greatest piece of public relations advice you ever received was…

Chester Burger, APR, Fellow PRSA, the most important mentor of my career, said, “Tacticians are a dime a dozen in this profession. Think up. Think at a higher altitude. Master the strategic dimension of public relations.”

What I read, follow and monitor…

I’m a habitual audio book listener of many, many authors, historians, biographers, scientists, political figures, strategists, business leaders (when I can find one), I subscribe to nearly 30 magazines, and I love reading newspapers on paper. I read The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, every day, plus a variety of local newspapers everywhere I go. I also listen to, when in the car, ten different public radio stations around the country.

Three words not in my vocabulary…

Vacation, Retirement, Bedtime

My greatest professional accomplishment…

Helping others succeed. Whoever said, “Helping others achieve their objectives will allow them to help you achieve yours,” shared an extraordinary insight on life. I’ve written a couple of books about it.

My best crisis advice is…

Begin with the truth, then Listen to your lawyer, your crisis communicator — but then do what your mother taught you.

The crises I avoid or refuse to work on are…

The list includes a number of issues like abortion; products like tobacco, guns, alcohol; rarely represent individuals, usually organizations, associations, government agencies, some private agencies and corporations. I promptly stop working for clients who fail to take my advice.

The most difficult challenge of my work is…

Finding the truth and getting clients to act on those truths as quickly as possible.

My legacy is…

That through my practice, my writings, teachings and presentations over the years I have helped practitioners be more pragmatic, advise with greater sensitivity, sensibility and confidence, to skip the crud, tell the truth, and shun or call out the liars.

What I hope to achieve at the 2013 PRSA International Conference...

To continue sharing useful, helpful, constructive, strategic information with my colleagues and to lean new information from them.

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