With the passing of Al Golin over the weekend at age 87, the public relations industry lost a great leader and many of us who were lucky enough to know him lost a friend.
Al is best-known for his firm’s 60-year relationship with McDonald’s, which began with his legendary cold-call to McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc in 1956. Al and many generations of PR practitioners who worked at Golin helped make McDonald’s one of the world’s best known, most respected brands.
His “trust bank” theory of public relations – the idea that companies and brands should make “deposits” of good deeds and good will in the communities they serve – seems commonplace now but it was a revolutionary idea in its day.
I worked with Al at the Golin office in Chicago for 11 years, and ended up leading our large team responsible for McDonald’s and Ronald McDonald House Charities. Working on that business felt a little like a sacred trust. Looking after Al’s legacy was a big job, but he was always kind and supportive.
Al deserves and will receive far more eloquent tributes than I can offer. What I will remember most about him is that despite his career accomplishments, his genius for PR and his near-legendary status, he was one of the most modest, humble men I’ve ever met. He was a gentleman in a business where gentlemen are rare. Although his name was on the door, it was never about him – it was always about the work and the team.
I will miss him, but his generous spirit and positive influence live on in everyone who was privileged to work by his side. Godspeed, Al.