Oral Histories

Al Golin

Interview Segments on Topic: Selecting a PR Career

Al Golin Biography

Al Golin, founder of the international public relations firm GolinHarris, began his career in 1951 as a field press representative for MGM Studios.  In 1957, when he was with Max Cooper & Associates, he placed a cold call to Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s.  That conversation eventually grew to a partnership that changed McDonald’s from a fledgling company to one that has grown to 37,000 locations worldwide with 243 Ronald McDonald Houses in 25 countries. Al Golin developed the term “TrustBank” with Ray Kroc, believing trust as the greatest intangible at the heart of every long-term business or personal relationship. GolinHarris currently has 30 offices worldwide with corporate headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.


Interviewer:  The best thing to do is kind of start at the beginning and I wonder if you would just tell us what inspired you in the first place to enter the field of public relations as a career?

Golin: Well I was interested in it but I sort of backed into it if you will because my first job after finishing school was in the publicity department of MGM pictures. And I really took that job because I thought it would be an entree into the movie production. I kind of grew up in the movie business. My family owned movie theaters and things so I was reading Variety before I read comic books I think. So this was this job opened up and when I finished school and I took it as I said for the reason I thought I would get to be an entree into movie production. But after working in the publicity department for a couple of years I decided I was interested in that field so that’s how it evolved into the public relations business.

Interviewer: What prompted you to start your own agency?

Golin: We’ll I didn’t start it precisely on my own. I joined a fellow who had a small agency in Chicago named Cooper and he needed somebody to sort of watch the store because he was involved in a lot of other of clients who were into sports television shows and things of that nature and he was out as a co-producer of some of these shows in addition to doing public relations. So I was I was that guy who was the inside guy at that time.

Interviewer: Did you at that point in time think about starting an agency on your own or was this just a natural outgrowth of that?

Golin: Well I always was interested in starting a small public relations firm. And when I heard that he needed somebody in his firm, I thought it would be an easier opportunity rather than start from scratch. So we had a couple of clients, small clients and I soon became a partner in it after a couple of years.

Interviewer: Well you have just Golin Harris the agency which you founded is just celebrating its 50th anniversary. So what caused it actually to happen then?

Golin: Well I never dreamt 50 years ago that we’d be the size we are today with over 30 offices around the world and all kinds of major organizations that we represent. It’s great to have dreams but I never dreamt that it would turn into that sort of thing.