Harold Burson, co-founder of Burson-Marsteller and one of the most influential figures in PR history, has passed away at the age of 98.
BCW CEO Donna Imperato said Burson lived a giant life as a master of influence and was one of the true pioneers of PR and strategic communications. “He was the wisest person I knew, with the highest level of integrity, humility and kindness," she said. "Harold inspired tens of thousands of public relations and communications professionals around the world. His values and affinity for life will always be the core DNA of Burson Cohn & Wolfe. It has been my extraordinary privilege to have known Harold Burson as a colleague, a mentor and a friend. We will miss him.”
Burson and Bill Marsteller started up Burson-Marsteller in 1953, and the agency became one of the largest public relations companies in the world. In 1979 it became a subsidiary of Young & Rubicam, which in turn was later acquired by WPP. In 2018, it merged with Cohn & Wolfe and renamed Burson Cohn & Wolfe.
Before starting up Burson-Marsteller, Burson had established Harold Burson Public Relations in 1946.
In addition to his career in PR, Burson made many contributions to society at large, serving as a presidential appointee to the Fine Arts Commission, founder of the Kennedy Center Corporate Fund, a board member of the World Wildlife Fund, and an executive council member for the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, his alma mater.
Memorial services for Burson will be held in New York City and at the University of Mississippi. The family asks those wanting to celebrate Burson’s life to make a donation to the Harold Burson Legacy Scholarship Fund at the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi.