Al Golin, the original public relations counsel to McDonald’s and founder of the Chicago-based firm Golin, died April 8 at age 87.
He died at his second home in Scottsdale, Arizona after a battle with prostate cancer.
McDonald’s CEO Ray Kroc in 1957 called on Golin for PR help, and the relationship lasted more than 60 years. The initial contract had been for $500 monthly. McDonald’s in its early days did not have much of an ad budget.
Golin Chairman Fred Cook said Golin “worked on McDonald’s until the day he died.”
“Kroc trusted him completely,” his friend Chuck Ebeling said in an obit posted by the Chicago Sun--Times. “He was really a pioneer of modern communications. Al was instrumental in the creation of the brand’s community outreach and messaging.”
Golin liked to say that building goodwill for the company could be like putting money in the bank. Every time the company did something to help its community, it would add up over time.
McDonald’s CEO Praised Golin
McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said the company benefited for decades from Golin’s wisdom and leadership.
“McDonald’s owes Al a tremendous debt of gratitude for all he accomplished in his partnership with us,” said the Easterbrook statement.
McDonald’s each year gives the Al Golin Trust Bank Award to the franchise owner who played the most important role in his or her community that year.
“We had other clients, but McDonald's was everything,” Ebeling told the Sun-Times. “We considered it the ultimate in community relations opportunities; to deal with the relationships of millions of people on a daily basis and always try to find ways to improve the quality of those relationships.”
Golin built the firm from a small office to a one with 1,200 employees and 50 offices worldwide.
He was the recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the Public Relations Society of America and the Publicity Club of Chicago, as well as numerous other honors. He was inducted into the PR Hall of Fame in 2015.
Born in 1929 in Chicago, Golin got his start in the early 1950s as a publicist for the film industry, working in the Chicago offices of MGM studios.
He is survived by June Golin, his wife of more than 55 years; their children Barry, Karen and Ellen; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
A memorial service will be held in Chicago at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the Golin family asked that donations be made in his name to Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Off the Street Club, the Goodman Theatre or Roosevelt University.
Spoke at O’Dwyer Event
Golin Spoke at O’Dwyer Function in 2005 called “The Greatest Generation in PR” that celebrated the 35th anniversary of O’Dwyer’s Directory of PR Firms. It was managed by Fay Shapiro, then O’Dwyer associate publisher and now publisher, CommPRO.biz.
Also speaking were Dan Edelman of Edelman; Harold Burson of Burson-Marsteller; David Finn of Ruder Finn, and Margery Kraus of APCO.
Golin told PR pros to balance high-tech with “high-touch” and not to be obsessed with tech capabilities. He noted that one colleague was e-mailing and leaving voicemails to him although his office was only 30 feet away.
On recent PR controversies, Golin warned: “We’re now becoming more of the problem than the solution.” But he said the industry has to be careful not to overreact.
“We can’t listen to the naysayers, and we have to take some chances and keep taking risks,” he said. “We need to focus on reading the public mind, and not manipulating it.”