Golin founder passes away at 87

Al Golin, the original public relations man for McDonald’s and founder of the Chicago-based PR firm Golin, died Saturday morning.

Golin, the man who founded what has become one of the world’s largest public relations agencies with a now-famous cold call more than 60 years ago, passed away peacefully 8 April at his second home in Arizona, US.

Regarded as a legend in his field, Golin saw the role of public relations extending well beyond that of a “publicist”.

Following several years as a publicist in the Chicago office of MGM Studios during the early 1950s, in 1956, he became a junior partner in a public relations agency – Max Cooper & Associates and later Cooper, Burns & Golin and then Cooper & Golin.

He later became the sole owner of the agency, and renamed it Golin Communications, until 1978, when Tom Harris joined forces with him to form Golin/Harris Communications.

Today, the PR firm has grown to more than 50 offices and 1,200 employees worldwide, and is known as Golin. Its clients include some of the world’s best-known brands, including McDonald’s, Walmart, Unilever, Nintendo, Texas Instruments, Mondelez and many others.

The agency’s longest-standing client, McDonald’s, that best represents the indelible impression he left on the industry. The agency’s history is inexorably tied to that of McDonald’s.

In 1957, Golin made a cold call to McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc and explained how public relations and community engagement could help Kroc grow his brand. Kroc invited Golin to see him and quickly retained the agency for US$500 per month, marking the start of a relationship that has spanned 60 years — the longest lasting client-agency partnerships in public relations.

“McDonald’s owes Al a tremendous debt of gratitude for all he accomplished in his partnership with us”, said McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook. “We have benefitted for decades from his wisdom and leadership, from his friendship and his support.”

“Ours was a remarkable partnership that became a great friendship”, longtime business partner Tom Harris said. “I have enormous admiration for his professional accomplishments, but most of all for his personal qualities and total integrity. And for our enduring friendship.”

As a respected public relations legend, Golin received abundant industry recognition, including lifetime achievement awards from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Publicity Club of Chicago and Inside PR magazine, the PRSA Gold Anvil Award and the Arthur W. Page Society Hall of Fame Award for “Career Achievements and Outstanding Contributions to the Profession.”

He was 87 and had never retired, continuing to provide counsel to his namesake firm, even in his final weeks.