Editorial: Honoring John Gulick

John Gulick, who died late last month, had a lot to teach people about public relations.

He served as a communications director with Computer Sciences Corp. for 10 years and also worked with numerous other high-tech firms. He also spent 20 years in the Air Force working in public affairs.

But it was not his experience that made Gulick different; it was his ability to distill that experience into a basic philosophy about the value and conduct of public communications.

The primary tenet of his philosophy was this: Information is more important than spin. Gulick was not naïve. He preached the value of PR as a strategic investment. "In the simplest of terms, PR means winning and sustaining business," he wrote with fellow PR guru David Shea in their book, "Media Isn't a Four-Letter Word."

But Gulick also realized that one of the vital functions of PR is education. A clear message can still be garbled by a reporter who does not understand the basic issues. Many organizations, in both the public and private sectors, rely on press releases to deliver information. Information, though, does not always translate into understanding.

During his career, Gulick helped many reporters by getting them access to experts who could explain the nuances of particular stories. In some cases, his clients did not benefit directly, because the interviews were only for background information. But he knew that their interests and the public's were best served by a well-informed media.

Gulick's sophisticated approach to PR will leave a lasting impression on many of us who dealt with him over the years.

More striking, though, was his professional demeanor — a curious blend of intelligence, confidence and humor that might best be described as an affable dignity. The circumstances in which reporters called Gulick were sometimes unpleasant, but Gulick never was.

Here at Federal Computer Week, we join the federal technology community in mourning the loss of this elder statesman.

John Monroe, Editor

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