PR’s Greatest Ever Business Builder

May 9, 2016


John D. Graham is celebrating 50 years at FleishmanHillard. Now our Chairman, he spent no less than 32 glorious years as this firm’s President and CEO. It is highly unlikely that anyone in our industry will ever again achieve what he accomplished. When he took over the helm, FleishmanHillard had just a single office – in St. Louis, Missouri – with 18 staff and an annual income of $1m. Before he stepped down as CEO more than a decade ago, annual income had risen to $500m.

No one I have encountered in my time in this business has ever understood the importance of relationships quite like John. He was, and continues to be, a supreme motivator of people – a gentle word here, a pat on the back there, always cajoling us to do better for our clients. Clients, for John, are the epicenter of everything. Today, long after he stepped down from the day-to-day management of his firm, he is on the phone relentlessly with great ideas on how we can enhance our service for client x, y or z. His enthusiasm is infectious.

As FleishmanHillard soared in the early ‘70s, Graham evolved at the speed of lightening to new trends. But through it all, his convictions never changed. He believed in the no-nonsense, self-effacing and relentless work ethic of the mid-western United States. He stood for long-term, sustainable business relationships. At the same time, as a brilliant entrepreneur, he built a small St. Louis PR firm into the most progressive on the planet.

Throughout this year, we will be marking John’s 50 years as one of the pioneers of global public relations. In doing so, we will also be reminding ourselves of the exceptional qualities required for us to continue to be true to our mission: create a global culture of success, with our people and our clients at the center.