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On the Case With…

Each month, as part of “The Business Case for Public Relations,” PRSA asks an industry leader to reflect on his or her career and make a “business case” for public relations.

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On the Case with James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA

August 29, 2013

James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the president of The Lukaszewski Group Division of Risdall Public Relations in New Brighton, Minn. There, he continues a practice in crisis management, leadership and organizational recovery, which began in Minneapolis in 1978, moved to New York in 1986, and returned to Minneapolis in 2011. He has crisis and leadership clients in every U.S. state, most of Canada, and Central and South America.

In honor of PRSA’s Ethics Month, look for a special roundtable discussion with members of PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (BEPS), featuring Lukaszewski in this issue.

Name: James E. Lukaszewski,ABC,APR, Fellow PRSA

Childhood ambition:
To try to find ways to do things that mattered. As a 14-year-old explorer scout in Minneapolis, I volunteered to become part of a rescue squad started by the Minneapolis Fire Department. Providing peripheral first aid and assistance to victims and firefighters was my first exposure to crisis situations.

Current livelihood:
I remain on call, 24/7, to clients having extremely serious, touchy and sensitive problems.

What changed:
In my 20s, I had a variety of jobs, including working in the local community of Brooklyn Park, Minn. I helped organizations develop new strategies and revitalize themselves, and worked on or led civic organizational activities. One day, someone mentioned that I was good at public relations. My response was, “What’s public relations?” He answered that question and the rest is history.

First public relations job:
An internship in Minnesota Gov. Wendell R. Anderson’s office as a low-level deputy press secretary enabled me to engage firsthand with a wide variety of public policy issues, public players and  citizens with problems.

What you know now that you wish you’d known then:
The real beauty of public relations — everything I did during my life would become useful to me in my PR career every day. I would have lived my early life a little harder and learned a lot more, sooner.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:
Chester Burger, APR, Fellow PRSA, the most important mentor of my career, said, “Tacticians are a dime a dozen in this profession. Think up. Think at a higher altitude. Master the strategic dimension of public relations.”

Greatest professional accomplishment:
Helping others succeed — whoever said, “Helping others achieve their objectives will allow them to help you achieve yours,” shared an extraordinary insight on life. I’ve written a couple of books about it.

If you weren’t in public relations, you would be:
Probably in public service, somewhere in government

Desired legacy:
Listen to your lawyer, your crisis communicator — but then do what your mother taught you.

Make a “business case” for public relations:
Every crisis situation is a case for public relations. In nearly 40 years of practice, the first and most common criticism — even of relatively excellent responses — is always that communication failed early on. Careers, reputations, jobs and cultures depend on communication and public relations every single day, but especially in crisis.


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