My First Time

No, not that first time.  This is a blog about public relations and my quest to get back into the profession on a full-time basis.  I’m sure you could find a lot of commentary to the “that first time” topic many, many other places online.

I’m referring to the first time I ever got paid to communicate.  Here’s what happened.

In the summer of 1973, I learned of an opportunity to receive a $100 grant that would be awarded to a high school graduate who wrote the most compelling essay on some subject relating to higher education.  I honestly don’t recall the exact theme.  I do recall putting a lot of effort into the essay, then typing and retyping it on my trusty Smith Corona manual portable typewriter.  The word count was probably less than 500 words.

The organization granting this (at the time) quite princely sum was a Chicago chapter of the Polish Legion of American Veterans Ladies Auxiliary, of which my Aunt Stella was an officer.  Aunt Stella encouraged me to contribute an essay, as I had aspirations of becoming a journalist.

I could do this.  I was editor of my high school newspaper, the Holy Trinity Gold and Blue, after all!  And, for the first five or so years of my professional career, I was a newsman, including three years with the legendary City News Bureau of Chicago.   (My City News years should be the subject for a future post or posts; there are lots of memories.)

Anyway, my essay won.  I made myself and my family proud, especially Aunt Stella who always encouraged me to read and study; and it was Stella’s ancient manual typewriter that I first typed on.

The Ladies Auxiliary recognized me at an event, at which time I was awarded the $100 check.  I was featured  in an item in the group’s newsletter — my first exposure to personal publicity.

Since then, I’ve been paid quite a few times for communicating. In fact, being a professional communicator has let me live a rewarding, fulfilling and comfortable life.  No mansions or fleet of exotic cars yet. That will happen after Hollywood buys the rights to  my still-under-development novel and gets Damon or DeCaprio to star in the film version.

It’s a privilege and honor to have the skills, resources and drive to compile thoughts and ideas and deliver them in an effective, persuasive way.  And, I remain steadfast in my belief that society today really needs skilled public relations professionals to deliver ideas and invite discourse.

The Public Relations Society of America drives home this contention in the Business Case for Public Relations, its current advocacy campaign:  “Public relations is more vital than ever before, given the explosion of consumer engagement through new and social media, the collapse of reputation and trust in major institutions and the evolving needs and concerns of corporate CEOs.”  Let me augment this statement to include “the evolving needs of every business, organization and government entity.”

Good public relations transcends the so-called C-suite; it’s needed by the line manager, the non-profit professional and local bureaucrat.

I had no concept of public relations when I wrote that winning essay on a manual typewriter a long time ago. A lot certainly has changed — for me and society — since then.  But good written communications had value then, and it has value now.

Do you recall your “first time?”  If so, please feel free to share.  Just keep your thoughts to the subject of this blog, please.

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4 thoughts on “My First Time

  1. Ed,

    I never got paid for my first publication, but I made a ton off of it. I wrote an article that was published in my High School paper. Unlike you and the nepotism you fondly endorse, I interviewed the town’s police force and featured one of its high ranking detectives. I tied together how they all worked so successfully together with our school’s dean of boys to make the town and high school a harmonious unit. How that paid me back is I got out of several speeding tickets that year and was caught cutting class with no repercussion.

    • That’s tremendous, Jeff. Speeding tickets probably cost at least $50 back then, so you probably netted a good amount in savings. Thanks for your reply and for reading my blog.

  2. Ed,

    My first publication was pure luck, a rarity, a stroke of lightning. In high school I was a fanatical reader of science fiction. I wrote three short book reviews of City and the Stars, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and The Ragged Edge, then sent them off to Seventeen Magazine. Over the transom…no contacts there. One day, I came home on my high school lunch break, and my grandma who lived with us seemed about to have a stroke. “This lady from New York called from Seventeen Magazine–I couldn’t understand her accent very well (remember, this was rural Michigan)–but I think she wants to publish your work. She’s going to call back at 12:15.” I waited for the call, and the young editor who phoned was Susan Isaacs, later of “Shining Through” fame. Seventeen paid me $90 for the three reviews, I was able to fund my summer wardrobe with the $$, I became a sort of local celebrity for 3 days, and even many years later, my mother still shows visitors the clips. My first sweet taste of the writing life…

    • Ann:

      What a wonderful story. I think I got $20 for my first real freelance piece, an interview with some jazz guy that got published in the Illinois Entertainer; I wrote for IE for around 12 years. I sent some record review on spec to Rolling Stone and other national music magazines, but no success.

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