Monday, July 17, 2006

Remembering a Giant

Last Friday I attended a memorial service for one of my mentors, Kal Druck, who died recently at age 90. Kal was a giant in the public relations industry and his firm, Harshe Rotman & Druck, was the fifth largest in the country during the ’70s, the decade when I worked there and grew up in this business. I admired him and learned from him.

He was a tall, stout Rooseveltian figure who dominated every room he walked into. He had a magnetic personality, was a brilliant writer and dropped pearls in nearly every presentation he made to a current or prospective client. Kal was from the "big idea" school of public relations and rarely entered a meeting without one. He believed that even the client with the smallest budget would buy and pay a lot of money for the right idea. Kal was a raconteur of the finest type and could mesmerize a room. He was the only guy I knew who could start out a presentation with a joke that had no relationship to the theme he was about to present and get away with it.

One of the legendary stories about Kal was that he was once on the phone first thing in the morning with a prospective client in Detroit, who felt there was a geographic disadvantage to retaining a firm in New York. Kal suddenly interrupted and said, "You know, I have an appointment now and I am wondering if I can call you back this afternoon." The prospect agreed. Kal left immediately and hustled his way to La Guardia Airport, hopped a plane to Detroit, and showed up in the prospect's office that afternoon. Well, you know the end of the story – He won the biz!

I studied Kal's words and techniques and took notes on what he said during sales presentations. I looked nothing like him. I was not a raconteur or a comedian. I had a totally different style. But in my latter years with the firm as my responsibilities grew, Kal started taking me with him to meetings. For presentations, he would say, "Now, I will introduce the firm and you carry the presentation!"

At the memorial service, I learned that he was a wonderful father, grandfather and husband. One of the family commented that occasionally at the dinner table with his kids present he would say: "Do you have any idea how much I love your mother!" Kal was demonstrative, and I believe he loved the business as much as his family. He became chairman of the Public Relations Society of America, as well as the president of Larchmont Temple, where the memorial took place. I was only disappointed that many of the others who were influenced by Kal were not there to celebrate his life.

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