Monday, January 05, 2004

It's Spelled F R E D

A good friend, a great public relations professional, a great adviser and mentor has passed away.

Fred Hoar - spelled F.R.E.D as he joked - passed away on Friday. So far the Mercury News has a small obit but Fred was the man that launched the Lisa at Apple, worked at Fairchild Semi, was one of the original tech pundits, was a man that knew no boundaries, always had a piece of advice for younger practitioners, was just a great man.

My first internship was at Miller/Shandwick Technologies in Mountain View. The office was in the dog building, on Castro Street, and I got to work on Philips Semiconductor and then Compaq Computer - two great clients for an intern. When I switched to Compaq, my hours became odd late night shift, from noon to 8 PM, with an hour for lunch.

My other late-night mentor, and pizza buddy, at M/ST was Tricia Heinrich; Trish is a wonderful person and great PR practitioner, who I still tease about being too nice in a field that can be quite political and is full of backstabbing and credit taking. Tricia was the first executive - she was a VP at M/ST - that sent me a 'nice job' fax during the National Semiconductor / Cyrix merger. She was the first to commend me for my work, while she was on the road, and I had no real guidance. I bet she doesn't remember that, but until recently I had kept that fax in my clip book (okay, in the shuffle of moving, I can't find that box). Now, if she'd only fire her current agency and hire POP! Public Relations!

Being at the office with my late hours, I got to build a great relationship with Fred. That, plus being a Michigander seemed to endear me to Fred as Fred used to live in Birmingham during his career - I can't remember where, though.

Fred was a go-getter, a total PR mensch who held late night hours. While faxing off documents to M/ST Singapore, I began to develop a friendship with Fred, who began advising me on my public relations career, offering help and advice to land a full-time job. When I got my offer in Los Angeles, I also had an offer in Houston and a pending offer in San Francisco. Someone kept putting internal emails on my chair before I came in - I always suspected it was Fred pushing me to take LA - and when I did get the LA offer, I asked him what to do with the firm in the City. Fred's answer was classic Fred, but very helpful nonetheless: Fuck 'em, they aren't that good.

With those words, I took the job in Los Angeles, keeping in contact with Fred throughout the years. When I started POP! Public Relations, I asked Fred to be part of my advisory board. Even though he was sick, he said he would love to help me out. That's Fred in a nutshell. If he liked you and respected you, he helped you out and went out of his way to help you out.

One of the things that sticks in my mind with Fred was that he respected intelligence, while quietly tolerating idiocy. More and more, though, the idiocy seemed to be creeping into public relations, and I could just see Fred wince at what I would read on O'Dwyer's or in PR Week.

A few Fredisms that I have, and still use to this day, is that "advertising is pay for play, while public relations is pray for play" and that "public relations has 7 times the reach of advertising, while advertising costs 7 times as much as public relations" - both maxims that are good to remember.

Plus, Fred always was sweet and nice to everyone he worked with, from the top corporate officers to all levels of reporters, to his public relations colleagues, as well as the interns, and to receptionists and everyone in between. Fred realized that public relations is about more than just media relations, but about dealing with all levels of the public. And, that's what I try to remember when I work.

I spoke to Fred last week, after XMas but prior to the New Years. I wanted to touch base, see how he was feeling, and try to make it out to the Bay to see him.

Update: Mercury News wrote a full obit today.
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