My public relations mentor, Claire Harrison, passed away last month, and my sense of loss for someone that was part of my professional life is more than I would ever have imagined. Certainly it is true that Claire became a dear, personal friend after we parted ways, professionally. But, just as much, Claire was my teacher, someone who gave me my chance for a successful and rewarding career.
To me, Claire was a superhero. Superheroes don’t die, but she did, and I remain, almost a month later, in a state of semi-shock.
So much of the time I spend in life is related to my business. I am passionate about my work and about the value of public relations. Without a doubt, I was born for this life and purpose, but it was Claire who gave me my first real opportunity to demonstrate my talents, and it was Claire who taught me the rules, procedures and protocols, the psychology and the language of my chosen career in public relations.
Claire believed in me and gave me room to grow and make mistakes.
Claire mentored without hovering or nervously micromanaging. Neither did she sit down with me every afternoon to teach me my ABCs. She worked, set an example of confidence and calm, and I watched, closely. She edited my materials at times, and I learned from every new or deleted word and comma. She made some courageous decisions in her business and with clients, and I was there to witness and learn. She wore her dignity, knowledge and confidence like a cape. Claire won respect, she won clients, and she was successful; I was a sponge.
With a mix of intelligence, beauty and elegance – elements I couldn’t necessarily copy – she held court among strong-willed, successful businessmen as a forceful, dynamic and intuitive woman executive, easily equal in power to her client counterparts and possessing valuable expertise and instincts they did not have but readily recognized and appreciated.
She stood her ground in terms of compensation and profitability. She was my professional beacon of light, and I owe her a debt of gratitude for the incredibly stimulating career I have had, and the experience to overcome the challenges, too, that I have had to face for my own business to survive. Claire is my lineage in public relations, and it is one of my fervent wishes that I am able to pass on her valuable and inspiring teachings and earn the same respect of those who I have touched in the same way.