Bradford O’Hearn passed away this week at 74. Brad was a mentor to me and was at least partially responsible for my time in government PR. He was both a great journalist and public relations man, with solid ethics and lots of common sense.
Brad made the transition from journalism to PR look natural and easy; he was successful because he understood the roles of both professions, and also knew that by nurturing relationships and contacts, he’d get his stories written and his clients written about.
My links to Brad were many. While he was a Newsday reporter, I’d pitch him regularly. When he left Newsday after 20 years to serve as Suffolk County Executive Patrick Halpin’s press secretary, he recruited me to work in a similar role for the Town of Babylon. Later, I consulted for the Deer Park School District to help pass its budget, which had been rejected by voters for 10 straight years. My efforts were successful, and I eventually gave up the client and recommended the work to Brad. Deer Park’s budget has never failed to pass since we took it on.
As a PR man, Brad had numerous clients who counted on him to get their stories into the media. He also had an affinity and expertise on the subject of ethics, both in journalism and PR. He delivered presentations on ethics to members of the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI) and other groups, and frequently lectured on college campuses. His hypothetically-based case studies and participatory style became my template for teaching ethics years later; I’ve since emulated and implemented Brad’s approach.
Journalists like Brad O’Hearn often make very good PR people. Their ability to know a good story, put it into compelling words, and create an interesting experience for their audiences is what PR people are doing more and more in our “create your own content” and “be your own media” digital age. Brad’s move from reporter to public relations practitioner was a lesson on how to do it well. Rest in peace, old friend. Your thoughts?