Most students probably never heard of Howard Blankman. Yet, as he passed away last week at age 91, it’s important to note and remember how much this one individual influenced so many PR “students,” particularly those, including me, who had the chance to work at his side.
I paid tribute to Howard in this blog in June 2015 after we celebrated his 90th birthday. “Like most PR veterans,” I wrote, “Howard took a serpentine route to a public relations career. A Jewish kid who grew up in Amish country, he was a young bandleader, a playwright, and later became a Tonight Show writer.” He worked in theater, writing and producing plays, and eventually opened a PR firm, The Blankman Group, in 1968, with a diverse client list including Cablevision, King Kullen and MasterCard International.
In my previous post, Howard’s dear friend Bert Cunningham noted: “In many respects, Howard has been the career father to a number of PR pros on Long Island. He also fathered the concept of an independent, full-service PR firm that also used advertising and marketing techniques to support PR. At that time the vast majority of PR was done in-house. The independent outside PR consultant was a fairly new service on Long Island.”
Howard also spent countless hours volunteering his expertise to promote the arts and economic development on Long Island. In 1997, he was presented with Public Relations Professionals of Long Island‘s (PRPLI) Lifetime Achievement Award; notably, it was Howard who was instrumental in founding PRPLI after the Public Relations Society of America’s local chapter had folded. His vision to create an organization where Long Island PR pros could network and learn resulted in scores of lifelong friendships and mentors; PRPLI still serves to enhance our PR skills through its excellent professional development programs.
To his last days, Howard was actively writing, mentoring, and starting new projects. As a fitting tribute, PRPLI will introduce the Howard Blankman Mentor Award at its annual dinner in May. Howard’s former “students” and I will celebrate his life by always striving to be better PR people, just as he did. Your thoughts?