By: Allison Zullo
Scripps PRSSA gathered on Monday, Dec. 1 for its usual weekly meeting. However, this week’s meeting was anything but usual. Why? Because Fred Cook, CEO of Golin, one of the top public relations firms in the world, was visiting Ohio University to speak to PRSSA and other Ohio University students about his unlikely journey to becoming a CEO of a major global PR firm.
Cook’s speech was all about improvising, which he defined as taking your skills, resources, and experiences and turning them into something exciting and special. He stressed that improvising is a survival skill, particularly in the professional world.
Cook explained that he lived a relatively normal life until his freshman year of high school, when he was kicked off the tennis team after participating in a weekend tournament with older men that was not sanctioned by his school. At this point, he said, he began his education in life experiences, rather than school experiences. Cook believes that these life experiences are often more important than what you learn in school, and help you tremendously in the real, professional world. The more life experiences you have, the more ideas you will have, and the more ideas, the better.
Cook stressed many unorthodox points about how to prepare yourself for the professional world someday: travel the world, experience different things, ask questions (especially of those in leadership positions at your internships), don’t be afraid to run with your crazy idea(s), customer service is important in ANY line of work, and much, much more. With each piece of advice Cook gave, he included an always-hilarious life experience he had that taught him these lessons. From traveling the world on a ship and being arrested for drunk driving for a company that offered rides to people too intoxicated to drive, to improvising during his job as a California tour guide, Cook’s entertaining stories never failed to make the standing-room-only audience laugh, while learning invaluable career advice.
Cook ended his speech by stressing one thing: worry less, and be braver! He understands that it takes a lot of courage to be brave, but Cook stressed that courage is built by experience, and there is no way you can fail if you have countless experiences on which you can fall back. He left us with a single quote: “In your career and your life, it’s about the experiences you have, not about the promotions and salaries you earn.”
Cook stayed after his speech to sign copies of his book, “Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO,” and talked to those who approached him with questions or a desire to chat. His speech was based upon what he wrote in this book, and even more of his crazy stories and life experiences are detailed in it, so if you are interested in learning more about Cook, pick up a copy of his book and start reading (and stop worrying)!