Barry Wanger, APR, Fellow PRSA, president and founder of Wanger Associates in Newton, has closed the award-winning agency he founded 32 years ago. He has worked in communications for 52 years, including serving as a newspaper editor and reporter, director of public affairs for major universities, and political press secretary.
Barry is a former president of the Boston Chapter of PRSA, chaired many committees, served on the Board for nearly a decade, and was co-chair of the Hospitality Committee at ICON17. PRSA Boston recently sat down with Barry to learn more about why he decided to work in PR, highlights from his career and what’s next for him.
How did you get started in public relations?
Like many of us in the field, I started as a newspaper editor and reporter for papers in California, Connecticut and the U.S, Virgin Islands. After I became a press secretary for presidential and other political campaigns. When I was handling Tom Atkins campaign for mayor in Boston in 1970, he introduced me to Ed Bernays, who is regarded by many as the father of public relations. We became friends and he inspired me to go into PR.
What were some of the major campaigns you’ve conducted over the years?
I’ve probably worked with more than 100 clients but my most memorable projects would include The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, the largest private property robbery in American history; the launch of the $100 million American Business Collaboration for Quality Dependent Care, the biggest corporate business collaboration of all time; the first International Youth Employment Summit that brought together more than 100 journalists from 25 countries in Alexandria, Egypt, and the 50th anniversary of the Framingham Heart Study.
You’ve won more than 30 public relations awards over the years. Which are the ones that were most meaningful to you?
I’m most proud of being elected a Fellow of PRSA. As far as individual honors, the Diane Davis Beacon Award from our chapter and the Chrystal Bell from the Publicity Club of New England are the most meaningful as they both are for lifetime achievement.
Your career in communications has involved more than public relations. What are some of the other things you’ve done that are most memorable?
I think covering forest fires in California and the Vietnam protest rallies in Washington were among the highlights of my journalism career. In politics, working on Sen. Muskie’s presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire and dealing with the famous “crying” incident was an unforgettable experience. I also loved my time in Washington heading public affairs for the National Endowment for the Humanities, promoting some of their major grants and going to the White House to celebrate NEH’s 25th anniversary.
I’m putting the final touches on a biography of Arnold Hiatt, a philanthropist, political activist, and arguably one of the most successful and influential American corporate executives of the last half of the 20th century. If that’s successful, I may try to do others. My wife and I plan to do a lot of traveling and I’ll consider working on short-term projects as part of a team for other PR agencies. I also serve on the Board of two nonprofits, give advice to tourists at the Boston Visitor’s Bureau, and am working on my bridge game. Certainly, I’ll go to more Red Sox games and read books that I’ve been wanting to get to for years.
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