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Blanchard shares value of publicity

March 30, 2001
Former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard spoke in the Union on Thursday on public relations and his time as governor. Blanchard is planning to run for governor again in the next state election. —

Former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard told public relations students at the Union about the value of a good pair of walking shoes.

Blanchard talked to about 150 students, faculty and community members Thursday about how public relations benefited him in government, starting with his first run at the U.S. Congress.

In his first elected position, Blanchard’s public relations strategy was to walk his entire congressional district and knock on doors to gain name recognition.

“We had pamphlets that said ‘Jim Blanchard walked over 500 miles, he has wore out three pairs of shoes, he is now emaciated, will he make it?’” Blanchard said in his speech.

In addition to congressman, Blanchard has been governor and U.S. Ambassador to Canada. He said public relations helped him gain nationwide support for federal loans to Chrysler Corp., saving legislation in Congress and his temporary tax increases while governor.

“You cannot succeed in politics or government without good public relations; it is absolutely essential,” Blanchard said.

He said good public relations can help propel the average person.

“There are few Jesse Venturas who are really interesting and can come out of nowhere and get elected. The rest of us mere mortals really have to work at it with an amazing strategy, a lot of help and a little bit of luck,” he said.

Jeff Lazor, who attended the event for his public relations class, said Blanchard’s background shined in the speech.

“He was very personable,” the advertising junior said. “He related his experiences to real-life people like you and I.”

Lazor said although Blanchard made his pitch for governor in 2002, his information was helpful.

“I related to some of the things he had to do as a politician, when I have dealt with public relations,” Lazor said.

Journalism Professor Howard Bossen said the speech provided a fresh voice to students.

“I think it presented a perspective that shows the interrelationship between the ability to get your message out there and affecting change,” Bossen said.

The speech was the second in the Edward Zabrusky Public Relations Lecture - Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer spoke last year.

“We wanted to put a spotlight on public relations and honor someone from MSU who was involved extensively in public relations: Edward Zabrusky,”said James Spaniolo, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

Public relations is a specialization within the college.

“I think it highlights how important public relations is in the field of public services,” Spaniolo said. “It is not just the spin-doctoring. It is about how you can marshal information and use facts and get out front to tell your story.”

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