Who are the heroic characters from the history of public relations?
The standard histories list personalities such as Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays, though their legacy is questionable. Mark Borkowski’s alternative history of Hollywood publicity brought a new cast of characters to light, though their limited attachment to the truth makes them dubious role models.
Now a television drama has introduced us to a hidden hero. Channel 4’s Endgame depicted the secret talks held in England that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa. These talks were brokered by a corporate public affairs manager, Michael Young. His actions were sanctioned by his company, but he was still taking a great risk. The outcome was not obvious at the time, and the journey was tortuous.
In this video interview, the real life Michael Young speaks about the making of the film and of his role in it. He’s the opposite of the showman-publicist; he’s a self-effacing political operator who saw that his public relations skills could be used to good effect for conflict resolution.