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James V. O'Connor: Publicist, Author, and Cussing Adversary

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''People think PR is smoke and mirrors and stretches the truth, but I never do. I'm the most honest person I know, never even exaggerate, and won’t work for dishonest people,'' James V. O’Connor explains.

In the vein of honesty then, because O'Connor wouldn't want it any other way, it should be disclosed that he never dreamt of a successful career in the field of public relations. In fact, he didn't dream about a public relations career at all. While that is what he has achieved, his original goal, which came to him in the form of an epiphany while in college, was to become a novelist. In fact, that's what he believed he was born to do.

One more admission before continuing on: he did indeed accomplish that dream.

While attending college at Loyola University Chicago, O'Connor discovered his passion for writing. "I was a C+ student, but was getting A's on all my papers," he says. So, following graduation he joined the army to "experience life." This, he believed, was how he would become a true writer. Ironically, however, he became an officer with the Corps of Engineers and was sent to Korea, instead of Vietnam, where he oversaw the finances for recreational activities. He jokes, "That's the army for you!"

When he was finally discharged, O'Connor made his first foray into the writing world working as an assistant editor for Rotarian magazine. "After several years, the editor strongly suggested I pursue a career in something other than writing. In my mind, he was the terrible writer," O'Connor quips.

He did eventually leave the magazine, although the switch was a result of familial obligation rather than the belief that he shouldn't pursue his love of writing. He thereafter joined a Fortune 500 company where he was later moved to the public relations department as a result of his frequent PR critiques. "That was not my plan, but at age 32, I suddenly had a career."

O'Connor was so adept in the public relations industry that he eventually went on to serve as director of corporate communications at Alberto Culver, manager of public relations at Brunswick Corporation, manager of media relations at G. D. Searle, and manager of financial communications at LTV Corporation.

After leaving the corporate word, O'Connor was subsequently employed by two public relations firms, including Ruder Finn where he served as senior vice president, before founding his own firm, O'Connor Communications, Inc. in 1989.

In between managing his firm, obtaining new accounts, and writing press releases and feature stories, he founded the Cuss Control Academy. Having worked in the communications field for such a long time, O'Connor became extremely aware of the state of language, and specifically the negative impact bad language — cursing in particular — was having, and has, on society. The goals of the organization are simply to make people aware of the negative consequences of bad language and to reduce and/or eliminate its use. (In case anyone was wondering, it is pointed out on the group's website that "the Academy is not motivated by or affiliated with any religion.")

Q: What do you do for fun?
A: Tennis, paddle tennis, golf, work out, write books, spend time with my wife, children, grandchildren, and friends.

Q: What CD is in your CD player right now?
A: I love music, but only listen to it in my car. My CD is homemade — mostly oldies. My favorite song is Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler, my favorite classical is Pachelbel's Canon. Both stir my emotions.

Q: What is the last magazine you read?
A: I read Business Week and Newsweek.

Q: What is your favorite TV show?
A: I don't watch it because I feel I am wasting time, but if I did, I would watch comedies. I love to laugh.

Q: Who is your role model?
A: My father, a great guy in every respect.

In 2000 O'Connor scaled back his firm's operations in order to focus on promoting his first book, Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing. Utilizing his own public relations skills to promote the book, O'Connor appeared on more than 100 television shows, including Oprah, was interviewed on almost 600 radio stations, and was featured in hundreds of magazines and newspapers such as Time and USA Today.

Despite the fact the O'Connor has achieved his lifelong goal, however, he has not turned his back on the profession that gave him the opportunity and the skills to accomplish it. "I love what I do, and I'm fortunate in that I can work at whatever pace I want."

Today O'Connor continues to manage clients and participate in the editorial side of the profession. "I like coming up with PR strategies and enjoy writing articles and releases. I'm good with clients and with editors because I listen and ask questions, but despite all my experience, I hate being with clients for more than 90 minutes, and I'm uncomfortable pitching editors and reporters." Luckily, his one and only staff member likes to make those contacts. By the way, that staff member is his wife.

Over the years O'Connor has accomplished a lot, yet he is equally pleased with everything he has achieved ranging from the small to the grand. "I'm proud of every article I ever wrote, every story I got placed, every annual report I produced, and every brochure I put together," he admits.

In the end though, O'Connor's success can be directly attributed to those who have helped him along the way. "I never would have succeeded without mentors. Most of them were my bosses, and they took me under their wings and taught me the ropes. They inspired me to become a mentor, and I discovered that helping others who have potential is very gratifying, as well as humanitarian. It also creates friendships and dedicated employees," he explains.

So, as a mentor, what advice does this optimistic and humorous individual provide? "Be as nice as you can to everyone you meet in life. We are all in this together, sometimes struggling, and kindness is hard not to like."

And that's the truth. It must be, because O'Connor doesn't lie.
On the net:O'Connor Communications, Inc.

Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing

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Popular tags:

 corporate communications  Ruder Finn  Vietnam  switches  recreational activities  public relations  press releases  Fortune 500  USA Today

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