But, today, I remember another "100" and one which has a strong connection to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar series.
PR legend and my closest friend, Mr. James P. Chapman, was born on January 24, 1916 in Macon, Ga. This Dan Boyd photo, taken at the 1991 CART awards banquet, is very special to me. A print, with personal inscription from Jim, occupies a place of honor in my office.
Any PR person would cherish the opportunity to work with Babe Ruth, Gurney, Bill France Sr., Andretti or Avis Rent-a-Car founder Warren Avis. Jim worked with all of them. Correction: They all wanted to work with him.
The most important thing I think of on the occasion of the Chapman Centennial is relationship building. Jim instinctively knew that having solid one-on-one relationships with key journalists was helpful in good times and absolutely essential in troubled times. There was no Internet, or E-mail, or texts, or Twitter or any other modern-day gizmos in his era. He built those relationships with phone calls, hand-written notes, a handshake, a smile and a "Thank you," often over a shared meal.
Today, far too many PRers think such relationships are accomplished with an impersonal electronic message. Jim knew nothing could ever replace the sound of a person's voice, a smile, a look in the eye, a handshake. Forever it will be so. I am absolutely certain Jim would speak out against this lack of professionalism and would not be able to understand that a lot of publicists these days don't even bother to visit the media center to talk with journalists and make new media friends. You'd be amazed that some of the most famous teams with big-time sponsors employ such people. Shame on the team owners and sponsorship managers and all others who allow this to happen.
In the nearly three decades I worked in PR somehow, without E-mail etc., I and others knew when a reporter was ill, or had to have surgery, or had a sick spouse or children, or who had a death in the family, or moved into a new home, or other significant life happenings. We knew because we were actually outreaching and talking to people. And, as a function of courtesy and good PR, I and others would send flowers or make some other appropriate gesture. It's pathetic many in today's PR crowd reflect the declining standards in our society and don't even know enough to send a card.
The Jim Chapman Award for Excellence in Motorsports Public Relations is decided by a blue-ribbon media committee, as Jim wished. I am the legal rights-holder of the award and non-voting chairman of the committee. As I always say to JCA recipients: The true honor is not the plaque. The true honor is having your name forever associated with that of the great James P. Chapman.
Happy 100, Mr. Chapman. Thank you. God Bless.