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Geoffrey Nightingale

Lloyd Harbor resident Geoffrey J. Nightingale, a highlyregarded and well-known public relations professional, died suddenly Sunday, February 9 at Huntington Hospital. He was 58.

Mr. Nightingale, who rose from an entry-level publicist to an executive vice president at BursonMarsteller, was remembered by his family, friends and colleagues as an extremely dedicated employee who was intolerant of the ordinary and who relentlessly pursued the goal of making a difference for his clients and his company.

"As a colleague. he will be remembered most of all for his passion for our business and for our people," coworker Jim Dowling wrote In a tribute distributed to company employees worldwide. "To Geoff, it wasn't worth doing if it was simply going to be good. It was only worth doing if it was going to be great."

To Harold Burson, chairman and founder of Burson-Marsteller, Mr. Nightingale embodied the best of the spirit of the company when the company was at its very best. "To the very end, he labored, though sick and weary, to restore and maintain the glory of our best days," Mr. Burson wrote in a letter to Gisela Staats Nightingale, Mr. Nightingale's wife. "He was our cheerleader, our prodder, our critic, our booster, our wise counselor, our most creative resource from the time he joined us. His was an unfettered lifetime commitment."

A graduate of Brooklyn College, Mr. Nightingale joined Burston-Marsteller in 1968 as an industrial publicist. He came to the company with a background as an industrial trade paper editor. It did not take long for him to begin his rapid climb through the company.

Within months after joining the company, he was producing work for a number of clients. He was then promoted to a newlycreated position of creative director. A short time later, he assumed similar responsibilities for all United States clients.

"New business activities flourished under Geoff's direction," Mr. Dowling wrote in his tribute. "He was a proponent of the 'Big Idea' presentation, to dramatize the creativity and breadth of resources we could offer a client."

He did what it took to land new clients and promote existing ones. "Once, the story goes, he used a live dog and threatened to shoot the dog if the prospect did not award us the business on the pot," Mr. Dowling wrote. The prospect did. Such is the stuff of legends."

There's another story which involved a live alligator. Apparently, Mr. Nightingale wrestled a drugged alligator for a PR stunt. He quickly found out that the alligator was aroused from its subdued state by the cold water they were wrestling in.

In 1983, he assumed responsibility of creative direction worldwide. He then made another major breakthrough for the company. He founded SynerGenics, a management consulting arm of the company. SynerGenics, with offices In New York and Europe, specializes in helping companies identify and clarify their missions and positioning.

In 1986, he moved to Europe to help strengthen the company's creative base. He returned to the United States three years later to expand the SynerGenics capability.

In December 1989, he was named as one of the best and brightest public relations professionals from the corporate and agency worlds by AdWeek. "Geoff Nightingale has helped transform the way American corporations communicate with their own employees," the magazine wrote.

The same year, he published "Nightingales," a collection of quotes. "The number one reason management has trouble getting its message across is that management tends to see communication as a task, when they should be looking at it as a way of life," one quote reads. "If you are having trouble being heard, you are not listening," is another.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Nightingale is survived by two grown children, Alyssa and Christopher Nightingale. A memorial service was held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington. Memorial contributions may be made to the World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C. 20037.

"Geoff was one of a kind," Mr. Burson said. "He had a special impact on every one he touched. All of us are richer for having known him: all of us are now poorer because we have lost him. But his lessons and example will continue to be a beacon in our lives."

by Donald McKay
Huntington News
February 20, 1998

Posted: 2/1/1998


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