“The Essential Role of Corporate Communications”: A Lecture by Bill Nielsen

Bill Neilsen, former corporate vice president of public affairs at Johnson & Johnson

On Tuesday, October 2, Dr. Don Wright invited his friend Bill Nielsen, former corporate vice president of public affairs for Johnson & Johnson, to his public relations lecture at Boston University’s College of Communication.

Nielsen specializes in communication, public relations, public affairs, corporate coaching, and organizational vision and values, and his experience comes not only from the corporate side but also the agency side.

The lecture actually began with self-introductions from all of the students present, bringing communication to the table from the start. Nielsen said that he did not intend this event to be merely a lecture–but also a mindset in which to leave the audience.

During the session, Nielsen talked about the significant contemporary roles of both corporate communication and public relations in the global environment, citing his specific experience with Johnson & Johnson.

Nielsen explained how Johnson & Johnson’s communication strategy works.

  • First: Vision, commitment, and caring are three key factors when communicating with an audience.
  • Second: It is important to understand the client of your clients.
  • Last but not least: Create a values-based culture, and be responsible.

In terms of strategic insights regarding communication, he said, a great company will also not neglect the importance of globalization.

“The key to global standing for Johnson & Johnson is the strength of our reputation in the U.S.,” Neilsen said. “Another one is to strengthen the core communication process by conducting management communication as a priority and [by] managing crisis.”

“It really is about the personal values that define who I am and the responsibility,” Nielsen said.

He also mentioned that communication’s role differs between corporate and product brands. Corporate communication is more like a flat expansion, he said, whereas fields such as finance are more horizontally driven. He shared that corporate communication is more of an art form than a science, and people need to understand the public internally and externally to better communicate.

During the Q&A portion, students spoke up with insightful questions, including one student who asked about the specific code in the public relations career field.

“It really is about the personal values that define who I am and the responsibility,” Nielsen replied. “You have to be consistent in what you are doing because the public will judge by behaviors, and the more information that consumers have, the better they know us.”

Nielsen ended the lecture by emphasizing that though there is a long, consistent commitment for people who work in the communication and public relations field, the importance of this field cannot be argued.



Lucy Chen, Editor in Chief

Lucy Chen is a first-year advertising graduate student in COM at Boston University, and she received her Bachelor’s from BU Questrom in Finance and Marketing. She was born and raised in Hangzhou, China (which is a very beautiful city that you definitely shouldn’t miss out on), and she has lived in New York and Boston for the past six years. She loves creative ideas, and she loves to work and chat with people who come from diverse cultures.


Sarah Dasher, Faculty Liaison

Sarah Dasher strategically creates connections among people with words. She has written professionally across a variety of industries since 2004 and is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in public relations at Boston University’s College of Communication. Sarah holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and belly laughs at puns, no matters how terrible.


Comments are closed.