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Getting out in front of the news

After cutting his teeth as a reporter, John Guilfoil, CJ’07, now finds himself on the other side of the notebook as principal of John Guilfoil Public Relations, LLC.

Being without a job can provide all the impetus you need discover your next opportunity.

When Marty Walsh replaced the late Thomas Menino as mayor of Boston in January 2014 and brought in his own staff, John Guilfoil, CJ’07, who had served as Menino’s deputy press secretary, was laid off.

“I had left the [Boston] Globe after six years to work with the mayor,” Guilfoil recalled. “It was a good opportunity to work with a historical figure and make some more money. Two years later, I found myself unemployed. But necessity is the mother of invention.”

Guilfoil looked at his misfortune as the perfect opportunity to be his own boss. One month later, Guilfoil launched John Guilfoil Public Relations, LLC, a full-service firm that has grown to represent 140 law enforcement and fire departments, government entities, and small businesses in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and Illinois.

“I figured why not do what I’m good at,” said Guilfoil, who covered breaking news, police and fire, and city and state government as a general assignment reporter with the Globe after studying journalism and criminal justice at Northeastern. “I had made a lot of contacts, and you have to build that trust to be effective.”

He also received a chance to make his pitch at a Middlesex County Chiefs of Police conference. According to Guilfoil, it wasn’t a tough sell as speaking to the press is often one of the least appealing aspects of a chief’s job.

Soon thereafter, Arlington (Mass.) Police Department became Guilfoil’s first client and he’s steadily built a stable of municipal departments and public health agencies, nonprofits, and small businesses who depend on his and his team’s expertise.

“It’s a 24-hour-a-day job,” said Guilfoil. “You have to be available at all hours, days, nights, weekends. But the work you do makes an impact. It’s important that the information you release to the public is clear and prevents any chances of miscommunication. Reporters want all the information and you have to be careful about what you put out there. You need to be protective and be sure not to compromise an investigation.”

Guilfoil, who is also an adjunct professor in Northeastern’s School of Journalism, loved his experiences on campus.

“It was a tremendous educational opportunity, but also a great life opportunity,” said Guilfoil, who founded Blast, an online entertainment magazine, while he was a student. “It was a real character-building experience and it prepared me well for the real world. But I also learned a lot about myself.”

Guilfoil knows that a community’s decision to use a PR firm can be a difficult one.

“I make a promise to each one of our clients,” he said. “The relationship is a very personal one. They have to know that we work for them, and when you are spending tax dollars on a public relations company you have to be sure the cost can be justified.

“You can’t just hang up a billboard advertising your services. We prove ourselves when we do well by the police and fire chiefs we serve. And I think our growth is a direct result of that.”

Click here to read more Alumni stories.

published May 2016