Lessons on the Big Idea and Public Relations: Reflections on the 50-year career of Charlotte Klein

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Reed College of Media


Reed College of Media


Called the father of advertising by some, David Ogilvy is credited with coining the phrase “the big idea”: one that gets noticed, remembered, and inspires action. This paper explores the life and career of Charlotte Klein, a 20th century public relations executive who started her career with UPI and the film industry in the 1940s and who went on to work on such accounts as the Ideal Toy Company, French couture and champagne, the government of Israel, and PBS to name a few. Along the way, her selfconfidence and early work in Hollywood helped her develop “the big ideas” that served her clients, society, and the profession. Using in-depth interviews and primary and secondary documents, the authors discuss Klein’s big ideas that resulted in such outcomes as creating and promoting the first anthropologically correct black doll, building public support for the young state of Israel, and founding the U.S. Women’s Hall of Fame. In addition, we explore her influence as an early woman leader in PR professional societies and the gender-related challenges she faced in her career. As such, the paper helps document and contribute to our knowledge of a rich but little documented era in public relations history and records successful strategies that remain relevant to practitioners today.

Source Citation

Martinelli, Diana and Toth, Elizabeth. (January 2010). “Lessons on the Big Idea and Public Relations: Reflections on the 50-year career of Charlotte Klein.” Journal of Public Relations 334–350.