It takes more than just time to build a business, especially in a highly competitive field like public relations and marketing. An industry leader needs to be innovative, excelling in communications and creative services while continually forging and maintaining vital relationships across nearly every business sector. These are some of the pieces that make up the success with one local agency.
Gordon C. James Public Relations, located near 40th St. and Camelback, recently celebrated its 30-year milestone. In a tumultuous year, the agency has stayed the course while adapting to the terms of a different business world.
The man behind the business, Gordon James, was born in Salt Lake City and relocated to Phoenix with his mother shortly after his birth. He lived downtown with his grandparents and great grandmother and attended Madison Simis Elementary and Central High. James left the desert after high school to further his education and start a career. He attended the University of Colorado, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration, and then made his way to Iowa.
“I moved to Des Moines after graduation,” James said. “What luck, because I would have never met George H.W. Bush if I hadn’t moved there.”
James was in the real estate management business, renting office space to politicians who needed to set up for the caucuses. He rented Bush his first campaign office in 1978.
“I met him there, and it was love at first sight,” James said. “I started as a scheduler for the 1980 Bush for President campaign and then eventually did advance work, event management and media relations for GHWB, finally joining him at the White House after he was elected President in 1988.
“I still cannot believe that I have been honored to work for two Presidents, GHWB and GWB. Who would have ever thought a Central High kid would have such an honor?” he continued.
He explained that the start of GJCPR came about when “I knew I wanted to get out of the ‘every four-year (or two-year) election cycle.’” James moved back to his hometown and started an agency that would continue for several decades – and counting.
“For about 20 years, our offices were in the same building my grandfather used for his insurance agency,” James said. “We’ve had the opportunity over the past 30 years to work in every state and multiple foreign countries.”
In addition to the PR business, James is on the board of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and the Veterans Medical Leadership Council. He is also an inductee into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame after serving in the Iowa National Guard from 1969 to 1975, which he said was “the honor of a lifetime.”
Celebration plans for the company’s 30th anniversary were put on hold this year due to the pandemic.
“Instead, we are focused on acts of kindness as individuals and as a company. We will be using the party finances to contribute to the nonprofits we value, as well as those our client’s value,” James said.
The company recently assisted the Veterans Medical Leadership Council with transitioning to a virtual “Heroes One and All” fundraising luncheon. Through the years, the firm has served various companies and organizations, including Bank of America, TriWest, St. Vincent de Paul, Childhelp and Crossroads.
“I met the ladies who founded Childhelp, Sara and Yvonne, some twenty years ago,” James said. “Their life mission of protecting some of our most vulnerable is dear to my heart. We are fortunate to work with multiple nonprofits here in Arizona and nationally.”
The last year has put a damper on some facets of public relations and marketing, but Gordon C. James is confident and ready.
“2020 brought change that will likely stick with us,” James said. “While we are looking forward to more in-person events – from galas to press events – the virtual technology we adapted during COVID has led to some exciting additions to our capabilities and reach. Our intention is to continue to grow as a business and continue to contribute to our community.”