When PRNEWS hopped on a video call this week with Jonathan Rosen, principal and co-founder of BerlinRosen, we were delighted to have his junior associates join—Noah, who turns 11 June 19 (today) and Jack, 9. Rosen did not ask them to leave the room or keep their voices down, but allowed them to experience our interview and contribute to the conversation. As a leader in PR and a dad, he knows the importance of public opinion—even if it's under his own roof during remote work and homeschooling, and encourages open dialogue within his family.
With Father's Day approaching, we spoke with Rosen to discuss the influence of fatherhood on his PR work and vice versa.
PRNEWS: How did you come to work in PR?
Jonathan Rosen: I worked in politics running campaigns. I went to law school and realized that the law part was not for me. I was more interested in the narrative than the technical aspects. The summer of that first year of law school, we worked on an impact case. The media part was much more interesting to me than the motions and practice. In 2001, I began working on the New York City mayor’s race. One of the lawyers I worked with was also involved in Mark Green's campaign. He and chief of staff Valerie Berlin (co-founder of BerlinRosen) gave me a call, and asked if I wanted to join the campaign.
PRNEWS: How does PR play into the responsibilities for your children?
Rosen: With my kids, I think a lot about the issues young people face, from having things marketed to them and the pressure [they encounter] on social media and bullying to the institutions that support them. It’s not that being a dad gives you a special lens, but you think a lot about the world your kids are in, and the challenges lots of kids have, and how you show up in the world.
As a PR exec, having kids also creates healthy boundaries. This is an industry where you can work all the time. There is a real counterbalance having kids, which ultimately is healthy and productive and makes you step back and prioritize. It hopefully makes you more empathetic in dealing with colleagues and clients' personal challenges.
We are whole people and have things we deeply value that are not about our jobs. Parents, pets, friends—we have things we are trying to care for and deal with outside the workplace. Starting the business when our kids were babies gave us a lens on how to think about balance, and what’s important, and [it] informed our approach.
PRNEWS: What does being a dad mean now?
Rosen: This will be one of those moments and periods of time everyone’s kids will remember—and flashes of memories will include being quarantined at home for 100 days. My first memory is the Challenger exploding.
I'm trying to make this experience for my kids as positive and nurturing as it can be. I've found kids are more resilient than adults. They take the world as it is, and as it comes. Being a dad is about helping manage this experience one day at a time. And the weird silver lining—there’s no business travel, no client dinners—and I don't miss it. It's a bizarre and horrible situation, so if there are any silver linings, I've gotten to have a family dinner 100 days in a row.
[As he says this, Noah comes over to give dad a hug.]
PRNEWS: What should male leaders strive for now?
Rosen: To listen more than talk (even though I'm doing a lot of that now), and to be aware that, especially as a white male leader, that I need to be doing a lot of listening, learning and challenging my biases, and thinking about how I can be an ally to our staff across all backgrounds.
And going back to fatherhood—work-life balance is still very gendered. Like lots of dads, I try to make that not the model in my household, but caregiving does disproportionately fall more on moms. I think more about my role as a father and make sure I’m stepping up. I'm trying to learn from people about their perspectives and creating space for people to bring their whole selves to work.
PRNEWS: What do you say to your kids during these turbulent times?
Rosen: We’ve had interesting and challenging conversations about what is happening in the country, initially about COVID and privilege. Kids are kids. They only know the narrow world they know. We talked about who is an essential worker, how they are valued in our society, and how much more our society needs to respect those roles—not just clapping at 7 p.m. but paying them living wages and respecting them.
We had a discussion about the deep structural racial injustice that persists in this country. A hard conversation. You raise kids to be respectful of people in uniform, and this is an important but hard concept for a young person to wrap their heads around. [The people in uniform] might treat another child very differently. It’s a very shocking reveal for a 9-year-old. We've watched the news together and talked about it. It's a lot for kids to take in.
PRNEWS: Any parting thoughts on fatherhood?
Rosen: No matter what you do for a living, there’s nothing better than having kids. Every cliche they say about it is true.
Nicole Schuman is a reporter for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal