Handwritten thank-you note from Lew Klein.

Honoring Lew Klein’s Life and Legacy

Looking Back on Lessons Taught by Philadelphia’s Broadcast Legend

Yesterday, Temple University held a community memorial celebration for Lew Klein – a Philadelphia broadcasting pioneer and local icon who passed away last month at age 91.

After the news of his passing broke in June, several Philadelphia media outlets published articles to honor his life and the impact he made on the broadcast media realm.

In a front page story about Klein’s legacy, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “Over his career, he influenced thousands of students and hundreds of broadcast professionals, including Eagles broadcaster Merrill Reese, the actor Bob Saget, the comedian David Brenner, WPVI president Bernie Prazenica, Phillies broadcasters Richie Ashburn and Tim McCarver, and (American) Bandstand host Dick Clark.”

Additionally, the Philly Ad Club’s obituary for Klein noted, “Lew Klein had a masterful career in television broadcasting that has spanned more than five decades. And even after he retired, he had continued to champion a stronger, more vibrant industry through this involvement in teaching, lecturing and mentoring the broadcast stars of every generation.”

Important Lessons I Learned from Lew Klein

It was one of my champions, the late Sally Berlin, who introduced me to Klein. Sal and I were close friends through the Philadelphia Public Relations Association.

In the fall of 2001, Temple University’s School of Communications and Theater decided to rename its annual alumni event as The Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Awards to recognize Klein’s achievements and his 50-year teaching career at Temple’s communication school. When Sal heard this, she grew curious about what type of publicity was being planned to support the renaming.

Sal learned quickly that, other than a news release, the University’s communications team wouldn’t have bandwidth for a big announcement. In her indignation, she lined up my agency to publicize Klein’s honor.

I had the pleasure of meeting Klein for the first time a month or so before the December 2001 Luncheon when I interviewed him poolside on a boiling October day at his beautiful home in Rydal.

With Temple’s news release and my agency’s typical unbridled drive for earned media, we placed a number of wonderful stories, including a cover story in the now defunct Montgomery Record and a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer society column. Of course, all the TV stations were there too. Everyone knew Klein. I never met or crossed paths with him again, but I was reminded of my encounter with him when I heard news of his passing in June.

I decided to blog about my experience from 18 years ago to celebrate Klein’s legacy and share three things I learned from that earned media campaign:

  • Professional Associations Offer Unlimited Opportunities – If I hadn’t joined PPRA and become friends with Sal, I would never have met the legendary Lew Klein. My previous blogs have advocated for joining professional associations, and this is another good example of why.
  • You Can Demonstrate Your Talent with Enriching Experiences – Not all enriching experiences make you rich. Selected strategically and amplified to the right audiences, a pro bono project and a delighted “client” can also be a way to get your talent noticed by new and different high- potential influencers.
  • Paper Files Can Be Rewarding – SPRYTE’s portfolio of work is located in giant, old school metal file cabinets. In a world where there’s less and less paper, I was so happy to be able to grab my Lew Klein file. In it was the Luncheon program, the original newspaper clips, the Temple news release and my hand written interview notes.

Of course, Sal was thrilled for Klein with the results. This was just one of the thousands of magical things she made happen for people. Also in my file was a thank you note. Of course, I saved it. And I’m glad I did, because it was rewarding to see it again and to think about that special time so many years ago.

-Lisa Simon