What I Know: Myra Borshoff Cook

The veteran PR maven is scaling back to crisis projects and a few clients as she enters her “renaissance period.”

AGE: 65  GIG: Founding principal of Borshoff, one of Indiana’s largest public relations and advertising firms.  NEW SPIN: Cook is scaling back to crisis projects and a few clients as she enters her “renaissance period.”

The first six years after I graduated college, I had five different jobs: newspaper reporter, teacher, computer programmer … I committed to every one. Even in the most challenging situation, if you have the right attitude, you can learn something.

I fear the art of conversation may be dying. When you see people out to dinner and they both have their smartphones out, reading or texting instead of talking, it seems like a lost opportunity.

The best advice I ever got came from my dad. When I was a teenager, he said in a loving way that I talk a lot and am too quick to react. He said, “Make sure your brain is engaged before you put your mouth in gear.”
Reputation is everything. With public figures, it stretches beyond who you are and reaches out to others who hold you as an accomplished person.
When something blows up, you wonder if that person didn’t have someone close who didn’t say, “Don’t do that. There are consequences. Look at what could happen.”
I once heard Jim Irsay say he would trade some of his most valuable guitars if he could have one Robert Johnson guitar. [Later,] I was at a meeting where an architect doing a slideshow had a picture of Robert Johnson’s tombstone. I asked him for a copy, got a nice frame, and gave it to Jim. He turned around and put it on the credenza behind his desk.
When people are very wealthy, you think you need something that costs a lot to show how much you treasure them. This was a simple gift, but it communicated I had listened to him.
When I see Jim’s tweets, I chuckle because they’re not much different than if he sat down to write a note. He loves puzzles and things that cause the reader to have to figure it out. So Twitter is a perfect vehicle for him.
I have always been a feminist. When I worked in an environment where all the top executives were men, I would say, “I know you weren’t trying to offend me, but some women would be offended by that comment, so I’m putting you on notice.”
Retirement no longer describes what people do. I see it as a period of freedom and discovery. I very much believe in the concept of lifelong learning.

—as told to Mary Milz

Photo by Stephen Simonetto

This article appeared in the December 2012 issue.