This week I stumbled across a book published during World War II by an old friend, Ray Josephs, a journalist, author and international public relations executive who died in 2005 at the ripe old age of 93. Ray was one of the best self-promoters I have ever met. It was instructive to watch him in action, even in his 80s and 90s.
Ray started his career as a newspaper journalist in the 1930s. He always wanted to travel, and managed to wangle an assignment from his Philadelphia newspaper to cover a story in South America in the pre-WW II years. He fell in love with Argentina and with a German
Jewish émigré he met there, and ended up marrying her and staying in Buenos Aires for several years. Buenos Aires was the beginning of Ray’s international communications career, a journey he enjoyed until just before he passed away.
The book I found was “Argentine Diary: The Inside Story of the Coming of Fascism.” He told me about his time in Argentina but I had forgotten the details, which I discovered in an article with Ray’s byline published in the British newspaper, The Independent in 1994. About his years in Buenos Aires, Ray wrote, “It was not only love that worked out. While in the city, I helped set up the first Latin American news bureau for Time magazine, sent stories to the Chicago Sun-Times and other dailies, and the show business weekly Variety. Through the entertainment world, I got an early lead on Evita Duarte, who later married military strongman Juan Peron, and my reporting on life in their dictatorship became my first bestseller, ‘Argentina Diary’ …”
Ray eventually moved from journalism into public relations, a new profession at the time. He founded International Public Relations, and did work for companies and brands from all over the world, some of them quite well-known, ranging from General Motors to the Concorde. But while his PR firm kept him busy, he never stopped writing. Among his books are “Latin America: Continent in Crisis,” “Streamlining Your Executive Workload,” and, the book he was best known for, “How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day.” This time management book, published in 1955, sold very briskly in in the U.S. and then was published in Japan as well.
Now I’ll move the clock up to around 1990 or ‘91. Ray was almost 80. He had a soft spot in his heart for Japan, which he had first visited in the ‘50s after the war when the country was absorbed in the tough task of rebuilding and reinventing itself. He had helped set up a PR firm in Tokyo that his firm worked closely with, and his clients included a lot of big Japanese companies. But he hadn’t been back to Japan for many years. Ray knew I had worked for a Japanese PR firm in Tokyo in the late ’80s, and called to ask if I could introduce him to some of my Japanese PR agency contacts. He wanted to take his wife Hanny to Japan and had arranged to write a trade magazine article on the Tokyo PR scene. I put him in touch with several of my colleagues in Tokyo, some of whom entertained Ray and Hanny royally while he interviewed them for his article. When he returned, he told me an amazing story.
A young man he met at one of the Tokyo PR firms said to him, “You’re very famous! I read your book about saving time– it is so popular here.” Ray answered, “My book was published long before you were born. Did you find it in the library?” The young man answered, “No, I bought it in the book store just last week.” Ray decided to pay a visit to his old publisher to find out how his book could still be in the bookstore, since he had not received any royalties for many years.
The publishing company (one of Japan’s largest) told him they had reprinted his book many times over the years, but unfortunately they had lost track of him and didn’t know where to send the royalties. Ray came home with a very large check and a great idea.
Ray figured if the Japanese were willing to buy his old book, which had not been updated since he wrote it, he could surely convince publishers elsewhere, both in the U.S. and around the world, to print new updated editions. He was successful in getting an American publisher to issue a new edition of his book, incorporating quotes from well-known modern day American business titans about their own time-saving tips. Then he set off on a grand world tour to find overseas publishers. He used his extensive network to get introductions to people who could help him in each country. Ray’s country visits included interviews with well-known local business people so he could incorporate tips from them into locally-tailored editions of the book. He also met with potential local publishers and arranged media interviews for himself with the biggest local media outlets. In essence, he was wearing three hats: journalist, business executive and what we would now call “talent.” He was doing his own PR and setting the stage for an incredible publishing coup.
He asked me for overseas contacts in the countries he was visiting who might be able to introduce him to publishers. I put him in touch with people in several countries who wined and dined him and Hanny while Ray fished for contacts with publishers and journalists.
When Ray came back from Europe, he showed me a very impressive binder full of media coverage he’d gotten for himself. The media in Europe were quite taken with this dapper little old man (he was very short and always smartly dressed), who, in his 80s, had revitalized his career as an author.
If you Google Ray Josephs, you’ll find “How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day” for sale in a multitude of languages. This man’s promotional skills were so well-honed that his second edition books are still selling all over the world, long after he ran out of hours himself. Ray mentored many people during his long career, and through them, his legacy, like his books, lives on.