Grady graduate has made a career of promoting America’s best-known chicken
Chick-fil-A may be closed on Sundays, but Don Perry (ABJ ’74) still has a job to do.
“My expression routinely is ‘there are no dull days,’” he says. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen moment to moment.”
Perry grew up on a farm in Valdosta watching “Bewitched” and knew that he wanted a job that required a briefcase. He is now the vice president of corporate public relations for Chick-fil-A and leads the public relations staff of eight members and supporting PR agencies. When he started working for the family-owned company 28 years ago, he was the PR staff.
“I came on board in 1983 to literally start the public relations function here, because the company was young, growing and emerging,” he says. “The company was trying to move beyond just a small, regional family chain to become a national brand.”
And Perry has helped it do just that. His job has gone through what he describes as a cycle, evolving from building a positive brand to now concentrating most of his time on the issues management side of the business.
“We’ve seen Chick-fil-A certainly grow up and progress over the years, but now we’re into the phase of doing all the right things for the reputation management of that brand,” he says.
Some of these activities include Chick-fil-A’s support of the community and involvement through the WinShape Foundation. The foundation was created in 1984 to help “shape winners” through its summer camps and other programs that aim to cultivate college students. Other efforts from the foundation include a foster-care program and a scholarship program that provides up to $8,000 annually in a joint effort with Berry College in Rome.
The company also supports college athletics through the annual Chick-fil-A Bowl and Chick-fil-A Kickoff, which resonates with Perry since he had three sons—Brandon, Jason and Kristian—who played college football at Wake Forest University, Morehouse College and Florida A&M University, respectively.
Because of Chick-fil-A’s dedication to the community, it has garnered a reputation for being very generous. Not only does Don Perry support all of the company’s activities from a PR standpoint, but it has carried over into his personal life as well.
He decided to become involved with his alma mater because UGA “was mirroring what I saw at Chick-fil-A—giving back and offering that helping hand.” He has been a member of the board of trustees for the UGA Foundation since 2005 and in September 2011 received the Blue Key Service Award from UGA’s Blue Key Honor Society. Perry has also been involved in the classroom and frequently leads discussions in introductory public relations courses.
“At some point the Chick-fil-A days will come to an end, which is an emotional tug, but life runs its cycle,” Perry says. “I will be finding something to stay busy, and playing golf five days a week won’t be it.”