It was a public relations man’s dream -- his company's logo worn by hundreds of world famous news people and VIPs in a two page spread in LIFE magazine in connection with humankind's greatest achievement of the 20th century.
Nick Pensiero realized that dream by being creative and trying to be helpful.
Just prior to Apollo 11, the first human lunar landing mission, "Uncle Nick" as he was called by many of his NASA and media friends, thought for a long time about what he could do that would be good for his company RCA and the throngs of people who would be watching the launch. He came up with having 30,000 multicolored, cardboard sun visors printed with the RCA logo at a cost of a few cents apiece. The thought was to distribute them at the press and VIP viewing site but NASA didn’t agree.
The day of launch dawned hot and muggy and Pensiero was walking around the press site, waiting, but wearing the only sun visor in sight. Pretty soon reporters were asking if he had any more. He didn’t say, "I've got 30,000 in the back of my car," but by the time of launch virtually the entire press grandstand was filled with reporters sporting a RCA sun visor. A LIFE photographer caught the colorful picture. A youngster found one of the boxes of sun visors and was selling them for a dollar apiece to the VIPs before he was stopped…and they were given away.
The primary job of public relations people is to provide information on their company's products to the public through the news media. But keeping the media happy goes a long way toward getting their company mentioned in connection with its contribution to a major achievement. Public relations people often come up with gimmicks to keep the company name visible to media folks. Pensiero was brilliant in this category and was always handing out souvenir envelopes, pens and other items. At the conclusion of the Apollo program he had match books printed with the astronaut patch for each crew, placed in clear Lucite boxes and passed them out at a launch party. Instead of using them up immediately to light cigarettes, many people saved them and they are now selling in space memorabilia auctions for prices between $50 and $100.
Pensiero did not spend his entire career in public relations. As a matter of fact he did traditional public relations activities in addition to his primary job as a marketing manager. Born in Philadelphia, he graduated from LaSalle College and did graduate work at Temple University and Ohio State University. He is an honors graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. An Air Force veteran, he served as a logistics officer in World War II and the Korean conflict. He was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1946 for developing a logistics control system.
Pensiero originally joined RCA in 1940 and held various marketing and administrative posts until 1953, with time out to serve in the military. Between 1953 and 1959, he was associated with Oxy Catalyst Inc., and was assistant to the president and manager of merchandise development. In 1960, he was named manager, marketing administration for Philco Corp's Computer Division and in April 1962 he rejoined RCA as administrator, staff marketing, for defense electronic products and quickly moved up to manager, government marketing services. It was only in 1982, two years before retirement, which he was given the title of director, public affairs for RCA's government systems division.
After retirement, Persiero was active as a consultant, but his favorite activities involved people. He was founding president of Burlington County College's Learning Institute for Elders, LIFE Program, and also served as a program instructor.
Adopting the persona of "Grandfather Nick," he spent countless hours visiting elementary and high schools and spinning stories for the youngsters about the space program. He also brought a treasure trove of memorabilia to illustrate his talks.
Pensiero passed away in 2003 and is survived by his wife Anne, six children and nine grandchildren.