Richard Grove has over 40 years of experience in the PR/media industry. He has received considerable press over the last several years for his use of a non-traditional business structure and compensation plan. CNN, PBS, Forbes Magazine and The Wall Street Journal, among others, have all profiled Grove and his use of the “virtual office” to reduce overhead and be able to offer a performance based compensation plan to clients.
INK inc. is the largest US public relations firm that specializes in a pay- for- results performance compensation structure serving global clients. INK specializes in garnering in-depth stories for its clients in the major print, broadcast, and online media.
MO: Why did you feel it was necessary to pioneer the concept of accountable compensation for large and small clients alike? Has this innovative structure changed how you conduct business?
Richard: In my experience as both a traditional PR practitioner and as a client with large firms and small, I felt deep resentment over the exorbitant hourly fees and retainers being charged with little to no tangible results being produced. It seemed inherently unfair…particularly so to smaller clients with restrained budgets. Too many PR firms were mere press release factories or “consultancies” that produced client invoices for time served but not results. I believed the industry needed a new, but “old fashioned” compensation model that charged for actual performance delivered. It changed the way we conducted our business by making us real partners with our clients willing to share the financial risks instead of just another vendor.
MO: Can you tell our readers why you believe that a “story with a strong narrative can build a brand?”
Richard: Consumers…whether an individual or another business…want to believe in and invest in a “brand.” They want to believe the brand enhances their own and adds value to their lives or their business. What better way to do so than to engage that consumer with a good story…a tale as it were…that captures their interest, their imagination and their intellect. It’s the same with the media. The only difference is it also has to be timely and newsworthy. Line up all three…strong narrative, timeliness, and news value…and you’ll capture the media.
MO: What would your advice be to a company who has recently received negative reviews or press? What should their next PR move be?
Richard: Facetiously I could say, ‘hire a good PR guy”… But truthfully, their first move should be to gather all the facts and act decisively with honesty and openness in admitting any shortcomings or errors. Simultaneously, counter with “good news” of equal weight. If there is none, don’t fake it, it will only make matters worse.
MO: I would suspect that some of your clients think that you’re able to provide them some instantly amazing results as soon as they sign on the dotted line. How do you manage your client’s expectations while keeping them both realistic and optimistic?
Richard: The first way to manage a client’s expectations is by not signing clients you don’t honestly believe you can help…remember your compensation is primarily tied to success, not effort. Second is to be very honest about the PR process…that it’s not just a matter of picking up the phone or emailing one of “our contacts”…it’s sometimes a tough road full of trial and error and experience and even a bit of luck. But if they’ll work with us on our needs and have patience, it almost always pays off.
MO: Can you talk about the impressive and significant results you were able to achieve for The United Jewish Appeal?
Richard: We played a prominent role in raising nearly $1 billion and bringing nearly one million refugees to Israel. The results of our PR efforts with the US media on behalf of the UJA and its campaign to raise money to transport large numbers of Jews out of harm’s way in the former Soviet Union was significant not just in the dramatic increase in contributions but in the experience of seeing up close and personal how media awareness can literally change lives for the better.
MO: With over 40 years of experience and expertise, what would be the biggest piece of advice you would pass on to someone just starting out in PR?
Richard: Stay curious and absorb everything around you within the news media and outside of it. Figure out what makes a great story…and what doesn’t. But most importantly…take your job seriously…but never yourself. PR isn’t rocket science and it’s definitely not curing cancer. Think of it as one of the fun jobs that can make a difference.
MO: Thank you so much for your time today.
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