Some people have a charmed life, and surely a man who has never had to go through a job interview to bag a job is particularly blessed. That man is Graham Goodkind, chairman and founder of Frank PR. He has worked for only one company that isn’t his own, and he landed there thanks to an offer of work experience from a friend. This friend was working for Lynne Franks PR in 1989, and Goodkind explains how this “lucky break” started his career in PR: “I had little idea of what PR was until then and did not realise that Lynne Franks PR was predominately a fashion-PR business. I turned up on my first day wearing a dull, boring suit and a tie. I stood out like the sorest thumb. The question was, what should I wear on day two? Everyone in the agency had the coolest clothes and other people were in ripped jeans. So the next day I dropped the tie. The day after that I didn’t wear a jacket.”
Despite feeling sartorially disadvantaged at first, it was only a matter of days before Goodkind realised that PR was the career for him. At the time the agency was departing from its traditional fashion focus, and was pitching for Lloyds Bank. Goodkind threw himself into the pitch and was instrumental in helping to win the business, which led to the offer of a full-time job. Discussing his time at the agency, Goodkind says “I was in the right place at the right time. Not being into fashion, I used to specialise in the brand and corporate work, and in seven years I was made managing director. All the time I was there I watched and learnt, paying attention to the business side of things as well as the PR side. I realised that one day I wanted to have my own company.”
Around ten years after he started at Lynne Franks PR, when the business became part of Omnicom Group, Goodkind decided it was time to leave: “I’d had a good idea for an internet business, after having worked with a designer on Arsenal Football Club’s website. I realised that no one had thought of buying domain names, so we [Goodkind, Steve Bowbrick and Jeremy Kerner] bought 50,000 domain names, after having raised £250,000 to start up the business. First the company was called Funmail and then we changed it to the better name of another.com. Our company allowed you to chop and change your domain name in the same way that you can change your outfits.” The business attracted over 2 million users and also the interest of an investment company, which bought 20 per cent for £6.5million, valuing the business at over £60million. This was before the dot-com bubble burst, and luckily Goodkind got out before it did, selling his stake in the business to try something new.
That turned out to be starting up his own PR agency, Frank PR in September 2000. “I went back to someone I’d hired at Lynne Franks, Andrew Bloch, who was then at Ketchum and he suggested Nadia Gabbie join us, plus I brought in my PA from Lynne Franks days. “I went full tilt with Frank. I was keen to apply a model that focused on being commercially successful as well as being successful at PR. What mattered was creativity, ideas and results. The last 15 years have flown by.” Goodkind’s business model has proved immensely successful, and seven years ago the company was sold to Australian-based business the Photon Group. “We had everyone knocking on our door. The benefit of selling to an Australian company was we thought it would not interfere too much, which it hasn’t’, it is run by a decent bunch of people.”
Discussing those who have inspired him throughout his career, Goodkind lists Lynne Franks, his father and various football managers. Talking about Franks, Goodkind says: “She was an amazingly passionate woman who was able to paint a compelling view of the future. She taught me to have a longer-term vision, and she also showed the importance of creating a fun, exciting culture.”
Discussing his father, Goodkind says: “He was not a risk taker, he was very safe, very conservative. I have his voice inside my head, his steadiness balances out my impulsive instinct.”
Last, but by no means least, Goodkind waxes lyrical about the value of learning from football managers: “I am a big fan of football. I like to read about how football managers motivate people and must have over 20 different biographies of the greatest football managers of all time. I used to read these books and think how to apply the lessons they taught me to business.”
As Lynne Franks inspired Goodkind to look ahead to the future, I conclude our interview by asking him how he sees the future potential of PR. Goodkind says: “The future offers PR agencies the chance to be anything it wants to be and not be blinkered by the idea of supplying a limited range of services. Everything is up for grabs, our ideas and creativity can be applied to many non-traditional PR areas. The important thing is to go for it!”
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