PrWeek

Profile: Tony Good, Legend Consultancy - A true giant of the PR industry/Few people in PR can match the lifetime of achievement of Tony Good
RUTH NICHOLAS, PR Week UK, Friday, 26 February 1999

 

Question: what the hell is a bloke with a stammer doing in PR? Answer: doing good.

Pun intended. In the words of one of his many admirers, Tony Good is one of the true giants of the industry and certainly one of its most enduring figures. His career spans 40 years and includes some impressive milestones, such as creating the first ever publicly quoted PR agency group, Good Relations.

It seems incredible that Good, still unassuming despite his millions, left school with the belief that he’d never make much of himself. Good is a serial entrepreneur, career pluralist and inveterate investor in other people. Last week saw the launch of another start up, Legend, a Wiltshire-based consultancy he has formed with former Countrywide Porter Novelli director and WH Smith’s retail PR manager Catherine Hickson (PR Week, 26 February).

Although Legend is far from his new vehicle for world domination, it is indicative of the man everyone says will die with his boots on . Good launched his first PR company in 1960. Some 39 years later he is still at it. PR Week estimates that Good is 65 or thereabouts, but he will not reveal his age because of a piece of advice his father gave him long ago.

’Never tell anyone how old you are because they will judge you - often wrongly - on that basis and ’old’ is ten years older than you,’ Good advises.

His father, a sports journalist and racecourse owner, retired at 83, so presumably being coy about your age works.

Good’s stammer was so severe that he used to live in fear of phone calls or having to queue up for train tickets with less than five minutes to get the destination out. ’I often used to buy tickets to other places simply because I could say their names,’ he recalls. ’One of my worst agonies years later was in naming the agency. The name (Good Relations) was such a gift and it fulfilled all the criteria: it was brief, descriptive and memorable. I just couldn’t say it. It was a relief when we got big enough to be able to shorten it to GR, that I can say.’

Friends say that he is possibly more sensitive to his stammer than those around him and during the course of the mammoth phone call that provided the basis of this profile, it was barely noticeable. Bell Pottinger group managing director, Piers Pottinger, who Good hired 15 years ago as chief executive of Good Relations’ financial operation, describes him as unstoppable, diligent, conscientious, incredibly meticulous and very straightforward.

’He is not afraid to tell clients bad news,’ he says. ’Tony is not at all like his generation of PR man, which was the carnation in the buttonhole, have another G&T type. He broke the mould and has been instrumental in raising the status of PR to genuinely strategic level.’

Good fell into PR quite by accident. He was working at what became IPC as an editorial assistant on the motoring titles. A press event at Silver City Airways led to lunch and the offer of a press officer’s job at Lydd Airport in Kent. The rest is history.

Pottinger recalls that Good always said the worst thing about him was having to say his name in order to introduce him to clients. ’But he always laughed about it,’ Pottinger remarks. ’That is the sign of a real sense of humour, he was happy to laugh at himself.’

Good is a strategist. He has vast experience of business, through being involved at a then unheard of level of seniority in some of the UK’s biggest takeovers in the 1970s and 1980s and directly as chairman and non-executive director of a host of companies. Lord Newby co-founder and director of Matrix Public Affairs, which installed Good on its board five years ago, describes his knowledge of business issues and business people as encyclopaedic.

So what next?

Good insists on keeping his powder dry, but looking at his multifarious interests in PR and related activities and his history of empire building it seems likely that Good will regroup his interests into a single unit.

Whether that is for the purposes of flotation or raising finance remains to be seen.

HIGHLIGHTS


1960
Launched Good Relations
1983
Floated Good Relations
1986
Sold Good Relations
1988
Launched Good Relations India
1998
Partner, Legend Consultancy