Profile: Charles St George, Political Planning Services - A modest run of prosperity/Charles St George is going for growth with a new lobbying arm for PPS

Sitting at an enormous table, Charles St George is almost dwarfed by the grandeur of the 18th-century ballroom-turned-boardroom attached to his Mayfair offices. But behind this unassuming, boyish-looking 44-year-old is a man who has hit the lobbying jackpot that eludes most other public affairs agency chiefs.

Sitting at an enormous table, Charles St George is almost dwarfed

by the grandeur of the 18th-century ballroom-turned-boardroom attached

to his Mayfair offices. But behind this unassuming, boyish-looking

44-year-old is a man who has hit the lobbying jackpot that eludes most

other public affairs agency chiefs.



Over the past five years, Political Planning Services, the specialist

planning lobbying outfit St George founded with his then-colleague of

five years Stephen Byfield in 1990, has registered a giddy 400 per cent

fee income growth.



’Ten years ago, Stephen and I were sitting in one room doing what we

enjoyed and suddenly now we have a whole different set of problems that

are not about advising Tesco on how to get planning permission, but

about management issues,’ St George says humbly of his ascent. His

business plan aims to propel PPS from number 55 into the top 20 PR

agencies by 2003.



A concrete sign of these ambitions came last week, with the unveiling of

a new mainstream lobbying arm, PPS Public Affairs, which aims to compete

with big lobbying brands like APCO and GJW. It is sink-or-swim time for

St George, who is responsible for the new venture and who admits to not

being a natural risk-taker - ’I’m always looking to the next

recession’.



To get PPS Public Affairs off the ground, he is relying on the same

mixture of opportunity-spotting and luck which led him into the planning

niche.



He recalls, as a Liberal councillor in Guildford in the mid-1980s: ’All

the developments took place in my ward and I used to oppose them because

nobody ever bothered to approach me and say, ’I want to talk to you

about this six-storey office block, here’s the case for it’.’



By the late-1980s, when he was MD of Profile Political, St George was in

a position to fill that lobbying void, taking advantage of the property

boom which was, conveniently enough, largely powered by clients of

Profile’s parent company - one-time financial PR giant Broad Street.



His luck could have turned when he left Profile to set up PPS with

Byfield - the two are professionally glued together, to the extent that

he describes this ’hugely successful’ business partnership as a second

marriage. PPS launched six months before the bottom dropped out of the

property market.



But, as fortune would have it, the nascent agency landed a contract with

Tesco. And St George has never looked back.



The gap he hopes to fill with PPS Public Affairs is both more nebulous

and more heavily populated than the planning niche. Explaining his

vision of the new arm, St George trots out lobbying truisms which no

doubt pepper the marketing literature of his rivals: ’it’s not who you

know but what you know’ - something he says he learned from four years

with cash-for-questions man Ian Greer - plus ’grassroots campaigning’

and ’regional networking’.



Translating post-Greer and Draper theory into reality is more dependent

on the quality of consultancy than any grand concepts. If his lobbying

of APPC members in favour of current chair Michael Burrell during the

’leadership crisis’, which pitted Burrell against incumbent Andrew

Gifford, last June is anything to go by, St George scores highly in that

department.



Whether the staff he has recruited to man PPS Public Affairs will cut

the mustard is another matter - those who have worked with St George say

character judgment is not his forte.



But they also testify that he is huge fun to work with. Behind the

measured and unpompous facade - perhaps in part derived from what he

calls a ’bizarre childhood’ - lies a lively sense of humour and bags of

energy.



This energy also seems to overflow into his personal life. St George has

managed to clock up four children from two marriages - his youngest sons

still labour under the Father Christmas-like illusion that their father

was born in Toys’R’Us, built on the site of a former hospital in

Woking.



In between spending time with his family, he plays golf and tennis and

even ran the London marathon ’for my 40th birthday treat. I wanted to do

it before I hit 40.’



Let’s see if he cracks the top ten by his 50th.



HIGHLIGHTS

1983

Account executive, Ian Greer Associates

1987

Managing director, Profile Political

1990

Co-founder, Political Planning Services



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