ANALYSIS: Profile - Julian Read jumps into the thorny issues. He may be the reason you still pay ATM fees, but he's good to have around if you want to run for office. Sherri Deatherage Green meets with Julian Read

Julian Read rarely seeks easy jobs. Some of the issues he's jumped into could be described as PR nightmares - bank fees, nuclear power, hail-Mary political campaigns. But more often than not, Read's clients wake to a brighter day.

Julian Read rarely seeks easy jobs. Some of the issues he's jumped into could be described as PR nightmares - bank fees, nuclear power, hail-Mary political campaigns. But more often than not, Read's clients wake to a brighter day.

Julian Read rarely seeks easy jobs. Some of the issues he's jumped into could be described as PR nightmares - bank fees, nuclear power, hail-Mary political campaigns. But more often than not, Read's clients wake to a brighter day.

The president of Austin's Read-Poland Associates has built his career on finding the facts that work for his clients. Take Pulse EFT, an electronic funds transfer association for financial institutions that operate automatic teller machines. In Texas, Pulse started charging customers who withdrew money from ATMs not owned by their home banks. Other states picked up on the idea in the mid-'90s. But then opposition mounted, and a few members of Congress advocated banning such charges nationally.

That's when Read stepped in. His staff spread out Pulse's data on Texas surcharges and mined it for issue-framing nuggets. They found that the majority of people don't pay the fees, and threw the spotlight on how a larger number of ATM locations worked in favor of the user. 'We took the issue and compared it to other things that we pay for in the way of convenience,' Read says, such as valet parking and highway tolls. The firm took Pulse's message to consumers, regulators and industry associations.

Read-Poland coined the term 'convenience fees,' which replaced 'surcharges,' and ultimately, the fees proliferated after the move to ban them died.

'He is a master at opening the doors of legislators, regulators and the media,' Pulse president Stan Paur says of Read. The industry was so impressed, it hired Read-Poland to help convince people ATMs wouldn't fail on Jan. 1, 2000.



Facts and PR, working together

Digging up solid facts to support a client's goal is a basic PR principle some folks seem to have forgotten, Read observes. He learned how to find the facts when he wrote for The Fort Worth Press fresh out of high school.

He also worked in television and radio before buying a small ad agency in 1951. He ran it while attending Texas Christian University full-time.

The agency did just about anything its clients wanted, including publicity.

Read plunged into politics in 1952, working for Don Kennard, who was elected to the state house of representatives. Kennard later joined Read-Poland as a senior associate after retiring from politics.

A bigger challenge presented itself two years later when Jim Wright ran for Congress and enlisted Read's help. The underdog Wright, who would later serve as speaker of the house, beat his incumbent opponent by 12,000 votes. Read had another cause for celebration: the next day, his wife, Mary Anice, gave birth to their first child.

Just after Christmas 1961, Read got a call from John Connally, who was mounting a race for governor. Without hesitation, Read names the politician as his most interesting client. 'Connally was his own best product,' Read says. 'He would walk into any room and his commanding presence would have every eye in the room turned toward him.'

Like Wright, Connally faced an incumbent. Read used television to introduce Connally to voters. His early morning spots - dubbed 'Coffee with Connally' - featured the candidate speaking from his living room with his children in pajamas. Read now marvels that he spent under dollars 50 for a five-minute ad that aired during the Today show on the only TV station in town.

After Connally's victory, Read opted against going on the government payroll, but he continued to be an unofficial PR advisor to the governor.

That relationship put him on the national press corp bus the day John F. Kennedy died.

Read cites 'the day I was in Dallas' as his most memorable career moment.

After Kennedy's deputy press secretary, Malcolm Kilduff, announced the president's assassination, Read stepped up to the mike and gave Nellie Connally's account of what happened in the presidential limo. He spent the next two days in a makeshift press room at Dallas' Parkland Hospital.

'After that, everything else seems kind of mundane,' Read says.

He left politics after Connally lost his 1980 bid for the Republican presidential nod. 'We ran against a guy named Reagan,' Read quips. 'Political campaigns are extremely demanding. If you do them right, it disrupts totally whatever else you're doing.'



From the circus to nuclear power

The agency did move its headquarters to Austin in 1966 and gradually opened offices in Houston, Dallas and Washington, DC. Read helped clients through oil spills, product tampering incidents and the construction of a nuclear power plant. Read-Poland also represented entertainment industry clients such as the Ringling Brothers and helped build magicians Siegfried and Roy's international reputation. 'I've never known a professional who is as adept at the full range and scope of PR work as Julian,' says Alan Feldman, public affairs VP for MGM Mirage.

Dan Poland, a friend and advertising partner, left the firm in the '60s.

Read says he couldn't get used to the idea of having just his name on the company letterhead, so he kept Poland's name, too.

Today, public affairs accounts for about half the firm's revenue, with corporate PR coming in second. Read-Poland also does some tangential lobbying, advertising and association management work. Current clients include Bell Helicopter Textron, the Central & Southwest electric utility, Miller Brewing and Progressive Insurance.

With 25 employees and dollars 2.5 million in revenue, the firm has opted for stability and personal service over rapid growth in the hot Austin market.

Read-Poland hasn't sought high-tech clients as aggressively as it plans to, Read admitted; he claims techies are just beginning to recognize the importance of public affairs.

When not at work, Read likes to spend time with his three grand children, take photos and escape from the summer heat in Maine.

His daughters, Courtney Hoffman and Ellen Read, work in the firm, but he doesn't plan to turn over the reigns anytime soon. 'It's still as much fun today as it was 50 years ago,' he says.



JULIAN READ: President , Read-Poland Associates

1945: Reporter for Fort Worth Press

1951: Purchased a small ad agency, founding Read-Poland

1954: Earned economics degree from Texas Christian University, helped future house speaker Jim Wright win his first congressional election

1961: Worked with John Connally on his first gubernatorial campaign

1966: Moved Read-Poland's headquarters to Austin. Later opened offices in Dallas, Houston and Washington, DC

1999: Read-Poland employs 25 and earns about dollars 2.5 million.





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