Humility goes a long way when setting up in the US

The most common question I've been asked in the past few months after "Is it true you appeared on Baywatch?" has been "Why are you opening an office in the USA?", so I'm grateful for the opportunity to get some answers out there to both questions.

The most common question I've been asked in the past few months after “Is it true you appeared on Baywatch?” has been “Why are you opening an office in the USA?”, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to get some answers out there to both questions.

I started Frank PR in London in September 2000. We're a pure consumer PR agency that has exhibited double-digit growth every year and is now classified as “very large” by UK standards, with just over $11m in fee income.

That was the main reason for opening a new office overseas. Keeping up the pace of growth with just a UK office is going to get harder as we reach the stage where we're often bumping our head against a glass ceiling with client conflicts. And I believe it is important to keep growing an agency.

People get excited working in an environment that is leaning forward, not only in terms of how it is adapting to the new media landscape, social and digital, but also how it is expanding. That opens up opportunities for them to grow personally too. And there's nowhere in the world perceived by Brits as more exciting than the US.

We set up in Sydney, Australia, a couple of years ago and that worked out really well, albeit in a relatively small market. We learned a lot not only in terms of what to do, but also what not to do. So it was a good test bed for the US where, if you get it right, the size of the prize is potentially massive.

The first step in the US was a bit of homework, as I was conscious that UK PR agencies hadn't exactly flourished in their forays into the US market. I wanted to get to the bottom of what they'd been doing wrong.

I'm not saying I found the answer, but it was common for PR firms opening in the US to export someone from the UK to manage their US operations. They wanted someone who knew the agency brand well, who lived and breathed it, to replicate that in the US.

My gut feel was the opposite. I wanted someone who knew the US PR scene, lived and breathed it, and knew their way round over here. I could then work on implanting the Frank DNA into that person so they got our brand and translated it to the US market. After hiring and spending lots of time with Jim Dowd, our MD in New York, I'm convinced we've converted him to being a true “Franker” - albeit we still have to work on his dress sense!

The other important thing is to show a bit of humility. Frank PR has to earn the right to be part of the PR scene in the US. Just because we've done it in the UK and Australia doesn't mean we will in the US - quite the opposite to the attitude of media mogul Ted Turner when he said “If only I had a little humility, I'd be perfect.”

America is a great place to do business. There is always a readiness for new thinking, new ideas, and enterprising spirit. The other big reason for coming to the US is that it's fun. Business should be enjoyable - it's about the journey as much as the destination. And there is no better place than the USA for that.

For those of you waiting for the answer to the other question, yes, it is true, I have appeared on Baywatch. It was series 5, episode 21, alongside the likes of David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson, and, on that particular show, Little Richard and Sir Richard Branson. Thankfully though, for myself and the viewing public, I was fully clothed throughout.

Graham Goodkind is group CEO and founder of Frank PR

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