PROFILE: Rory Godson, Powerscourt - A PR 'novice' with an international outlook

Ex-journalist Godson has found his vocation in setting up his own agency

Even after only a year in the PR business, it's hard to be convinced by the protestations of Goldman Sachs's departing corporate affairs chief, Rory Godson, that he is a mere novice in the sector.

Admittedly, Dublin-born Godson does try his best to play the newcomer card. For example, when asked to give his views on the challenges facing the PR industry his answer is that it would be the 'the height of presumption' for such a new boy as himself to even reply.

But this attempt at false humility comes severely unstuck when you consider that he not only had the confidence to join one of the world's biggest banks as its top European communicator after a 16-year career in journalism, but also the audacity to then leave it after a year and start his own PR business.

His agency, Powerscourt, which he is setting up with former Telewest policy and communications director John Murray, is to launch next year.

Godson says it will specialise in financial PR with a Europe-wide focus.

He admits it took just six months into the job at Goldman Sachs - which he takes with him as a client - to realise that he wanted to leave. A source close to Godson says that he missed the global business outlook he gained from his previous job, as business editor of The Sunday Times.

The source said of his time at the bank's London-based EMEA headquarters that 'it's a branch office of New York, which is different if you are used to a global remit'.

However, Godson says it was never his intention when joining the bank to set up his own business but, after making the decision, he feels he may have at last found his vocation. 'I think I'm pretty much there now,' he says.

Godson started as a journalist in Dublin in the mid-1980s, in a career that took in The Sunday Tribune, where he covered business and sport, before becoming deputy editor. By the mid 1990s, he had joined The Sunday Times to become Ireland editor, eventually moving to London as managing editor of new media, 'at the height of the dotcom madness'. He was then promoted to business editor, but like many of the paper's section editors in recent years - such as former political editor Michael Prescott who is now at Weber Shandwick- Godson was persuaded to move into PR.

Although his CV would point to limited PR experience during his days as a hack, there were signs that he would one day find his niche as a comms consultant.

One of his biggest scoops was brokering a deal as Sunday Times Irish editor to poach the Sunday Independent's star columnist Terry Keane, and with it her exclusive revelation of her long-term affair with former Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey. However, before running the story, Godson arranged for Keane to admit the affair for the first time in public - not in his paper, but on the country's top chat show at the time, The Late Late Show.

Godson admits that in making the decision, 'we lost the journalist kudos, we lost our scoop'. But in a move many PROs would have been proud of, he gained maximum exposure in promoting his paper, boosting sales and deflecting attention away from any accusations that the paper was taking a turn towards the salacious, tabloid world of kiss and tell.

In fact, throughout his journalistic career, he has often seen the relationship with his readers in terms of a relationship with a client.

'There are similarities between PR and journalism... on one side you are working for your readers. If you serve your readers, you serve your editor and shareholders. In PR, you are working for your clients,' he says.

Peter Sutherland, chairman of both BP plc and Goldman Sachs International, is full of gushing praise for Godson. He says: '(Rory's) a man of integrity, I always thought that, while he was a journalist and afterwards. He is also excellent at communicating with people.'

Tulchan Communications consultant Kirstie Hamilton, who worked with Godson at The Sunday Times, where she was City editor, says: 'He's got huge energy.

The Sunday Times can be a rough place, and the hours are demanding... but he was always up for the fight when it came to stories.'

At Powerscourt - named after a beautiful house in Dublin - Godson is looking to talk to existing practitioners about either hiring them or working with them in some way.

He even admits to having held 'serious' talks with a handful of figures in the PR industry already.

However, when asked to name names he bluntly declines before giving an ice-cold look and saying with all the conviction of a veteran PRO: 'bloody journalists.'

HIGHLIGHTS

1993: Deputy editor, The Sunday Tribune

1996: Ireland editor, The Sunday Times

2001: Business editor, The Sunday Times

2002: Director of corporate affairs, EMEA, Goldman Sachs

2004: Co-founder, Powerscourt

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