When Desiree Gruber started her own firm in 1999, she wanted to be much more than a message carrier for clients. So there would be no Desiree Gruber PR or Desiree Gruber %26 Associates - the typical PR agency monikers.
The name had to reflect Gruber's aim of getting involved in everything from PR to talent management, and TV and event production. And so, Full Picture was born.
"The agency is about helping you develop the full picture, she says.
"People come and say, 'I am the best trainer in America. Where do I go with this?' and we say, 'How about being a spokesman for the vitamin industry, or doing a lifestyle fitness show? Let's call our friends at E! and pitch them a show.' It's not delivering messages; it's finding vehicles, outlets, and the tools."
Gruber's clients include model Heidi Klum, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ian Schrager's New York hotels, Victoria's Secret, and Warren Buffet's corporate jet service Net Jet. Full Picture has also represented a slew of Miramax projects, including Bounce and The Others, not to mention the firm's Concert For New York after-party.
That makes Gruber a magnet for gossip columnists, who call every day to shake the trees. "When you represent Ian Schrager, there is something happening every day. He has made himself the intersection of film, fashion, music and art, she says.
Remembering her days at Rogers & Cowan, where the PR buzzwords were "reputation management and "branding, Gruber ponders the question, "'How do you become the standout in the field?' There wasn't a person I met who didn't want to be branded. Branding has lost its power. How do you break out and become legendary?"
She feels that PR is part of the difference. "There are so many things out there. How does yours become the outstanding cola, or bra, or film of the season? It's more than talent; there's no question. There are so many talented people out there. I think it's when you have ordinary people selling the story from one to another."
Fresh from her April wedding to Sex and the City star Kyle MacLachlan, Gruber seems ready to take the business to the next level. But that doesn't necessarily mean more clients or staff.
"I'd like to take it more in the direction of production, she says.
With Heidi Klum working on a new book, TV options are already being discussed, and Gruber will no doubt be a part of them. She'll also work on the second Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which ABC recently confirmed.
Gruber says her most enjoyable project to date was bringing Victoria's Secret together with Miramax. The two parties developed a lingerie show for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), held two years ago in Cannes. "Taking the models down the red carpet was great, she says.
Harvey Weinstein, cochair of Miramax, is clearly impressed with her abilities.
1989: Assistant, EMI Records A&R department
1990: General assistant, The New Music Seminar (annual music event)
1991-99: Rises from assistant to VP, Rogers & Cowan
1999: Establishes Full Picture
While Gruber is easily as glamorous as her model clients, she's hard as nails when it comes down to business. In fact, colleagues on one project gave her a sign that read "General Gruber. It's not that far off base, either. As a young girl, Gruber helped her father, a green beret, campaign to become a state senator in Tallahassee, FL.
Illustrating her networking savvy, she says, "It's easy to know all the top people, but not understand how to take it to the next level. This is one industry where you can't just sit at your desk and think it's going to happen."
For this interview, Gruber wants to know what the focus is, how it's going to appear, and when. They are fair questions, considering she knows the pitfalls of mixing journalists and celebrities. "Personal publicists take their jobs very seriously, and that's why they torture journalists. They pour over every word because the client sees it the next day."
In fact, Gruber once attempted to fax an unflattering profile of a celebrity to avoid having to read it. The unnamed star, however, insisted on her reading out the lines about being a "tyrant and having "eyes that twitched."
Another essential aspect of PR is knowing the scene. "When Heidi calls, she wants to know what's hot, says Gruber, who's never stuck for an answer.
Friend and client Monica Mitro, VP of PR at Victoria's Secret, says, "She always knows the best of everything; the best manicurist, the best dermatologist. She really has her finger on the pulse of pop culture."
Mitro says Gruber is super organized (she owns a Blackberry and an iPod).
The two vacationed together at a spa in Arizona, and Gruber planned out activities such as rock climbing and horseback riding. "She has so much energy, says Mitro. "She plans everything. She likes to fill her day learning."
"We know our clients inside out, says Gruber. "What books they're reading, when they're going to the movies, and where they're holidaying. When someone says they're doing a piece on the Middle East, I can say one of our clients just got back from there. Similarly, she watches journalists' careers: who's getting more covers, who's snarky, and who's looking for new talent.
Since marrying a star, Gruber has herself become a celebrity . News of her engagement to MacLachlan made the AP wires, and her wedding photos appeared in People magazine.
Asked how comfortable she is with being the story herself, she says, "Anyone who does well will become more well known. Dan Klores is outstanding in the field, and a personality as well. But you walk a fine line, as you are close to the media."