For Barnardo’s PR man, John Grounds, there’s no cause like a good cause
Looking over the CV of newly appointed Barnardo’s communications chief
John Grounds is like reading a checklist of right-on causes.
Before joining ethical retail icon, The Body Shop, as international PR
manager in 1991, he worked for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, as
head of PR and campaigns, for Green Book Fortnight, as press officer,
for arms control lobby group VERTIC, as press officer and, during an
earlier stint with CND, as journalist on its magazine Sanity.
Grounds, 32, who has been head of public relations for The Body Shop
since 1992, says that working for something he believes in is
fundamental to him. ‘It is very important to me that I work for an
organisation that is committed to, and engaged in, issues related to
social welfare and change, like Barnardo’s, or social and environmental
issues, like The Body Shop.’
However, the comments of past colleagues and the speed of his rise to
the top, reveal Grounds as being far from a woolly minded liberal.
Patricia Lewis, executive director of VERTIC (Verification Technology
Information Centre) says: ‘He is a very passionate person, who feels
things very deeply but that never interferes with his effectiveness. He
is so bright that he tempers that passion with intelligence. He is also
quite strategic and is able to have a long term view on how to achieve
His evident integrity also does not stop him from using the valued PR
tack of side-stepping the occasional difficult question. On being asked
to respond to his Barnardo’s predecessor Alan Booth’s criticisms of a
planned restructure of the charity’s marketing and communications
functions, Grounds would not comment. He chose instead to emphasise the
children’s charity’s strong public standing and how it could build on
the current interest in children’s issues.
This positive attitude to his work is another of Grounds’ fundamentals.
Dedication, commitment and enthusiasm are words which pepper past and
present colleagues’ accounts of him. However they, and Grounds himself,
admit that such drive can turn into overwork.
Adrian Howe, who first met Grounds when they worked together at the CND,
says: ‘If John has a weakness, and I find it hard to think of one, it is
overwork. I think he works too hard and sometimes that is not a virtue.
It’s not like a compulsion, as it can be with some people. It’s just
Another of Grounds’ commonly described traits is his ability to remain
calm in the midst of turmoil. When asked for his most enduring
impression of Grounds, Bruce Kent, CND vice-president, says: ‘I
particularly remember John taking me out for drinks to calm me down when
the tension was on.’
Grounds, who joins Barnardo’s in July as head of a 23-strong team, wins
as many personal accolades as he does professional tributes. He is
described as amusing, popular, loyal and charming: a good listener with
While Barnardo’s director of marketing and communications Charles
Holden, to whom Grounds will report, talks of his new recruit as being
very affable and focused.
Describing what he wants from Grounds, and new head of marketing Claire
Bowen, Holden says that, by April 1997, he wants strong marketing and
communications functions that will increase public understanding of
Barnardo’s work and boost donations.
If Grounds’ track record of commitment, enthusiasm and ingenuity are
anything to go by, the charity is unlikely to miss the target.
1987 Journalist, CND
1988 Press and information officer, VERTIC
1990 Press and information officer, Green Book Fortnight
1990 Head of PR and campaigns, CND
1991 International PR manager, The Body Shop
1992 Head of PR, The Body Shop