PROFILE: John Grounds, Barnardo’s; A career built on ethical grounds

For Barnardo’s PR man, John Grounds, there’s no cause like a good cause

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

no ‘side’.

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

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