Question: what the hell is a bloke with a stammer doing in PR?
Answer: doing good.
Pun intended. In the words of one of his many admirers, Tony Good is one
of the true giants of the industry and certainly one of its most
enduring figures. His career spans 40 years and includes some impressive
milestones, such as creating the first ever publicly quoted PR agency
group, Good Relations.
It seems incredible that Good, still unassuming despite his millions,
left school with the belief that he’d never make much of himself. Good
is a serial entrepreneur, career pluralist and inveterate investor in
other people. Last week saw the launch of another start up, Legend, a
Wiltshire-based consultancy he has formed with former Countrywide Porter
Novelli director and WH Smith’s retail PR manager Catherine Hickson (PR
Week, 26 February).
Although Legend is far from his new vehicle for world domination, it is
indicative of the man everyone says will die with his boots on . Good
launched his first PR company in 1960. Some 39 years later he is still
at it. PR Week estimates that Good is 65 or thereabouts, but he will not
reveal his age because of a piece of advice his father gave him long
’Never tell anyone how old you are because they will judge you - often
wrongly - on that basis and ’old’ is ten years older than you,’ Good
His father, a sports journalist and racecourse owner, retired at 83, so
presumably being coy about your age works.
Good’s stammer was so severe that he used to live in fear of phone calls
or having to queue up for train tickets with less than five minutes to
get the destination out. ’I often used to buy tickets to other places
simply because I could say their names,’ he recalls. ’One of my worst
agonies years later was in naming the agency. The name (Good Relations)
was such a gift and it fulfilled all the criteria: it was brief,
descriptive and memorable. I just couldn’t say it. It was a relief when
we got big enough to be able to shorten it to GR, that I can say.’
Friends say that he is possibly more sensitive to his stammer than those
around him and during the course of the mammoth phone call that provided
the basis of this profile, it was barely noticeable. Bell Pottinger
group managing director, Piers Pottinger, who Good hired 15 years ago as
chief executive of Good Relations’ financial operation, describes him as
unstoppable, diligent, conscientious, incredibly meticulous and very
’He is not afraid to tell clients bad news,’ he says. ’Tony is not at
all like his generation of PR man, which was the carnation in the
buttonhole, have another G&T type. He broke the mould and has been
instrumental in raising the status of PR to genuinely strategic
Good fell into PR quite by accident. He was working at what became IPC
as an editorial assistant on the motoring titles. A press event at
Silver City Airways led to lunch and the offer of a press officer’s job
at Lydd Airport in Kent. The rest is history.
Pottinger recalls that Good always said the worst thing about him was
having to say his name in order to introduce him to clients. ’But he
always laughed about it,’ Pottinger remarks. ’That is the sign of a real
sense of humour, he was happy to laugh at himself.’
Good is a strategist. He has vast experience of business, through being
involved at a then unheard of level of seniority in some of the UK’s
biggest takeovers in the 1970s and 1980s and directly as chairman and
non-executive director of a host of companies. Lord Newby co-founder and
director of Matrix Public Affairs, which installed Good on its board
five years ago, describes his knowledge of business issues and business
people as encyclopaedic.
So what next?
Good insists on keeping his powder dry, but looking at his multifarious
interests in PR and related activities and his history of empire
building it seems likely that Good will regroup his interests into a
Whether that is for the purposes of flotation or raising finance remains
to be seen.
Launched Good Relations
Floated Good Relations
Sold Good Relations
Launched Good Relations India
Partner, Legend Consultancy