REAL Results Public Relations with Dick Grove

REAL Results Public Relations with Dick Grove

You shouldn’t have to pay for PR until you get the results you want. INK Inc. Public Relations is the industry leader in results based PR. Join me as I interview founder Dick Grove. Dick has lead campaigns on behalf of countless business, consumer and entertainment clients. He’s served in the MarCom C-Suite with companies like Intel Corporation, GE Capital and as a V.P. with industry powerhouse Burson-Marsteller. Dick set out on his own in 1997 and created something unique to the industry and built his company using a then unheard of pay-for-performance model where clients didn’t pay unless they saw results.  This model is still running successfully today.

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This is the podcast for small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to learn how simple ideas can lead to big wins for your business. I’m your host, Ryan Delo, professional dancer from tv. So you think You Can Dance Turned Entrepreneur and business owner. I’m on a quest to discover the most creative ideas that have made all the difference for successful businesses.

This is the Idea WINS podcast.

Hey guys. Welcome back to the Idea Wins podcast today. We are very excited to have on the podcast. Dick Grove with a 50 year career in media relations. Dick Grove is the founder and the CEO of Kansas City-based Inc. Incorporated public relations. Dick has led campaigns on behalf of countless business, consumer and entertainment clients.

He’s served in the Markcom C-Suite with companies like Intel Corporation, GE Capital, and as a VP with. Industry powerhouse Bersen Marcella Dick set out on his own in 1997 and created something unique to the industry and built his company using a then unheard of pay for performance model where clients didn’t pay unless they saw results.

This model is still running successfully today. Thank you so much for joining us today. Oh, well thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Absolutely. Well, tell us a little bit more about yourself, Dick, maybe a little bit, anything that I missed from your background, cuz you are, um, just an icon in the PR industry.

You’ve done so much. And I actually studied pr, I got my degree in PR from Brigham Young University. So, um, yeah, tell us about yourself. Well, I’ve, I’ve heard it said before, but you stay in any business long enough and you become an icon. So, uh, I’ve been around this business for over 50 years now in terms of, and I started in New York with that big firm, Beson Marsh Stiller, traveled various places with the corporate side as well as, uh, uh, my own small agencies at times.

Uh, but then I kind of settled into a, a, a different kind of groove in the early nineties, uh, realizing that, uh, that the compensation was terribly unfair compared to the results mm-hmm. That were being delivered by both big and small firms, and both as a client as well as an agency guy. Uh, I wanted to try a new model, and so that’s what I did.

I basically invented a new model about that time. So, but, uh, but yeah, I’ve, I’ve been across the board in terms of both advertising, public relations, uh, uh, I mentioned earlier in a few other bios that I had, did spend some time in the entertainment world, uh mm-hmm. But primarily with the same idea that.

Mass communications that communicating. Yeah. And uh, even when it came to entertainers and entertainment ideas, I was mm-hmm. I came up with some ideas to blend, uh, entertainment with corporate, uh, needs in terms mm-hmm. Of our communication needs. So, but, uh, well, we share that in common. Obviously I have an entertainment background, right.

Uh, being as a professional dancer on TV and, you know, I’ve done the same thing with. My businesses that I run and realize, you know, it’s pretty much a performance, like when you are really connecting to your audience and you really understand your audience, you know, in entertainment. That’s why they love you.

That’s why they keep coming back because you’re connecting to their heart, to their soul, what matters to them. It’s the same thing in business, right? If, if you are, you have a very specific customer that you’re trying to talk to. How you talk to them is kind of like a performance. It’s kind of like how do you, how do you get them to keep coming back and being part of your, uh, your tribe?

Right. I agree. I agree. There’s, there’s a great many similarities and uh, uh, in terms of it’s communication with an audience, as you mentioned. It really is. And you want it to be a favorable communication. Mm-hmm. Because you want that audience to be favor, to think favorably on what you’re saying, doing, performing, et cetera.

And it, it’s, there’s a lot of similarities in it, and, Yeah. And frankly, the reason that I’ve enjoyed it, uh, you know, I was never destined to be an accountant. Uh, I was never destined to be a stockbroker or a, or a doctor. Uh, but I always gravitated toward the idea of somehow, Uh, particularly in terms of mass communications and mm-hmm.

And that’s where I’ve settled over the years. So yes, I love it. There’s a lot of similarities to it, Ryan. I love it. Well, let’s, let’s dive into, um, cuz here at Idea wins we’re all about, Simple ideas that make a big impact for businesses. And I love this model that you created. Um, one of the questions is for you to tell us your, your best small idea for big business wins.

And I think that model of, Hey, you know what, I’m gonna step outside of what the entire industry is doing. I’m gonna create a model where you pay if I get you the results. So tell me about what led to that and, and how that’s worked out. Well, uh, pretty simple, really. Uh, after. You know, 30 some years in the business, I, I had came to a conclusion both being on the client side as well as on the, uh, PR agency side that, uh, that clients, that, uh, PR firms get hired for a lot of reasons, but they usually get fired for one.

Mm-hmm. Almost predominantly. And that’s coverage. Ultimately clients want. Coverage above all the other things like consulting and crisis management mm-hmm. And all of that. But ultimately they want media coverage. And so, uh, I looked at it and said, you know what? There’s a better way to do this. The other thing I noticed was that, uh, uh, firms tended to overcharge but not deliver.

And, uh mm-hmm. So I was looking to try and build a model that would, that would in effect deliver first and charge second. Mm-hmm. And, uh, thus led to what we call pay for performance or pay for results. And it’s, it’s pretty simple. It’s, uh, the idea is that you get, the more coverage we deliver a client, the more they pay, the less coverage we get.

The less they pay. And it’s based on a very firm foundation of input from the client. So we’re not casually going out there pitching any crazy story that might happen. Uh, it’s very much based on the needs of the client, the marketing, the business needs of a client. And we, but we, we decided that, uh, in order to do that, the model depended on a couple of things working for me.

Uh, one was finding really good talent. Mm-hmm. Meaning the people that are going to be pitching and placing those stories have to be highly experienced. And, uh, yeah. So I decided to do something different. I went after senior level people working within the media. Or who, who had been on their own in PR firms and then wanted to work maybe from home because that did something else.

Mm-hmm. I was able to lower my overhead by letting people work from home, even before there was much of an internet out there. And, uh, by getting senior level people that knew where to take a story and how to pitch it, uh mm-hmm. And letting them work from home. The combination of that meant that by lowering my overhead, I could take more of the financial risk off of the client and put it on me to actually deliver results.

So the concept, right. That’s basically the concept. It was very simple. Yeah. But, but. Highly blasphemous, by the way. It still is. May it still is. I mean, uh, but I love that. Yeah. I, I love people who take an industry and shake it because that’s what we need. That’s how we progress. That’s how we get better. Um, that’s really what idea wins.

What we want to do is like, okay, what simple things can you do that will disrupt a marketplace and really drive results? Better than anyone else, so I’m so glad you’re on our podcast, cuz. And then, you know what you mentioned as well, just the work from home Now, you know, after Covid that’s kind of right.

It’s gone kind of viral, but you were a pioneer with that, right? Well, it, it, it was very simple in the beginning because, Senior people and my senior, I mean people that are highly experienced, not necessarily gold and gray haired like I am now, but people that are highly experienced and what they looked for was the ability not to have to commute in every day from, uh, whether it be White Plains into Manhattan, or whether it be from the suburbs into San Francisco or LA or Chicago.

Mm-hmm. But be able to work from home and have a more of an environment conducive to really doing their job rather than spending a lot of time on it. Right. And what we found was a lot of people liked that concept. Oh yeah. And, uh, and we, and people work harder when they’re. Fulfilled and when you have more freedom of time and you, you, you know, a lot of people go into the office and they just, I did, I, I worked, I did financial services for about nine months, sitting at a desk, you know, looking at numbers.

It just wasn’t for me, and I hated my life. So I wasn’t performing well in my job either, because I just didn’t like what I was doing. I didn’t like being in the office all day. So, well, it, it takes a certain kind of person to be self-disciplined too in Yeah, to work from home. There’s no doubt about that, but the, the basic concept of PR being to place good stories in the media that bring positive effects to your client.

Mm-hmm. That’s not, and I hate to say it, I get a lot of criticism for that too. It’s not rocket science and we’re not curing cancer. We’re basically convincing the media to carry a positive story about our clients. Right. Usually a soft business story of some kind or another. Mm-hmm. And. Uh, that doesn’t, that, what you need is, is a certain innate ability to, uh, to know what news is and to have a sense of news instinct about yourself to have a good Rolodex.

Mm-hmm. Or as we used to say, a Rolodex. Now, you know, you’ve got a good list of where you can take these stories and. Mm-hmm. But one of the fallacies, and I like to always say this, uh, is one of the fallacies in the world of PR is that it’s relationships that deliver coverage. It’s not, mm-hmm. Okay. It’s not who you know at the Wall Street Journal.

It’s how good the story is and how it fits what the Wall Street Journal wants. Yeah. It, it’s always good to know somebody that you can first make a contact to, but usually, yeah. If you have a good relationship with a reporter or a producer, it’s based on you delivering good stories over a long period of time.

Mm-hmm. It’s not based on whether you’re somebody’s cup. Yeah. Or, or had a drink. Yeah. The night before. Absolutely. Cuz they’re not gonna, they’re not gonna want to keep using your stories if it’s not good. That’s right. You’ve got to produce good stuff that they like, that they’re getting the results that they want.

Otherwise they’re not gonna keep using you even if they like you, even if they’re family. Right. It doesn’t matter. That’s right. It’s like, it’s, it’s gotta be results driven, which is how you built your model in the first place. So let me go to my, one of my other questions. Yes. Yeah. Sorry. Go ahead. Oh, I was gonna say ultimately whether you succeed or not is whether you continue to deliver the results.

That’s the key. Yes. And uh, and it’s a constant, uh, creative battle, let’s put it that way. And a lot of people wonder whether creativity comes in pr. Uh, it comes in because you are pitching a reporter or producer to use their valuable space. To carry a story about your client and Right. And to do that, you’ve got to come up with a very good creative hook that mm-hmm.

Fits their needs. And, uh, it’s a constant battle to do that. Advertising. No. Advertising. You pay for the space, you pay the whatever. You can say whatever you want to and place it wherever you want to. But there’s a reason in the PR world that it’s called earned media versus paid media cuz you earn the right mm-hmm.

To get in there. So I, and yeah, that’s the part I also love because it’s a, it’s a creative challenge every day. And the people that work for us also sense that. So, yeah. But it, it’s, well, it sounds like you have good people and like, like you said, you, you were very smart to get high level people, um, who had already been in the media or, or big PR firms who understand that process.

Not only do they have connections, cuz that was, I’m sure that was important too. But more than that, they want to keep those connections and they wanna deliver results for those connections. So I love that. Well, the challenge today is, and, and by the way, over the, all the years and even the years that this company, I’ve had this company now for 25 to 30 years, the challenge comes in.

It’s, it’s always changing and the media changes constantly, and it’s changed dramatically in the last five to 10 years. Mm-hmm. The advent of social media. The advent of everything. I mean, 90% of all stories now are carried online rather than in print. Uh, yeah. So it, or, or broadcast. So it’s always a challenge.

And then of course, social media has changed things. And now with the advent of, uh, uh, in the intrusion to many, to a great degree of, uh, of artificial intelligence, it’s, yeah, you, you’ve really got to be on your. On your toes because so much the audience now has become, uh, jaded. Cynical, mm-hmm. Uh, et cetera, or what they’re seeing or hearing.

Is it true? Mm-hmm. Is it fake news? Is it hasn’t been created by, uh, by a chatbot for God’s sake. Uh, that’s the challenge. And so, uh, yeah. It, it, it’s, it’s, it’s still exciting. But it’s changed dramatically over the years. Yeah. And, uh, and to find the, you know, to, to still be successful in that is, uh, uh, we feel pretty good about it, to be honest with you.

Oh yeah, that was gonna be my next question is what is the greatest challenge right now? And you let us straight there. So, you know, I have a personal feeling about this. I think we’re going to go through a cycle where, You know, the AI is the biggest rave right now, and everybody’s gonna be so excited to, to be using AI and try to use it, you know, to implement into their business.

But like you said, people, you can’t replace a personal touch and people are getting jaded and they’re, they don’t trust everything they’re seeing now. And I feel like there’s gonna be a swing back. I don’t know when it’s gonna happen, but I, I personally believe that there’s gonna be a swing back. The other direction where people are just gonna want to know for a fact.

That they’re working with people, they’re talking to a person. It came from the heart of a person. This is just an idea that I have. And I don’t know, it might take 10 years before we come back to that point. Maybe it’ll only, it’ll take a couple years. But, um, I don’t know what your thoughts are on that, but I, I, I have this feeling that, oh, I agree.

We’re gonna get to a point and let’s even how it’s even how, as a firm, how we present ourselves. I mean, uh, mm-hmm. So many PR firms now, uh, Prefer to call themselves marketing agencies or digital marketing agencies. Mm-hmm. And I want to say old posh, you know, that’s ridiculous. Uh, what good PR is presented as real stories from that that make resonate with your audience.

Yeah. And, uh, And to say that you are a digital marketing agency when you’re really, that, that means you’re trying to cover too much in my mind, but mm-hmm. Uh, we like to think of ourselves as as kind of old fashioned cuz everything is done by hand. Every, every pitch is custom pitched to a particular reporter or producer, and we still find that the most effective way.

Rather than blast mm-hmm. Press releases out over the Yeah. You know, online and so forth. Uh, so we’re kind of old fashioned, but it’s, uh, it, it still, but that’s refreshing in today’s world. Yeah. And what we, where we involve social media is we tell our clients, the most successful social media you can have is content that’s created by a third party, i e the news media.

If you can post a story that’s been, that is more credible because somebody in the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today, or the Today Show, et cetera, did a story about you then post that on social media, then you’ve got some real credibility going. Oh yeah. As opposed to just creating your own stories or whatever and putting them out there.

Um, absolutely. So we try to use social media, but we use it as a conduit. Uh, yeah. For, for the credible content that we produce. But yeah, I love that it’s, it’s a challenge. It is a challenge. Every day things are changing, Ryan, so, uh, absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. I a little bit like you though. I believe it’s cyclical.

Mm-hmm. Uh, much thing is the same way with the economy. I mean, we’ve weathered three different recessions over the years that have had this company. Wow. And in that process, you gotta just hold steady, believe in what you believe in, hold your integrity. And, uh, and, and, and bet that it’s gonna come back to you.

Yeah. And so far it’s worked pretty well. I’m, I’m never a person that ever says never, but so far it’s worked pretty well with those, with that kind of a feeling on it. I love that. I think that leads me into my next question, um, which is, I like to ask this sometimes to our guests. If you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be?

And how you put it into practice. Well, you know, or how have you put that into Yeah, they’re under fire right now. But I love, I love Disney only because I’ve grown up with Disney obviously, and how it’s evolved into this gigantic media conglomerate, but, but tried to hold true to itself, nevertheless. And, uh, Uh, the fact that they’re involved in everything from news to sports, to uh, uh, to entertainment, uh mm-hmm.

Even entertainment experience in terms of the parks and so forth. I’m fascinated by that business. And if, if I had a, uh, if I had a want to be sometime it would be, I would love to be heading up. I’d love to be Iger who’s in charge of, uh, of Disney. And, uh, faced with the, even the problems of crazies like DeSantis in.

Uh, I still believe that the company is something that would, I just look at it as a company that, uh, that embodies all the different disciplines that I think are very cool. Yeah. So we’re, we’re in an interesting age right now because, um, I think one of the reasons why Disney has been so successful is because they’ve really understood their audience and they’ve really been able to.

Speak to their heart and connect to them in multiple audiences. Like you said, they’ve grown from their original audience and they have so many different, you know, audiences and disciplines that they’re been successful at. But with a world that is so divided in a country that is with, you know, politics and.

It seems that when companies, and you can see this with, uh, Budweiser, uh, recently when companies start to dip into that realm of the very highly kind of controversial political things, it hasn’t been going so well. So some of Disney’s, uh, films that really tanked, that had done that, and now Budweiser with their move and, you know, it’s just a challenge because the world is so divided and it is, there’s, there’s.

You know, a lot of political tension right now. What is your opinion on that? I mean, personally for me, I, I just think that businesses need to try to stay out of those highly divisive areas as much as possible instead of trying to become an advocate for either side. Cuz so far in, from what we’ve seen, it hasn’t done very well.

Yeah. For, for their companies. We in the early days took on a couple of political clients and, uh, I, I should have learned from my original mentor, uh, uh, at Harold Bersen at, who founded Beon Marshell here back in the fifties. Mm-hmm. And he once told me when I first went to work for him back in, when I was just a young nothing, uh, he told me that, uh, we.

We won’t work for political candidates because I’m a, I’m an ardent democrat and Bill Marella, his partner is an ardent Republican and we can’t agree on it. So we don’t work for ’em. Uh, I learned a lesson later on that, uh, political politics is fraught with two things. One, it’s bad business. I mean, it really is.

Mm-hmm. Because you’re dealing with, uh, you’re more than likely you’re gonna get stiffed rather than paid. By a political party. Okay. Uh, yeah. Or a candidate. Unfortunate but true. Uh, you have it, you have the opportunity to alienate at least maybe up to or more than half of your audience that you want to.

So why, yeah, why get involved in that? And, uh, so yeah, we stay away from it. Do we have our own political opinions? Damn right. We do. Uh, everyone should. You know, uh, but I believe in the certain things that, uh, that politics, it, no, I just, we really want to avoid it. Yeah. The other thing we avoid now, pretty much, and interesting enough, Ryan, is, uh, entertainers, okay?

Mm-hmm. Uh, we found that entertainers are difficult to work with and, uh, uh, yeah. David Copperfield was a big client of mine back in the early nineties, the, uh, illusionist. Mm. Mm-hmm. And, uh, We just found that in a couple of other entertainers we worked with to be, uh, you’re dealing with egos. Yes. And you’re actually not dealing with the budgets.

They, they tend to be very tight. Okay. As well as being egotistical. So it’s one of those I I know, I understand it. Trust me. That’s why I had to leave la. We were there for three years and we had to get out. There’s a lot of great people, but there’s a lot of egos. Yeah. And so at one point in time you say, is it really worth it?

No. Is there an upside? The upside isn’t worth it, other than the fun of saying you work with somebody you know? Right. And, uh, yeah. Uh, that’s somebody that’s well known and so forth. But now we prefer to stick to our, uh, our, our business clients and our, uh, our, you know, whether it be. 5 0 1 , uh, charities.

Mm-hmm. Or whether it be major, publicly traded corporations. We, we just find that’s to be, that’s a comfort zone that we feel comfortable with. Right. Love it. Well, let’s, let’s, uh, finish with one final question. It’s been great having you on and, uh, there’s so many gems of knowledge that you’ve shared today.

So I hope people, um, not only listen to the whole thing, but go back and re-listen to it. But this final question, what does success in 2023. Mean to you, and then this could be personal or on a business level? Well, if you, if you talk to any small business, and I like to think we’re still small to medium size, but if you talk to any small business, I.

An absolute honest answer would be survival. Okay. But, uh, but other than that, it’s, it’s certainly growth, revenue growth is what I would consider successful. We’re still looking to grow in terms of being not so big that we can’t serve our clients well, and I don’t want to be that big. Mm-hmm. But we do want to, you want to always increase your revenue every year, particularly in a business work.

Where there’s such turnover in clients constantly. Yeah. Uh, the other thing is you want to have, you want to have a sense of satisfaction where we want to work for White hat, what we call white hat clients, uh, clients that where you have a sense they’re actually accomplishing something beyond just making profit for their, uh, making a profit for their show horrors, but actually doing something that’s worthwhile.

Uh, I love that in things. And, and, uh, the other level of success is free time. I mean, I, mm-hmm. I, I like to make sure my people have free time, and I certainly want more free time as I get closer and closer to some kind of retirement age. I have to be a motorcycle rider. And, uh, I Oh, great. Out on my bike every once in a while and to write, oh, yeah.

You know, somewhere along the line, you know that I’ve written a book. I wrote a book about a year ago about these 50 years of experience of mine and stories and anecdotes called, called, it’s the Media, stupid PR Without the Bs. And, uh, Uh, I’m looking to do a sequel to that and perhaps some other writing, which I’m looking too Great, and I’m glad you mentioned that.

Where, where can, where can people find the book? Oh, uh, you can find it on Amazon for sure. You can go to our Web two Inc’s website, but you can also find it on Amazon. And again, it’s, the title is, it’s The Media, stupid PR Without the bs. And it’s available on Amazon and on our website. And, and your website is, is inc.

I n k website is of course www dot inc, inc. Pr i n k i n Excellent. And we will link that in the show notes. Great. Um, and it’s been awesome having you on Dick. Really Well, it’s a pleasure. Um, Well, it, it’s a pleasure. You’re a legend in the PR industry. I’m envious of anybody that has been able to dance in ballroom dancing as well as a few other disciplines, you know?

So, uh, I think it’s great. Yeah, it’s, it was a, it was. Thank you so much. Yeah, it was a great part of my life and so appreciative of that experience that I was able to do with do with my wife. And, um, but I’m also loving being an entrepreneur and I, I still perform, I still have, uh, shows that I do here and there, but I love being an entrepreneur.

I love, I love pr, I love, uh, messaging. Um, and, and that’s kind of, you know, always been my passion. And I, I think I did that in dancing. I wanted to connect with people and now I’m doing it with business, so thank you. Well, you’re in a great profession to do it right now. Seriously, and, uh, thank you and I, I, I’ll, I’ll shove the compliment right back at you, Ryan.

You’re a, you’re a very good interviewer. Thank you. Look, thank you so much. Like you’re enjoying the interview. I do, I do. I love this. Great. I, I love it because you get to meet great people just like you and learn from you. So appreciate your time. Thank you. I appreciate it as well. All right. Thanks for being with us, you guys.

We’ll see you next time on the Idea Wins podcast. Thanks for listening. If you’re looking for tools or resources to grow, optimize, and save money for your business, or if you have questions about today’s podcast or previous episode, go to idea We believe every idea counts, and a small, simple idea might be the only thing holding you back from a big win for your business.

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