Behind the Headlines with…Andrew Graham

Firstly, tell us a bit about Clear and what your agency offers.

We provide ideas and perform actions that use media to help clients get from where they are to where they need to be.

Our work is grounded in one consistent belief: Every stakeholder group reacts best to information that’s clear, consistent, and memorable. We bring a strategic, campaign-style mindset to PR and complement our media relations skills with other important capabilities.

What made you want to get into PR?

I liked journalism but I also liked playing a role in moving organizations forward, and I found I was pretty good at both. Public relations is about finding the line between what’s newsworthy and what advances a client’s business interests, and then completely owning that line. It’s extremely challenging but can be extremely rewarding because nothing can replace what good PR work does for an organization.

What inspired you to launch your own agency?

Back in August, I floated the idea to Clear’s other Co-Founder, Jeremy Bridgman, whom I had worked with at the communications firm Greentarget. We spent the next four months thinking about what the field lacks most and how we could be a great option for organizations that want to be more visible.

My biggest inspiration was a need for autonomy. Great things happen when a small group of people create sound plans and then vigorously execute those plans. At my previous agencies, it could be challenging to deliver on plans I wasn’t at the table developing with clients. What’s the cliche about too many cooks in the kitchen?

It boiled down to having confidence in my thinking and wanting more autonomy than conventional agencies provide.

How would your colleagues describe you?

“Always working.” The primary output of good PR work is thought that connects a bunch of dots that seem disparate and unrelated, because to inform completely is the best way to persuade effectively and gain advocates indefinitely.

Who do you most admire in the PR industry?

I’m meeting new folks in the field worthy of admiration every day, especially since launching Clear. In the media field generally, I’ve always had a strange admiration for Anna Wintour. She just brings it every day. Consistently working hard while also working smart is a habit I envy.

How is your relationship with journalists?

Exceedingly professional. I have respect for the fact that they’re some of the busiest professionals on the planet, and every time I correspond with a journalist I keep that in mind.

What would you like to do more of in PR?

I want to find out what op-ed editors look for in submissions. I’ve ghosted dozens of published op-eds and have plenty of anecdotes, but I’ve never read anything that asks those editorial gatekeepers directly what they look for. And those pages are the most valuable real estate in the mainstream press for executives, because usually if an organization is on the front page, it’s for doing something bad.

What one thing do you want to accomplish by the end of 2014?

At Clear, we won’t represent more than one company in any given field, so I’d like to have one client in each of the industries we know well by the end of the year. Those include financial technology, law/lobbying, consumer technology, banking, and hedge funds. I also want a digital currency client and a client in the marijuana industry because I think those are two quickly emerging, extremely disruptive fields that could benefit greatly from our thinking.

What do you hope will happen today?

Not to be too Frank Underwood about it, but hope isn’t something I’m satisfied with relying on. Few things really surprise me, so every day is about reacting well to the opportunities that present themselves.

What was your favorite PR moment?

When I took on a new client one week and had them in the Wall Street Journal, saying something completely new and newsworthy, later that week.

What did you always want to be when you grew up?

The plan was to be an auto mechanic. I like to fix broken things and make functional things work better.

What is the most interesting fact about you?

The first time I was in a plane, it was for skydiving.

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