We missed Judy Collins by a day, but I spotted Rosanne Cash deep in conversation with bookseller-to-the-1-percent Glenn Horowitz. While the celeb wattage at Michael’s was uncharacteristically low today (hunky actor Chris Pine’s dad was there, though), the usual suspects — all stars in their own lives, don’t you know — were out in force making the Wednesday lunch scene to see and be seen.
I was joined today by Tom Goodman, founder of Goodman Media International, the New York City-based public relations firm he founded in 1996 after 20 years in corporate PR for CBS, ABC and J.Walter Thompson. Just before hanging out his own shingle, he toiled as head of communications for CBS News and CBS Inc. “I was out in the Westinghouse merger,” Tom told me, between bites of chicken paillard. “The timing was perfect — and so much of life depends on luck and timing.” Don’t I know it. “I had some good contacts at CBS, and they helped so much.” I bet. He started with three very high-profile clients — British Airways, Sony and MSNBC — and since opening his office (which now has very swanky digs with a stunning view of Times Square) has “represented every major network and cable network at one time or another.”
I met Tom (where else?) in this very dining room and have always been impressed by the diverse roster of machers, moguls and media mavens his firm represents. His staff of 25 handles the media relations, social media, product launches and event publicity (among other services) for media bigwigs like PBS and Reader’s Digest, iconic institutions and organizations, including The Hospital for Special Surgery and Joe Torre‘s Safe at Home Foundation.
He recently opened a Boston office and is “talking to someone” about doing more business in Los Angeles. “One-third of our business is media, one-third is nonprofits and one-third is professional services,” he told me. The Goodman media team also have their share of glitzy accounts. They handled the launch of three Harry Potter books, rolled out the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book for 12 years and were “the agency of record” for Grand Central Terminal’s 100th anniversary. A quick check of the company’s Facebook page revealed this week’s big project: unveiling this year’s Hess Truck (which Tom toted to our lunch for a bit of show and tell) for the holidays. The iconic toy is 50 years old (!?) and to celebrate, the PR plan for the long-time client included an appearance on the Today show.
“For me, it’s all about relationships,” said Tom, pointing out that he met Jack Kliger at Michael’s and was promptly hired to work with both TV Guide and Maxim when Jack was helming the magazines. “I love that part of the business and how everything always comes back around. You have to be nice to everyone because you never know where someone is going to wind up.” While he takes his relationships with clients seriously, he is just as committed to hiring the right people for the firm. As the first line of defense for all new hires, when he meets a candidate, he told me: “The first thing I ask myself when interviewing someone is, “Are they nice people? Will they fit into the culture?” He leaves digging into the details of someone’s qualifications to the rest of his team. In fact, he described his management style as decidedly hands-off: “I mostly stay out of the way.”
For the man who got his start in PR as Peter Jennings’ publicist, the opportunity to work with clients “doing meaningful work” is an irresistible draw. “We don’t get distracted working with individuals,” he explained. He pointed to his firm’s work with Cablevision’s Lustgarten Foundation as among his most rewarding projects. Goodman Media does, however, work with one person, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who signed with the firm right before the Aaron Sorkin film The Social Network premiered. “He didn’t know how he was going to be portrayed. He watched the movie for the first time with [Goodman Media staffer] Sabrina Strauss and said it was surreal. “We still handle interview requests for him.”
At Goodman Media, the team, which is comprised of a diverse cross-section of “former journalists, agency people and some newbies” are not pigeonholed into specific categories. “Everyone works on everything,” said Tom. “I like to keep things fresh. Every team is different.” Staying nimble allows the firm and its staff to meet clients’ specific needs which, he said, have evolved to include a greater emphasis on social media. “We handle the social media for a lot of our clients, which includes Facebook, Twitter and blogging campaigns. It wasn’t too long ago these things weren’t part of the plan.” Today’s “real challenge” for public relations professionals, said Tom, is “to keep up with the pace” set by social media. “It used to be you had hours to get back to a reporter filing a story; now you might get 10 minutes before they’re posting. There are no deadlines anymore.” Still, said Tom, when it comes to PR placements, television is king. “I don’t think there is a client who has ever come to these offices and not said, ‘I want to get on the Today show or I want to get on GMA.‘”
Between landing big hits for its high-profile clients, Goodman Media has also managed to score some pretty impressive PR coups for themselves, courtesy of its impressive digs on Broadway. The offices have served as the setting for scenes on shows like The Good Wife, Girls and the HBO movie Too Big To Fail and the soon-to-debut Younger, starring Hilary Duff, as well as Bravo’s upcoming scripted show, Odd Mom Out. “I don’t shut the office down; we just work around it. It makes things a lot of fun for the staff. Last week, my office was the dressing room for the stars on Hilary Duff’s show. I just excused myself. It’s amazing what goes into the making of a single episode.”
Seems like there’s never a dull moment at Tom’s offices. Currently none other than Tina Brown and her staff for her Women in the World conferences are camping out in a corner of Goodman Media. Tom met Tina while working with her on her swan song at Newsweek. “She was starting anew and I had space for her. I admire her very much and I was happy to help.” It’s all about relationships, remember?
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Corvex’s Keith Meister, whose “combative style” was the subject of a profile in The Wall Street Journal two days ago. Today, at least, the “burly” hedge-fund manager seemed to be getting along fine with the table full of suits he was dining with…
2. All that glitters: Accessories maven Mickey Ateyeh with Ruth Shuman, founder of Publicolor and her cousin, jewelry designer Dana Bronfman
3. Dr. Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield and Jerry Della Femina, who threw me off completely by switching from their usual perch at Table 6 to “Mayor” Joe Armstrong’s regular spot. “Don’t tell Joe!” the guys warned me. I won’t say a word…
4. Jimmy Finkelstein
5. Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman
6. Another switcheroo: New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia (usually at Table 8) with Phillip Kingsley and pals
7. Bookseller Glenn Horowitz and Rosanne Cash (yes, Johnny Cash‘s daughter)
8. Designer and fledgling caterer Cornelia Guest
9. Vanity Fair scribe Amy Fine Collins, whose book The God of Driving is being made into a movie and due out soon.
10. Chris Taylor
11. Agent Esther Newberg
12 & 16. Haspel’s Laurie Aronson, hosting two tables of well-heeled folks. Swanky.
14. Marc Rosenthal
15. Jack Kliger
17. Jolie Hunt
18. PR maestro Paul Wilmot
20. Lynne White
21. Marketing man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman and Highgrove Capital’s president George Farias
22. Todd Joyce
23. The Financial Times’ Gillian Tett
24. Marc Greenberg
25. Tom Goodman and yours truly
27. Act One: Patrick Murphy and pals; Chapter Two: Vicky Ward, whose new book, The Liar’s Ball, was bashed as “boring” on Twitter by none other than Donald Trump. Mr. T fumed that Ward had not told the full story about the sale of the GM Building he once owned and the book does not fully convey the “glamour” of the deal that resulted in selling of the skyscraper. Could be reason alone to check it out.
28. PR maven Susan Blond
29. The Wall Street Journal‘s David Sanford and Lewis Stein
81. PMK*BNC CEO Cindi Berger
Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.