WASHINGTON, D.C.—Just a month after Porter Novelli consolidated its public affairs operations into a single practice area, two of its most prominent public affairs professionals—Ben Goddard and Rick Claussen—are leaving to form their own firm, GC Strategic Advocacy. Goddard and Claussen, who joined PN when it acquired their former firm, Goddard-Claussen, described the split as amicable.
“Porter Novelli did what they said they would do, which was to let us run our own show,” Goddard told reporters in Washington. “But last September, Rick and I concluded that we were too entrepreneurial to be part of a big corporate entity. We had gotten too busy doing client liaison and dealing with human- resources, accounting, and management issues. We wanted to get back to being involved with clients in a hands-on way, sitting down, developing a strategy, and writing and producing the advertising.”
The new firm will have offices in Washington, D.C., and California and will focus on producing issue-advocacy ads for interest groups, and commercials for sponsors or opponents of ballot initiatives. Goddard said that prior to the firm’s acquisition, he had directed every commercial created by the duo—most famous for the Harry and Louise ads that helped kill Clinton’s healthcare reform initatives—but that in the past four years he directed only two or three ads a year.
Several clients will move from Porter Novelli with the two, including the American Council of Life Insurers, the Educational Testing Service, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Energy. Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli, meanwhile, will retain clients such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, the International Employee Stock-Options Coalition, the Chlorine Chemistry Council, the American Forest & Paper Association, the Vinyl Institute, the Business Roundtable, and the Asbestos Alliance.
Porter Novelli’s public affairs practice is headed by Donna Lucas, former president of Nelson Communications Group, another acquisition. Goddard-Claussen Porter Novelli is led by Michael Kehs, who was chief operating officer of its Washington office.