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“The Man With the Gray Wavy Hair”: George Sard Has His Moment in the Sun

It’s hard to prove that something hasn’t happened because of your efforts. But a lot of high-powered Wall Street types are quick to thank George Sard and his PR firm Sard Verbinnen for all the stories  that don’t get written about them.

Both Sard and Verbinnen (Paul is his first name) declined to comment, but Bloomberg Businessweek wrote a profile that names the following clients: SAC Capital Advisors, Dell and Air Products and Chemicals (both involved in multi-billion-dollar deals), and Goldman Sachs’ Fabrice Tourre. The quote in the headline comes from the story, which says “the man with the gray wavy hair” was virtually the only person in the courtroom during Tourre’s trial not to get any media attention.

For its efforts, the article notes that the firm is the number one M&A firm by deal count, according to Mergermarket, “lending its expertise to 45 transactions worth $71 billion in the first half of 2013.”

Alongside Jonathan Gasthalter, the Sard and Verbinnen split their time between crisis and litigation work (one-fifth of the firm revenue) and M&A (most of its revenue). “In hindsight, I would have to say their advice proved itself to be on point,” said Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group CEO Scott Thompson.

If one of your clients is going to be quoted talking about you, that’s the kind of thing you want them to say. It speaks to the type of work that firms should be aspiring to — that of a trusted advisor. Oftentimes, when the media starts sniffing around or a company has a big announcement to make, they want to trumpet it as loud and as far and wide as possible. Sometimes, less is more, and being targeted and meaningful is better in the long run than showing up on the Today show to randomly toss things to the public hoping something sticks (looking at you Twinkie).

At a time when everyone is broadcasting across social media, the Internet, and all manner of media available, there’s something to be said of discretion, working behind the scenes, and diffusing a situation. By and large, a lot of PR firms do keep quiet about a lot of things, reluctant to name clients and talk about strategy. There’s a pay off for being low key when executing campaigns and programs as well.

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