To hungry businessmen setting up a new company, any client seems like a good client. But if you’re Denis Calabrese and the other six founders of Austin, Texas’ The Patriot Group, a new conservative public affairs firm, you can’t wait to be choosy: the success of the firm depends as much on principle as on financial success. To The Patriot Group, success means pursuing liberty-minded values in partnership with client goals.
“Our prospective clients interview us but we also interview them because we want to espouse the merits of their position,” said founder Denis Calabrese.
Calabrese, a former Chief of Staff for Congressman Dick Armey, praised his group’s sincere dedication to working for causes consistent with their personal beliefs, saying that while some firms “pay lip service” to that philosophy, they bend it and break it quite frequently.
Calabrese said being located outside of Washington gives them an advantage because that’s where the voters and donors are . Consultants for The Patriot Group have worked nationwide on a broad variety of public policy issues and campaigns. Most weeks, a consultant is in Washington for representation, but the heart of the group remains in Texas.
The underlying conservative principles of free enterprise, personal liberty, limited government and private property penetrate every business decision and this hard working, impassioned crew readily turn away clients lacking their moral vision.
Ryan Gravatt, one of the firm’s seven founders, is a managing partner and the director of the online division, which helps we build web sites, launch email campaigns, and structure online grassroots activities. He spoke of a defining move for The Patriot Group at the start of their venture. They had to make a tough call: either deviate from their principle-based work or turn down a potentially-lucrative contract with a Fortune 500 company. That particular company had requested anti-competitive tactics for their consultation and that didn’t cut it.
“At first you might think you are automatically limiting the scope of business you take in,” Gravatt said. “That’s true to some extent but we also only want to work on issues and clients who share the same values as we do.”
For these professionals, it’s not only about the money. They want to move America in the right direction by building on professionally perfected skills. A passionate vision rooted in confident experience forecasts a thriving future for The Patriot Group. “We thought we would be stronger as a group and just do more of what we were doing — but in a more effective way,” said Calabrese.
The key phrase, “winning on merits,” was born when the top notch consultants came together after individually reaching a critical mass of clients. “If their back is against the wall, we try to show them…this is what the finish line looks like and you don’t have to sell out your principles to get there,” said Gravatt.
Besides working on purpose-driven issues and conservative political campaigns, the Patriot Group also creates their own crusades — to “insert a voice when there is a void.” Most recently, they began Power Across Texas, a group focused on energy issues. Treating it as any other consultation, they drafted a spokesman, set up editorial board visits, conducted interviews with reporters and visited Capital Hill. The result was a foot in the door of the debate.
“It is not something other public affairs firms are willing to do but we have talent within our walls to put together a brand, a lobbying strategy and a communications strategy,” said Gravatt. “Once we are able to recruit other parties, it becomes an entity that has legitimacy and is able to seek input.”
The Patriot Group partly relies on customary grassroots activism for many of their campaigns. Simple but effective methods like “tell-a-friend” campaigns, planting yard signs, block walking and traditional fundraising contribute to some of their fundamental success. Many clients seek media training so The Patriot Group provides instruction on letter writing, interview tactics, speech presentation and even crisis communications — when damage control is necessary.
“We have campaign playbook regardless of the size,” said Gravatt. “If you’re a mayoral candidate in small town or metro area, we’ve got a playbook that says do a, b, c, d and do it in this order.”
When the Governor’s Business Council in Texas came to the Patriot Group to brainstorm some much needed education reform, they helped create Excellence in the Classroom. This collaboration effort attempts to influence educational legislation and also reflects a greater vision of impacting public policy more significantly to move American forward in the right way.
Clients include Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, the Genocide Intervention Network, the Coalition for Breathing Safety and Congressman Mike Conaway. With such a broad issues base, The Patriot Group easily locates patrons seeking principled counsel.
“We are hoping [this firm] starts to shape this business [public affairs] a little so clients start looking for consultants that are not just mercenaries but that actually believe in things,” said Calabrese. “We are partially training clients to understand that there is an option out there that will give them a better product and a longer term solution.”
The Patriot Group was named for an ideology that conveys foundational conservative values. A ‘patriot’ is defined as “a person who owes allegiance to that nation.” Gravatt said it was chosen to honor the country’s founding fathers and the original patriots seeking liberty and a government where voters have a voice and a growing democracy.
“People that signed up for this truly believe with their hearts and minds in what they are doing,” said Calabrese.
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