An Interview with Rick Berman

An Interview with Rick Berman

Food & Drink

An Interview with Rick Berman


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Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Company, a Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm specializing in strategic research, communications, and creative advertising in the policy arena. The firm has managed several high profile public policy initiatives for the food and beverage industries.Norman Brinker and Rick Berman (early 1980's)

Since 2009, Berman and Company has received 45 national awards for its work in issue advocacy advertising, media, crisis communication, and graphic design. The company consistently excels in getting its clients’ messages into the spotlight through aggressive media outreach on television, radio, the Internet, and placing opinion editorials in over 100 top newspapers every year.

Prior to founding Berman and Company in 1987, Rick was employed as an Executive Vice President for the Pillsbury Corporation, Labor Counsel for Bethlehem Steel and Dana Holding Corporation, as well as Director of Labor Law for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

A native of New York City, Berman is a graduate of Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky, and earned his Juris Doctorate from the law school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He is admitted to practice in Virginia Rick Bermanand the District of Columbia. Rick lives with his wife in McLean, Virginia.

Title: President, Berman and Company (BAC)

Age: 67  

Headquarters: Washington, D.C.

Newest projects: Educating the public about the HSUS, health care reforms, tip credits, and the unsustainable federal debt.

Hometown: Bronx, NY

Education: Juris Doctor

First job: Newspaper delivery boy

Heroes: Norman Brinker  

What do you cook at home: Grilled cheese 

Favorite TV, movie, music: History Channel, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Country music

Favorite part of the job: Exposing the duplicity of my opponents.

Guilty pleasure: Ice cream

Best stress management: Riding horses and driving fast cars

Career highlights: Hanging out a shingle that said “lobbyist” and surviving.

Best advice ever received: Never give up.

Best advice ever given: Ditto.

Favorite book: Catcher in the Rye

Hobbies: What is that concept? 



Who is the toughest advocate you have ever come up against? Richard Bensinger, AFL-CIO

How much do you enjoy verbal sparring with your opponents? A lot.  

You have been on the Rachel Maddow show, the Stephen Colbert Report, 60 Minutes, in the New York Times and on and on. Have you ever regretted doing any of those interviews? No, I’m never afraid of an interview, even from a hostile source. But I do get annoyed when reporters take my comments out of context in order to suit their agenda.

Give me one-word responses to the following acronyms:

PETA: Irrelevant

MADD: Tired

NRA: Transition

CSPI: Maturing

DNC: Failing

GOP: Mixed

PACs: Essential  

MSNBC: Weird

Who is the person that you have met that has impressed you the most? My daughter. She has handled more challenges successfully in 40 years than most people get in a lifetime.  

What is the essence of what you try to accomplish for your clients? Identify important bottom line threats and engage early enough to make a difference in the outcome.

How do you hire and recruit employees? What characteristics do you look for? All the traditional ways that range from word of mouth, peers to recruiters. The most important are intelligence, cleverness, self awareness and a big engine.

How do you know what the next big issue will be? Yogi Berra said it best, “You can observe a lot by watching.” There is a rhythm to public policy evolution. Some part of seeing the future is intuitive, but there is a lot that you can predict by knowing the process and understanding what drives the players who are in decision-making roles.

Do you react to the issues or do you engineer the issues? I anticipate some and create others. I would rather be on offense and have the chance to frame the issues rather than be responding to someone else and their view of the world.

What is the next big issue that will affect foodservice? Obesity and “animal rights” are issues still in the infancy stage.

What will it take for the government to get out of the way of the business community? Government is simply the vehicle that delivers other group agendas. The core of our problem are those groups that have goals and money that fashion public opinion. And that opinion drives government actors. Business sees government as a nuisance. These nuisance groups see it as their business. It’s classic asymmetrical warfare. 

What do you think of the Tea Party? More of a mood than a movement. And moods are easily changed.

Do you have more business during a Democratic administration? No. The interest groups that are constantly driving public opinion are a large part of our focus and they are always present.

What public official holding office today do you most admire? In my business there are several reasons you don’t answer that question.  

What do you like best about working with restaurant operators? There are lots of people with an entrepreneurial “get it done” attitude rather than a corporate “risk adverse” mentality.

What is the one word that best describes you? Relentless.

What thoughts have you given to extending your brand after you are gone? Am I going somewhere? Seriously, we have a team that is second to none. If I got hit by a truck tomorrow they have the depth and the passion to carry much of our work into the future.  


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