Everything PR News had the privilege this morning to interview one of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs and PR professionals, 5W Public Relations’ President and CEO, Ronn Torossian. As the news of markets falling, despots being deposed, and celebrities realities reach us on various media, we talked with Ronn about the state of public relations today, and about his take, as one of the world’s great crisis doctors.
The Value of Mercury
By way of a short introduction, for the budding PR or marketer out there, who has been trapped beneath the proverbial rock, Ronn Torossian is a figure in the industry of particular influence, but even more interestingly, a bit of a paradigm disturbance when compared to other lofty communications gurus. Ronn founded 5WPR back in 2003, and has since steered the company to become one of the top 25 PR agencies in the United States, today in 2015.
This mercuric growth is a direct result of not only Torossian’s skill, but a sometimes overlooked factor the reader may denote in this interview – his crystal clarity on the realities of PR, the dividing line between passion and practicality. The end result looks a great deal like transparency. But, let’s get down to PR today.
Q & A & More
The line of questioning I put to Ronn basically trended toward a schedule of current events, for Ronn’s clarification on PR now – his upcoming book being a part of this “state of PR” conversation too, so we start there.
EPR News – Ronn, your new book, For Immediate Release, is out in October, there’s not doubt readers can glean vast insight into PR concepts within the pages (based on the overview), but it begs the question; “How viable is DIY PR if people take your book in this frame?
Ronn T. – My new book, For Immediate Release, will tell many stories and teach vital lessons about the importance of Public Relations & marketing, for any size business – large or small. PR shapes minds – creates impressions, and doesn’t receive enough value, attention or budget from businesses. I hope my book will help continue the entire PR industry to grow. That said, if one reads a book by a brilliant lawyer, they won’t become the world’s greatest lawyer, nor if they read one of Ogilvy’s books will they be able to build a legendary advertising business – and so, PR is not a DIY industry either.
EPR News – After the Tiger Woods press conference in February of last year, you called the much maligned golfer “a disgrace” – referring to his believability. For the budding (or experienced) PR, how important would you say such skills as body language training, and presentation, vocal coaching are?
Ronn T. – Media training is vital for anyone conducting interviews, especially during crisis PR situations. We have had clients work with psychiatrists, acting coaches, and stylists – and it’s something I expect will grow in coming years as image and believability become even more important. Everything from clothing to manner and tone of speech effects how believability and trustworthy anyone is – and whether it’s Tiger Woods or a political candidate, a CEO or retail store owner, body language training, and presentation, amongst other factors, are vital.
EPR News – In a recent Business Insider article you discuss the death and legacy of Amy Winehouse, the dynamic of celebrity, alluding to that razor blade we all ride, where basically ethics and truth collide. Where is the line Ronn? In the end, where do you draw the line between PR and family – as you suggest in the article?
Ronn T. – In reference to that Business Insider article, as a PR Agency owner I was deeply touched during a recent visit to Disney with my young children to see a ride featuring Michael Jackson – Michael Jackson, a man widely considered to be a child molester has a ride at Disney? Sickness. The media creates role models, and I simply believe as a father exactly what NBA legend Charles Barkley said in his famous Nike commercials: “I am not a role model. I am not paid to be a role model. Parents should be role models. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” As marketers we create brands, and I do so on a daily basis for many celebrities – and will continue to do so – but parents should set values in homes.
EPR News – Is Gaddafi that line in the sand for Ronn Torossian?
Ronn T. – Everyone has to have their own red line in terms of who they will or will not represent. My firm has never shied away from controversial clients and this has served us well, as we have built 1 of the 25 largest PR firms in the US largely on this premise. We were named to the INC 500 list of fastest growing American companies, and have received many other accolades. Would we represent Gadaffi if approached and asked? Of course not… but have we represented people I haven’t agreed with? The answer is a resounding, Yes. I am a registered Republican – have we worked for Democrats? Yes, of course, and will many more times. Every company has to have their own ethics and values systems – and while it’s not something I want to share here in this venue, we have our own red lines.
EPR News – From your position as head of one of the world’s most powerful PR firms, how are social media and digital communications affecting other huge firms?
Ronn T. – Digital media has completely changed the Public Relations industry, and will continue to. Everyone today with access to Facebook and Twitter is in the PR and media business these days – they can create trends, news and build (or break brands). It’s fascinating, and terrifying all at the same time. We have many clients spending huge sums of money on digital media and some who are much more hesitant – in the next 3-5 years I believe digital media will continue to see major growth for the PR Agency business.
On this note, a particular area in which my agency has seen tremendous growth is SEO/Online Reputation Management. By virtue of PR’s ability to create content – both traditional and self-created media – there is a tremendously unique opportunity to shape search engine results. Everything indicates our growth, the industry’s growth in this area, will continue.
EPR News – Do you think PR has changed for the better with the advent of online PR? Or, has this opened a can of worms for those NOT in the know?
Ronn T. – The PR industry is always fun, exciting and challenging. Many firms have grown because of the new Online PR world – but I have also seen a great many in the US, and worldwide, suffer tremendously because of their lack of ability to keep up. This is an industry which requires constant energy, constant movement, and constant strength to succeed and win. It’s not easy, and without consistently learning and evolving, Public Relations professionals cannot succeed. 5WPR continues to experience growth, and we expect the next few years to be tremendous for our business. We are always hiring, and seeking new opportunities.
Real Clear, Real Tough Communication
I sought Ronn Torossian out for our first industry leader interview on the all new EPR, for a couple of reasons. First, having followed Torossian for a couple of years now via his Facebook and other SM postings, he clearly represents what I would call “a new breed” of communicators. Well, the stereotype is not all together new, but our position as digital evangelists, clearly identifies Torossian as “edgy” – or let’s just say a clear pied piper for 21st Century branding. Torossian is the personification of what the New York Times called; “the consummate scrappy publicist,” – the quintessential New York stereotype of Edward Bernays himself. The bottom line here? There’s just something super credible about Torossian.
Secondly, and finally, my own theories and dogma about communication (nay all of it, politics to pencils) is, there’s no time to waste getting down to brass tacks. The world has shrunk to the point now where BS and even bullets scarcely work any more. As human beings, we have to communicate better, or else. To be blunt, Torossian seems like the kind of guy who can pull this off – and with successful results. I am not talking about some BS artist lobbying another BS artist in Washington, to BS us.
For those who believe the Great Recession of 2008 is actually the Greatest Depression in history – the world needs straight talkers. When ushering in 2015, its important to remember these times and grow from them. This is not to say things cannot get real “delicate” – but you get my meaning, I hope – we are in a crisis, and Torossian is the Charles Barkley of crisis management.
We would like to thank Ronn for taking time from his busy schedule to speak to our readership. Over the next couple of weeks, EPR will speak with many of the world’s most influential communicators. In this way, we can do our little part to bring the conversation along. Thank you too, for taking your time to read the new Everything PR News.