The life of a public relations professional can be hectic, time-consuming (even smothering) and often thankless. Add entrepreneurship, running a busy office and representing some of the biggest celebrities and brands in the world to the equation, and it seems like there would be no time for sleep. Then 5WPR founder Ronn Torossian comes along and makes the work look nearly effortless.
When Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised go-getter Torossian started his firm in 2003, he had the vision to bring together great minds in the publicity field to create a family of sorts with appealing clientele. In less than a decade, he’s got an award-winning bi-coastal company, which is among the Top 25 largest independent public relations firms in the United States.
Additionally, Ronn received accolades in the “40 Under 40” lists for both Advertising Age (2006) and PR Week (2007), as well as becoming a semi-finalist for the 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2011, he released his first book For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations, making waves on Amazon.com’s PR Best Seller List.
As he sets up for 2012, Torossian is admittedly still learning to balance his formidable career with being a dad, and still making time for himself. The spitfire spin doctor recently talked with us about his accomplishments thus far, the ways he marries enthusiasm and work ethic, and much more.
What are the biggest changes in the in PR industry as of late? How does a serious publicist deal with being stereotyped? Read on as Ronn Torossian allows UrbLife.com to get in his business!
What are some of the most exciting things that you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
Ronn Torossian: Owning your own business is always something different. Every single day there is something different going on, good, bad, or indifferent. Being an entrepreneur, you can never be lazy. One thing that is very exciting is, if you’re a prize fighter, you train eight months for that one big fight. If you’re a football player, you train six days a week for that seventh day. Being an entrepreneur you have to be on every single day. Every day you have to bring it.
That’s something that is very exciting for anyone who thinks to work for themselves, who wants to have their own challenges, their own pushes. It’s something that is exciting, exhilarating, and scary all at the same time. I think that is something that I have absolutely learned, and continue to learn.
Are there any particular books that you read through the course of your career that helped you to keep that mindset of constant change?
RT: I read a lot of books. I love The Tipping Point, The Old Rules of Marketing are Dead… one of the greatest books I ever read is It’s Not the Big That Eats the Small, It’s The Fast That Eats the Slow. That’s really a great book, I love that book, it’s really exciting.
I think that a good entrepreneur, certainly a good PR person, is always reading, always trying to find more. You always have to be on your game, always have to be looking toward the next thing. I’m always reading and always trying to find more challenges.
What are the three biggest changes that you’ve witnessed in the PR industry in recent years?
RT: One is, digital media is here to stay and not going anywhere. Speed. If you miss a phone call… in the world today, try not calling your best friend back after three hours, try not emailing back, I think you’re dead. I think that speed matters tremendously today. In the PR business, really in any business, say you’re going to a meeting and you don’t call somebody back, then you’re going to see your name all over newswires that you weren’t available for comment.
I think the third thing, we seen it with the killing of Gadhafi, you don’t see it on Fox News video or CNN news video or in the New York Times, you see people in the streets shooting it themselves. Everybody today is a journalist, and everybody today is in media. Everybody has access to making a statement, to saying something, and that’s good and exciting, but also scary.
At what point have PR people had to accept bloggers as real journalists?
RT: I don’t think you have a choice. In today’s world, everyone can make a statement and be heard. It’s a fact of life today. Every single person out there can say something and be heard. I don’t know if it’s something that’s ever going to go away. Bottom line is, if I write something true or untrue, it’s out there on the internet, you have to deal with it. They don’t need to love it, but they need to understand that it’s something that’s not going to go away.
What is your go-to philosophy when times get tough in business?
RT: Work harder, work more. It’s always scary running a business. I’m an entrepreneur who constantly strives for more. I think there is no substitute for hard work. I think that people have to recognize and realize that sweating and hard work is something that will get you ahead, and it’s not always easy. Being an entrepreneur and working and succeeding are about long hours sometimes.
Do the right thing. Hope to be a little bit better tomorrow than you were today. That’s something that I always want to do, I want to be a little bit better tomorrow than I was today.
When you’re bringing on employees or interns, what are some key pieces of advice that you give them to survive in the PR business, or even just your company?
RT: Don’t be afraid to take chances! In order to do great things you have to take some chances. Work really hard. Care about what you do. We tell our people to treat our clients like they’re family. That really makes a difference, it shows that you’re passionate about what you are doing and that’s really important. If you’re passionate it would really show and really make a difference.
As natural sales people, PR, marketing, advertising reps sometimes get a bad rep for being insincere in business. Have you ever experienced bias from anyone thinking because you’re a PR professional that you’re always selling them something?
RT: I think of PR as something that always existed. In many ways, it’s that woman that always wakes up at 7:00am to put on her makeup. After she puts on her makeup, is she a different woman or is she the same woman? In other words, when a woman wakes up in the morning she’s beautiful, but does she look the same without makeup? Not really. Once she puts on her clothes, to the outside world is she somebody different or is she the same? The day of a woman’s wedding, is she doing PR when she dresses herself up or is that the same woman that you know? She looks more beautiful… well yeah, she put more work into herself.
That’s PR. PR is something that always exists, and is something which constantly and consistently evolves and grows, because people evolve and grow. I think PR is something that does exist and always has existed, and is like that woman who wakes up and makes herself look more beautiful than she already is on a regular day. I think that’s what life is about, making sure you are looking your best and being packaged the best way you know how.
How would you deal with someone being biased toward you as a career professional, like, “You’re just a PR guy, why should I listen to you?”
RT: I can’t control what other people say or do. All one can do is do the best that they can and bring it the best way that they know how. One of the reasons that I wrote this book is to, frankly, offset some of the dispositions about me and my business and as an industry as a whole. Many people have tremendous misconceptions about what this business is about.
I wrote the book because when I read what’s out there about PR, they couldn’t be further from the truth. The way PR is reflected in the mainstream world, it’s just not accurate about what we do for a living. I wanted to write the book so people would see what the real PR industry and what a real PR professional is about.
What would like for anyone who reads this book to take away from your words?
RT: PR can make a huge difference is business, PR can make a huge difference in the world, and PR is something that will only continue to grow much more.
If you could go back to your 18-year-old self and give him a good piece of advice, what would it be?
RT: You don’t know anything. You can do anything and be true to yourself. People have got to know themselves. I think that I that I may not have made the most conventional decisions. If I could do it all over, I would realize that I’m not always right about everything. Also, that there is no substitute for hard work.
What are some key tips that you would give anyone for balancing career and home life?
RT: Have a boundary for yourself. That’s something that I personally still struggle with. Having a boundary between your personal life and work life will help you in every aspect of your life. Plan a vacation way in advance, something I’ve only learned to do recently. No matter what you do, don’t move it. Anywhere in the world today, phones work and BlackBerrys work, so you can’t run away from a call. Decide what you want to be, everybody has their own boundaries. Decide what’s most important for you.
What are some things coming up for you that you want people to look out for?
RT: My book was number three on the Amazon.com best seller list in terms of PR books. Hopefully it gets to number one, that will be really important to me. I’m 37 now, and I believe that my business has just started growing and we’re going to continue growing. We’re always looking for clients and we’re always looking for employees. We’re always striving to be a little better today than we were yesterday.