News and Updates from 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian

Tag: Media Relations

Zimmerman Back in Press for Gun Auction

Not since the Zimmerman note has a general public hated a Zimmerman more than they do George Zimmerman. The guy’s always in the news for the wrong reasons and just can’t seem to get a clue.

When you, as a private citizen, have managed to engender the type of bone-deep revulsion that Zimmerman has, it’s a good idea to try to make your life as private as possible. Instead, Zimmerman has managed to be in the news for many, many bad days even since he was cleared in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

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Maricopa County says no more iPhones

Maricopa County iphone

If you were wondering how much of a political PR football this fight between Apple and the FBI is becoming, now you know. Maricopa County, Arizona, you know the place that always seems to find a way into the news when there’s a far right political issue in the press, has taken a hard line stand against Apple CEO Tim Cook’s refusal to create a backdoor into its iPhone.

According to a statement released to the media last week, Maricopa County officials declared they will no longer give Apple devices to employees. The message came directly from county attorney Bill Montgomery:

“I don’t expect my action to affect Apple’s stock price,” Montgomery said in a statement. “But I cannot in good conscience support doing business with an organization that chooses to thwart an active investigation into a terrorist attack that claimed the lives of fourteen fellow citizens. If Apple wants to be the official smartphone of terrorists and criminals, there will be a consequence.”

The county currently uses fewer than 400 iPhones, so the loss of this customer won’t even cause the company to blink. But the language could quickly be adopted by competitors looking for an edge in certain markets.

Think about what was said. An elected county official just accused an American company of actively supporting terrorists and criminals. Sure, he couched it in enough modifiers to be free from any legal action, but the intent bled through the thinly veiled accusations.

While some might dismiss this guy and his loudmouth, media-hungry county as just a bunch of no-count rabble rousers, many are not taking it that way. The language and the action used by the county attorney are sure to find their way onto talk radio and political websites, and may even end up in TV and print headlines.

Suddenly the accusations are playing out on a much bigger stage. While it’s likely that most people’s minds will not change on this issue, based on these comments, when they reach a certain point of saturation, Apple will be forced to respond. And that’s a tried and true tactic. It doesn’t matter what you say, get your opponent answering your accusations and suddenly everything you say appears to have more merit.

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Who’s better: Cam or Peyton?

cam newton peyton manning

The Super Bowl is once again upon us, and the matchup – Peyton Manning versus Cam Newton – has many industry commentators asking which quarterback is better.

On paper, that question is laughable. Peyton Manning is one of the best of all time. A five-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champ, and advertising powerhouse. Acknowledged as one of the best-prepared players to ever take the field, even Newton calls him “The General.”

Manning has inspired and informed a generation of QBs. He has been a model of how to play the game. And that’s where the rub is. Manning “has” and “has been.” While clearly he’s not a “has been” quite yet, Peyton is clearly in the twilight of his career. Pretty much everyone is taking for granted this will be his last Super Bowl appearance.

When it comes to marketing, Peyton still holds sway. He can be in commercials without ever mentioning his name. He can get you humming his brand’s theme song just by making a few self-mocking sketches in a 30-second spot. Crawfish shorts? Really?? That’s Peyton Manning, advertising juggernaut. While players before him have taken a Superman approach to marketing, by hyping themselves as much as their products, Manning seems content to laugh (at himself) all the way to the bank.

Newton is hot on his heels. As I’m writing this, the NFL MVP for this season has yet to be announced, but most prognosticators expect Newton to be a lock. They also expect him to massacre the Broncos in next weekend’s Super Bowl 50. And, of course, Manning is likely considering retirement. Sure, retired QBs like Brett Favre and Joe Montana still cash checks from advertising, but the NFL is a young man’s game. The fattest checks always go to the established, but still up and coming superstar. Cam Newton is that guy.

Newton is made for Madison Avenue. He’s literally bigger than life, and he absolutely loves the spotlight. Plus, he’s figured out the same thing Peyton has, but in a slightly different way. It’s all a game. Football is big business, but that business is fun, so if you bring the energy, people will love you. On the field, Manning is stoic and controlled, but still deadly. Newton is a wrecking ball. He literally and figuratively steamrolls opponents. Then he celebrates in front of their fans. Imagine what advertisers could do with that sort of attitude. Sports marketing hasn’t had someone that much fun since Bo Jackson.

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Zuckerberg’s vaccine comments ignite a firestorm

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has never been shy about expressing his socio-political perspectives on . Recently, the FB CEO chose to sound off while taking his new daughter in for her first round of vaccinations.

While the post may have been meant to simply be the sort of Day In the Life picture just about everyone uploads to Facebook, the photo and caption: “Doctor’s visit – time for vaccines!” ignited a firestorm.

To date, nearly 100,000 comments piled up on the picture, most from anti-vaccine apologists hoping to show others (and science) the error of their ways.

One particularly harsh anti-vax crusader put it this way: “Injecting newborns and infants with disease and neurotoxins is disgusting… Shame on you…”

Of course, while it’s clear this poster neither understands vaccines nor the science supporting them, there’s no use trying to tell her that. Though many did try. Ad nauseum.

One man posted in support of Zuckerberg, thanking him for supporting vaccine science. “As someone with autism, as someone who is constantly watching good people put their own children at serious risk because of old, fraudulent fears of vaccines … thank you for being sensible.”

As for Zuckerberg, people who follow his page already knew his stance. “Vaccination is an important and timely topic. The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community,” Zuckerberg has previously written.

So, the world is clear on where he stands and free to agree or disagree with that stance. But what if you haven’t waded into that debate? How can you be sure your innocently intended social media post will not ignite a PR nightmare?

The answer is indicative of the new reality we all face in today’s digital age. Much of our lives are played out online, for better or worse. A quick missive meant for a select group of friends can be shared with others, drawing many more voices into the net. Suddenly, a simple comment meant for a specific audience becomes a billboard for anyone with a bone to pick.

The solution? Be cautious of what you post online. Always. Understand that, on the net, privacy is nonexistent. Don’t let your next interaction with the internet turn into an unexpected PR crisis.

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AT&T greets the new year by taking it back

ATT - AT AND T PUBLIC RELATIONS

No more two-year contracts with AT&T. The story broke through tech industry site Engadget.com, which reported they obtained internal memos claiming AT&T will kick off 2016 by eliminating two-year contracts, effective January 8.

That means AT&T will officially join other competitors by forcing new customers – or current customers who want a new phone – to pay full freight upfront or pay for the phone in monthly installments.

The move, pioneered by Verizon, effectively puts a stop to a major upside to switching to another carrier. Both T-Mobile and Sprint have offered to “pay you to switch” from the higher ranked carriers to offset any dreaded early termination fees.

Those fees kept many On The Bubble consumers from trading into cheaper plans on other networks because they could run into hundreds of dollars. But when the lower tier of the Top Four began offering to pay customers to switch that stick disappeared from Verizon and AT&T’s arsenal.

The Top Tier in wireless communication then fought back with pay as you go plans. Instead of giving deep discounts on handsets for customers who signed up for two-year contracts, the companies offered to break up the cost of the phone into monthly installments, making it MUCH more expensive to switch. Even if a customer gets a free phone at the new company, they will still be stuck paying for one they can’t even use … unless they jailbreak it.

Of course, none of this will be in AT&T’s PR for this switch. If Verizon’s PR is any indication of their message, expect AT&T to position their decision as an opportunity for customers to Get Out Of Contracts or be free from long-term commitments. Pay no attention to that big price tag behind the curtain.

However, they plan to work it, understand the days of customers getting what are essentially handheld computers for next to nothing are pretty much over. If you want to play, you will have to pay.  

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Olive Garden continues a comeback

olive garden pr

Olive Garden might be the butt of innumerable foodie jokes, but the company isn’t listening. The home of breadsticks and endless bowls of salad has been shouldering most of the load for parent company Darden Restaurants as of late.

Overall Darden earnings easily eclipsed expectations, and, believe it or not, Olive Garden can take most of the credit. And, for the second quarter in a row, Darden raised its fiscal outlook… right, and it announced a new stock buyback plan while also boosting its dividend. Talk about making everyone happy!

Consequently, Darden stock is up nearly 20 percent in 2015. Of course, none of this was really expected.

Back in September 2014, industry watchdogs came down on the flagging eatery with both boots. In a blistering nearly-300-page document, Olive Garden was slammed for doing just about everything wrong. No salt in the pasta water, too much gravy on the food and, the worst sin of all, filling the menu with items that were not, precisely speaking, in any way Italian. In addition, too much of the (not so good) food was being wasted, leading to more lost profits.

Starboard, the force behind the horrific dressing down of, among other things, Olive Garden’s dressing-drenched salad, took over and cleaned house. CEO Clarence Otis vacated his position. COO Gene Lee was promoted and Starboard CEO Jeff Smith took over as company chairman.

That’s when the real changes began. Under Starboard’s leadership, Olive Garden began making changes to address the problems listed in the report. Profits jumped 12 percent, and continue to climb. Slight price increases thinned out the clientele, but that didn’t stop the profits.

Now, aiming for more of the right type of diner, Olive Garden hopes to continue its growth trend. Consumer confidence might not have rebounded quite yet, but, there’s every indication that, should this trend continue, as things get better at Olive Garden, consumer confidence will soon follow.

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Walmart Workers Seeking Wages

Black Friday Public Relations

Black Friday is coming, and some Walmart workers are using the annual bacchanal of retail excess as an opportunity to push their political agenda in a headline grabbing way.

The organization, called “Our Walmart” plans to start a fifteen-day fast scheduled to end on Black Friday. The effort has been dubbed “Fast for 15”, an obvious connection to the Fight for 15 movement, a grassroots group demanding a $15 minimum wage.

According to press reports, the fast will include both current and former Walmart employees as well as other sympathetic citizens. The current roster of participants stands at well over 1,000. At this point, not every protester has pledged to fast for the full 15 days, while the founders of the (non)fast have promised to consume only liquids for the duration.

While most of the protests are planned to be conducted outside Walmart stores, some protesters have pledged to take their show on the road, and fast events are being planned near the NYC home of Walton heiress, Alice Walton, as well as the California home of Walmart heir and current chairman, Greg Penner.

Organizers say the point of the fast is to illustrate the quandary they say many Walmart employees face: they can’t afford to feed their families, even when shopping at Walmart. Organizers tell stories of employees having to choose between eating lunch during their shift or putting enough fuel in their cars to get home. It is those sorts of situations, they say, that necessitates such an extreme response.

This protest is expected to coincide with other protests that are becoming typical on or around Black Friday. This will be the fourth consecutive year that similar protests are planned.

All of this despite the fact that Walmart did indeed raise wages last year, and the starting wage for full time employees is expected to increase to $10 next year. Department managers will get between $13 and $15 per hour. Not a lot for a management position, but still more than they are getting now.

Walmart’s in a tough spot, though. The general public loves to shop there, but ask just about anyone who the most hated store in America is, and Walmart will likely end up on the list. Add to this common theme the fact that the last time Walmart raised wages, its stock price dropped, aggravating shareholders.

Now Walmart’s decision makers have that to worry about, plus typically dissatisfied employees and, now, this new PR nightmare. They need to come up with a solution, fast, or this one could spin out of control.

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Zuckerberg Sends Kids to School… His Own.

Mark Zuckerburg PR

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has made a name for himself with winning business ideas. He understands how to engage people, bring them together and give them what they want. Now, with the help of his wife, Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg embarks on an entirely different business model. Private school.

The Zuckerbergs’ new K-12 private school, “The Primary School”, in Palo Alto, California functions as a private, nonprofit educational institution. One different twist: the school offers healthcare services to every student, from birth to graduation.

On a recent Facebook post, Zuckerberg explained, “It’s a new kind of school that brings education and healthcare together.”

According to various media reports, the school will be free, geared toward low-income students and funded by a donor advised fund. One report stated the school may even offer prenatal care for students registered prior to birth.

The healthcare at the school will be administered at an on-site clinic, in partnership with the Ravenswood Family Health Center, located near the school. In addition to student care, Ravenswood will offer comprehensive health and dental care to their entire families.

“Health and education are closely connected,” said Zuckerberg, “When children aren’t healthy, they can’t learn as easily. Many kids and teachers across the country deal with the consequences of poor health in classrooms every day.”

Chan, in addition to being his closest partner, is also Zuckerberg’s perfect partner for this endeavor. A pediatrician, Chan once taught elementary school science. The couple has been developing the initiative for the past year. In a Facebook post, Chan said her own educational experiences motivated her to “find a better way of caring for and educating children.”

As with Facebook, Zuckerberg plans to start small and grow organically. When it launches in 2016, Primary School will only offer classes to four-year-olds as well as support programs for parents of infants to two-year-olds. The school plans to add a grade each year, so this incoming class could, eventually, become the first graduating class.

Some have said private schools are the wave of the future. Others decry the movement toward less public education. The jury is still out, but, regardless, ideas that work in one place can work in others, even if they have to be adjusted to fit specific infrastructures. There’s no doubt educators will line up on either side of this issue, but the side with the most effective messaging will win the future of education in America.

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Why Rick Perry Quit the 2016 POTUS race

Rick Perry POTUS - Ronn Torossian Update

Rick Perry had never lost a bid for election until he first aimed for the White House in the 2012 campaign. He held the office of Governor of the State of Texas longer than anyone has and seen big successes, but the Presidential candidacy is probably the most difficult bid anyone could attempt – and the most expensive.

Perry had been doing well in the 2012 Primary when he spectacularly flamed out by flubbing a debate question. His campaign had been loudly proclaiming his intention to axe 5 federal agencies. When asked which ones, Perry could not name them all. His closing salvo “oops” was the soundbite on everyone’s lips the following day.

Voices from inside the Perry camp are blaming the cost for his early exit this time.  Perry made it clear, however, funding was not his only reason. Explaining, he said, “We have a tremendous field of candidates – probably the greatest group of men and women.” Perry continued, “I step aside knowing our party is in good hands, as long as we listen to the grassroots, listen to that cause of conservatism. If we do that, then our party will be in good hands.”

Considering he was unable to get enough backing in order to  participate in the debates, he’s probably making a good choice. Successful politics often entail timing and knowing when to move forward or back away. Perry chooses now to back away and leave this campaign to others. That doesn’t say anything about his future plans. But he’s right, there are a lot of people with strong backing ahead of him in line at the moment, and there are going to be several casualties along the way before this campaign hits the Primaries. Bowing out now removes him from all that negative association, and he can return in another race. People will remember his name, but they probably won’t think of him in any crash and burn scenarios from this campaign.

That’s more than could be said of his 2012 bid. For the last four years, Perry has been meeting with people, working hard, being less arrogant in his approach, and putting in the long hours needed to appear well-studied on the issues of the day. Unfortunately, all that work couldn’t help in the face of the sheer numbers of high-profile politicians and otherwise vying for President on the Republican ticket.

Will Perry continue to improve his standing and abilities over the next four years in preparation for 2020?  Time will tell … but now that he’s out, he can focus on what went wrong this time, with plenty of time to correct it.

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King James is Changing Lives in his Hometown

lebron james akron - ronn torossian

Akron native and NBA superstar LeBron James has always been vocal in his heartfelt support for his hometown and the greater Akron community. Even after leaving Cleveland for Miami, James was a force for good in Ohio. Now, he is taking those efforts even further.

James recently announced that (at least) 200 Ohio school kids will have the opportunity to go to college entirely for free … as long as they complete his mentoring program. That program, the LeBron James Family Foundation, works with at-risk kids in Akron.

According to further reports, the scholarships are available to middle school children in Akron Public Schools IF they complete the six-year mentoring program through the Foundation. The mentoring program is supported by the University of Akron and JPMorgan Chase.

According to JPMorgan, company tech staffers have volunteered to work with students on a variety of projects ranging from mobile application development to tech optimization.

This project and, to a larger extent, this program exemplifies the magic that happens when a person of means and influence connects with a cause that is nearest and dearest to them. The lesson here for anyone involved in any charity is to look for your greatest support from those with a strong reason to support you.

In your , marketing, and imaging never be afraid to be who you are. Send out a clear, concise and consistent message. Don’t try to be more things to more people. Be what you are about and do what you want to do.

There are a lot of good works being done out there. Don’t chase what you think will be the most popular. Instead, work on a way to connect your cause with the people most likely to support it. Good marketing, solid branding and expert PR will get you a lot further than trying to please everyone.

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