>> More episodes here
About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: RONN TOROSSIAN
DOUG: When Ronn Torossian of 5W talks, PR people are smart to listen to what he has to say. So, Ronn, what’s your top tip for communicator’s in 2021.
RONN: I think in 2021 brands need to be uber cognizant of communications. I think communications matters now more than ever. I think it matters internally for employees and stakeholders. It matters externally for stakeholders and customers. Communications today matters more than ever.
DOUG: And we’ve actually seen that external communications are actually impactful on people within organizations because they see what’s out there, and that’s very meaningful because they know that their leaders are on record. Do you think external and internal, they’re working more closely together than they’ve ever been possibly?
RONN: I think we’re cognizant that in today’s world that you have many different audiences that you’re speaking to. We live through so many cosmic shifts and cosmic changes this year. And I say to people, can you believe that Kobe Bryant died only six, eight, nine months ago? It feels like years ago. So, this year we lived through, of course, through COVID, through a very different presidential cycle, through the social justice, Black Lives Matter movement. All of these things will be studied in history, 50, 100, 500 years from now. And it’s really a remarkable time that we’re living through. As communicators, as marketers, as public relations people, we need to be cognizant that now more than ever, words matter. Careers are changed just because of one word or one syllable, one tweet, one Instagram post, and brands of all sizes and shapes need to be cognizant that words matter, images matter, what we say and how we say it really matters.
DOUG: Yeah, and it’s great because you’ve always been a proponent for brands of really being out there and expressing themselves. Some are fearful because the damage the wrong statement can do in this environment. How to brands find the sort of right middle ground with their authentic, trustworthy, transparent, getting out there, but not committing damage statements, especially with the perception that the country is so polarized?
RONN: I don’t think there’s a perception that the country is polarized. I think there’s a reality that our country is very polarized. I think, with this administration, I think you’ll see less mixing of brands and politics than you did before. Obviously, the Biden administration will look a lot different than the Trump administration does in terms of communicating. I don’t think we’ll see the Biden administration sending out tweet after tweet attacking companies or attacking people. It’ll be a different rhetoric and a different language with the new administration. I think brands need to be careful today. Again, you know, I think that what we’ve all learned in the last few years, we’ve seen from the Me Too movement to the Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve seen social justice issues and community concern issues come up like never before. And I think that those things are here to stay. It might not be Me Too, and it might not be Black Lives Matter, it might be other movements, but I think it wouldn’t surprise me to see things like that arise in the days and weeks and years to come.
DOUG: The changes that you’re seeing in the public and how they’re influencing what brands need to do, have you tried to adopt some of those changes within your own agency?
RONN: Very much so. I think that we’ve lived through at this agency and every company around today, again, radical change. So, we’re doing much more internal meetings company–wide than we have before, we are over communicating in terms of changes via email, via Slack, even during companywide WhatsApp and Zoom videos and things like this. And we’re adapting. Tomorrow we’re doing our annual company party, and usually we have a big gala with hundreds of people. And this year we’ll also have a big gala with hundreds of people, but it’s going to be on Zoom. And the way that you communicate on Zoom is a lot different than the way you communicate in person. We’ve done a lot of training in terms of how to manage people when you’re doing it remotely. We’ve done a lot of training in terms of communications and client relationships when it comes to doing it remotely. And I think a lot of these things are here to stay. I don’t believe, and it’s another discussion, but I don’t believe that with the vaccine becomes a return to business travel. I don’t believe that with the vaccine, we’re going to go back to nine to six, Monday to Friday, certainly not in New York City, which is facing its entire different set of problems. But I think the communications, the PR industry has forever changed. At 5W we’re thankful we’ve had a great year, we are confident we will have a great 2021, but it’s a different 2021, it’s a different year, a different style, different way of communicating to clients, different ways of engaging with the media. And this change is common. I think some of these changes like work from home, we’re here on the way, but I think the COVID radically moved it forward, COVID made it go that much quicker.
DOUG: I use the line that Mark Cuban has of the new abnormal, but I think what the vaccine’s going to do is turn the new abnormal into the new normal. Any final thoughts you have? Really appreciate the great insights that you’ve been communicating so far.
RONN: I think that PR is here, and this is our moment. Influencers I think we’ll continue to grow in 2021. I think paid will grow in 2021. But let’s not forget good old fashioned public relations and media relations. It’s here, it’s not going anywhere. And I think many will have a great year in 2021, and I thank you for your time.
DOUG: Thank you so much. We’re actually seeing a lot of earned to paid promotion of earned, so that’s almost a more effective way to be doing paid. Thank you so much for your time and your continued success and being an important voice in our industry.
RONN: Thank you for everything you do for our industry as well and wishing you happy holidays and happy New Year and thank you for everything. Talk soon.