Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ronn Torossian – For Immediate Release (BenBella Books)

Entire sections of book stores are dedicated to books on business and an endless array of theories on operations, sales and marketing. Ronn Torossian is the founder, president and CEO of 5W Public Relations, so it’s only natural that his first entry into the business book sweepstakes For Immediate Release would be centered on a public relations approach to building brands.

Torossian sites IBIS World, a media research firm when he rolls out the staggering fact that businesses spent an estimated $9.73 billion on public relations efforts in 2010, with forecasts having that spend increase to a projected $12.82 billion by 2015. While any dollar amount featuring the B-Word is impressive (at least outside the realm of government) those amounts pale in comparison to the estimated $210 billion that is spent on advertising.

Torossian makes a legitimate case that the impact that public relations efforts have on building brands and delivering bottom line results may be greater than that of straight brand advertising. The book is loaded with examples and case studies of how public relations strategies delivered positive measurable results.

In one glaring case, Torossian sites the BP Oil spill as an example of advertising as bad crisis management. The oil giant spent $50 million on an ad campaign to convince the public that the spill was really all that bad. While the spill was nowhere near the doomsday scenario that some in the media had painted, a well managed critical response public relations campaign featuring an expenditure in say the tens of millions in communities and with the people that were directly impacted by the spill would have had a much more positive impact than a bunch of TV commercials.

It’s nearly impossible for a small to mid-size enterprise to compete against the giants in a given business sector. With a concerted, focused, effort in the public relations realm, you can have an impact and improve bottom line results. I can’t imagine a more competitive business than the beverage industry; Torossian rolls out the case study of Hint Water, a bottled water company with $30 million in annual sales. When you think about the Dasani’s (Coca Cola), Aquafina (Pepsi) and the Perrier/Poland Springs’ (Nestle) of the world, who’s annual ad budgets dwarf Hint’s bottom line, how do they possibly compete? Any marketer worth their salt knows that it is impressions that count and Torossian was able to help Hint by garnering media coverage and significant profile features. It’s a whole lot easier to make a lasting impression when someone else, in many cases the media, are doing the heavy lifting for you.

Clearly Torossian makes the case that public relations needs to be a forethought rather than an afterthought. For Immediate Release makes me wonder how Torossian would have handled the Penn State mess; I would have to guess it would have been though a whole lot more proactive route than the one the University chose.