This year's "15 to Watch" winners epitomize the memorable words of advice you may have been fed (though not all heeded) as you ventured into the rough-and-tumble world of PR: aim high; don't let the grass grow under your feet; believe in yourself. Take Ronn Torossian, for example. Just 29 years old, he owns his own New York-based PR firm, 5W Public Relations, manages 25 full-time employees and bills nearly $3 million a year. And that's up from $1.7 million in 2003. Not bad for a PR firm that's less than two years old. The 14 others to watch, however, are equally impressive and serve as a testament to the incredible well of talent in the PR field. Each year, we go in search of 15 young PR stars - those who clearly believe in the power of PR and its ability to make a difference not just with the media but all the various stakeholders including employees and investors. With this year's crew we feature 15 young PR professionals who like to take risks, whether it's starting an independent PR firm in what is still a shaky economy or taking a long-held (and safe) media campaign and turning it on its head (for much better and more robust results). We no doubt recognize that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of young PR professionals "to watch." In these pages, we introduce you to a handful of up-and-coming PR professionals, who caught our collective eye and will definitely be worth watching in the years ahead. They are sure to make a splash in the (growing) PR pool. They're prepared to meet the challenges head-on. Their companies and, in particular, clients will be all the better for it. Stephen M. Brown 30 Director of Media and Creative Strategy Manning Selvage & Lee 404.870.6857 Stephen.email@example.com Think of him as the big-picture guy. Since moving in February from interactive agency Macquarium to the Atlanta office of Manning Selvage & Lee, Stephen Brown has focused not on any one campaign or account, but rather on the larger effort to sustain and enhance creativity and capability among members of the media relations staff. To that end, he has formed Media Mindshare, an internal group helping to cultivate media relations talent in the Atlanta office. "With the media landscape changing as quickly as it is, it is good to have somebody keeping their eye on these changes," he says. "While every account team can become experts within their specific industry, this group actually helps to take a look at the big picture, in order to help the teams learn more about the variety of media available." Occasional "Breakfast for Your Brain" gatherings introduce staff members to new publications on the market. Creative brainstorms and strategy workshops have helped form campaign ideas for clients such as Home Depot, Philips Electronics and the State of Georgia. Home Depot, for instance, has a program through which it supports employees who also are training for the Olympic Games. Brown's work has helped to identify numerous publications where relevant stories might run, and, in fact, the campaign team has already placed dozens of stories in local newspapers. Kelly Conklin 27 Senior Associate APCO Worldwide 202.778.1473 firstname.lastname@example.org When global chemical company Dow Corning Corp. came to APCO Worldwide for help, the corporation's PR situation was less than stellar. The company had several logo designs, inconsistent messaging and a scattershot communications strategy. Kelly Conklin took on the job, leading a team effort to pull things together. Conklin's initiatives have included editorial outreach and collateral development, trade show programming and efforts to secure speaking opportunities. The results have been impressive: more than 9.7 million media impressions last year, 29 feature stories, 11 media interviews and six speaking engagements. The media hits are not always scintillating -- Plant Engineering, Plant Services and, of course, Lubes & Greases - but these are the placements that count. With so many competing publications out there, "we felt that it is crucial to win that third party endorsement," Conklin says. It's been a two-part effort. First, Conklin has crafted messaging to clearly distinguish her client's products from competitors. "Right now we are taking the solutions angle: Looking at what their people bring to the table in terms of their expertise, looking at their different channel partners and the value they bring to the table," she says. Second, she has hammered the media over the head. "Once a month they are seeing our name on their desk, and at least once a week we are picking up the phone and calling those editors," Conklin adds. "We are very much in their face. Not that we are being annoying, but we are definitely being proactive." Frank Hernandez 28 Account Director Alan Taylor Communications 212.714.1280 email@example.com MasterCard: It's everywhere Frank Hernandez wants it to be. Hernandez oversees brand issues for MasterCard International, a longtime client of Alan Taylor Communications. This work includes sponsorships and consumer promotions, as well as management of the Mastercard.com site. Beginning in mid-2002, Hernandez led PR for MasterCard's participation in the Major League Baseball Memorable Moments campaign. That promotion invited fans to vote on the game's most memorable moment. (It went to Cal Ripken for the night he topped Lou Gehrig's 56-year-old consecutive-game streak.) It was up to Hernandez to ensure that as the prime sponsor of the campaign, MasterCard got its name attached to everything associated with the program. "We knew we were going to get lost out there unless we were really aggressive," Hernandez says. Fortunately, MLB was eager to, um, play ball. "Rather than sending out a blanket release from MLB PR, the league made it possible for us to have a spokesperson do an in-person media tour and a satellite media tour, and also provided us with all the B-roll to show that we were really a full partner in this effort." The program scored more than 200 million impressions, with stories on the "Today" show, "Good Morning America," "Access Hollywood," "SportsCenter" and other broadcast outlets. Moreover, MasterCard got its name out there. In announcing the program in July 2002, Associated Press carried a quote from John Stuart, a senior vice president for MasterCard. A CNN story in October 2002 mentions MasterCard right next to MLB in the second paragraph. Hernandez says the success of the program was due in large part to the longstanding tie between agency and client. "We're not even viewed as an agency. We are viewed as an extension of their global communications department," he says. Kari Hernandez 27 Co-founder and VP INK Public Relations 512.228.2835 firstname.lastname@example.org Less than half a year ago Kari Hernandez and her business partner Starr Million took the leap into the great unknown. After nearly five years at Porter Novelli, "I wanted the chance to call my own shots, to decide who I wanted to work for and what types of clients I wanted to have," Hernandez says, recalling her decision to put out her own shingle. She has already landed some major clients. INK PR has done project work for Motorola, and Designkitchen in Chicago, and is actively courting the consumer market on behalf of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, a wireless-technology advocacy group. To that end she's coordinated events in Chicago and Boston where Bluetooth member companies have demonstrated their wireless-enabled products. With so much noise in the wireless market these days, Hernandez has angled for ink based on the premise that she is doing more than just pitching. "We are positioning the Bluetooth SIG as a resource," she says. "When journalists are trying to figure out what is going on with wireless - 'What is this Bluetooth thing?' -- we are not biased to any one company's product. So we can talk about the evolution of the technology, we can tell them what to look for when they are testing different products, and we can put them in touch with different companies." The strategy is paying off. The demonstration days have so far drawn coverage in the Chicago Tribune, ComputerWorld and local television outlets in the Chicago and Boston areas. Popular Science, USA Today and Newsweek showed up to a similar event last week in New York City. Kerri Holden 24 PR Manager DNC Parks and Resorts 209.372.1445 email@example.com Just a 45-minute drive from Yosemite Valley, the hub of Yosemite National Park, Wawona Hotel typically is not high on the media horizon. As PR manager of DNC Parks and Resorts Kerri Holden has been working hard this year to spruce up the PR of Wawona Hotel, one of eight hotels and guest recreations the $110 million DNC Parks and Resorts manages in the Yosemite area. "From June through late August the Wawona will sell out, but in April our occupancy may be more like 50%," says Holden. "So the Wawona needs a little bit of help in the off- season months." To accomplish that goal Holden has helped to get the word out about the hotel's 125th anniversary. She arranged a four-day celebration to open the season in early April, with costumed entertainment in 1870s garb and a nine-course dinner recreating an 1879 menu from the hotel. The event drew representatives from the LA Daily News, Bay Area Backroads, News Channel 10 out of Sacramento and other media outlets. Holden will keep the drumbeat going this year with hotel tours and press trips throughout southern Yosemite. California's governor has been invited to a June 17 showcase event with more costumed characters and living-history presentations, aimed at promoting the hotel as a historical and cultural destination. As for the distance between Wawona and Yosemite Valley, Holden is trying to turn that into a positive for journalists. "We push the fact that in the summer a lot of news stories talk about how crowded it is in Yosemite Valley and it's something that gets mentioned in practically every article. So we remind them that the Wawona is in a quieter area, and yet it has just as much beauty," she explains. "They always want those off-the-beaten-track stories." Laura Kline 30 VP Weber Shandwick 212.445.8110 firstname.lastname@example.org As a crisis guru and reputation-management expert at Weber Shandwick, Laura Kline spends her days putting out fires, or better yet, making sure they do not flare in the first place. "Much of my job involves keeping clients out of the media, but I have also had success with using the media to control the dialogue for my clients," she says. Take her work on behalf of media company Canal Plus, which had gone into litigation against competitor NDS. "I worked for months with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times for a story that ran on the front page of the paper. The story conveyed all of my client's key messages and ran in its opponent's hometown paper." Others who have benefited from Kline's skills include American Airlines, Chiquita, General Electric, Canal Plus, Haggar and Unisys. To control the message, Kline works hard to build relationships with the media, not in order to win spin, but simply to ensure that her client gets a fair hearing when reporters come knocking. In the Canal Plus case, "I knew there were reporters following this case and we kept them informed even of the small details. It had to do with providing information: Not just when we wanted our news to run, but throughout the whole process," she says. When news did break, Kline was poised to make use of all those finely wrought relationships. In the case of one announcement, she recalls, "it was just this wonderfully choreographed effort, where we managed the global communications effort and led 'round-the-clock media campaigns on four continents," Kline says. "Every time the clock struck six in the next time zone, we rolled out our campaign again. "I was up for two straight days but, well, that happens." Brad Laney 29 Vice President M Booth & Associates 212.481.7000 X696 email@example.com When he started to develop a PR campaign for Yahoo! Travel in the summer of 2003 Brad Laney had to find a way to distinguish the service from its formidable online rivals, such as Expedia Travels and Orbitz. "There's a perception that you can search for anything with Yahoo! and [the campaign] played off that," says Laney, who got the fever for travel/lifestyle PR after his stint as a PR assistant at The Four Seasons hotel in Seattle following graduation from University of Washington in 1995. He joined M Booth & Associates in '02 after a four-year stint with Hill and Knowlton. (Right now, he's pursuing a marketing communications degree at New York University.) Laney's strategy was to package travel stats timed to seasonal travel and/or trends. In partnership with National Geographic Traveler a travel survey was created to identify some of the world's most popular travel destinations, featuring the Best Beaches for the summer tie-in. "We take a lot of time to get to know the client and in the case of Yahoo! Travel took the time to find out how we could position the site as a credible source on online travel and make it stand apart," he says. Laney worked with NGT editor Keith Bellows to publicize the survey and Yahoo! Travel. Coverage was extensive, including an Associated Press syndicated article and stories in the Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, Wall Street Journal as well CBS Marketwatch.com. With lush visuals of tropical beaches to offer broadcast reps jumped in, too, with pieces on local network affiliates in New York and Chicago as well as beach-sprinkled markets like Honolulu, Tampa and West Palm Beach. The initial campaign was so successful that Laney has since adapted the seasonal survey into other media-friendly categories including Thanksgiving travel (New York Daily News) and Most Romantic destinations (Denver Post, Detroit Free Press, Miami Herald). Perception of a different kind played into Laney's work on behalf of the July 2003 opening of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the first new Atlantic City casino in 13 years. (See PR NEWS, May 24, 2004.) Laney has also done PR on behalf of American Express. He recently partnered with Don George, editor of the Lonely Planet guidebooks, for a satellite media tour that plugged American Express card travel services. George conducted live interviews in 22 markets, with Laney guiding the message. "Rather than pitch financial security, per se, we had him talk about tips for traveling in the summer and then the benefits of pre-paid [credit card] products." Heidi Leder 28 Founder Leder Public Relations 650.274.6365 firstname.lastname@example.org Heidi Leder knew from the time she was a teenager growing up in Vicksburg, MI, that she wanted to work in public relations. She hit the ground running when -- as a student at Western Michigan University in the late 1990s -- she interned at Troy, MI--based Eisenbrenner Public Relations. She also wrote sports articles for the Kalamazoo Gazette and worked at a local CBS-TV station, where she cut her teeth on research, writing and news production. Leder now gets to do all of the above (and then some) as founder of Leder Public Relations. After a brief stint in the Silicon Valley office of Ketchum Public Relations Leder started her own firm late last summer. Despite a still-dicey economy, Leder says launching her own firm plays right into current business trends concerning PR. "Smaller accounts, say under 15K a month, will make it easier for us to sustain a reputation for delivering measurable results," she says. "There's a lot of interest among small companies whose PR budgets have been cut but they still need a PR presence." Leder is hopeful she will be able to gather some of the PR spill from small market-cap companies. For now, however, she's making significant progress for her first account, the storage devices division for Quantum. Three months prior to the October '03 introduction of Quantum's new tape drive - the fastest and highest capacity tape storage drive available on the market -- Leder organized a press tour touting the new technology as a major differentiator to Qauntum's much bigger rivals such as H-P, IBM and Certance. After the official launch there was a 23% increase in media coverage compared with the previous year's (storage) model; out of that 23%, about two-thirds of the coverage was attributable to the end-user benefits that Leder had plugged during the media tour. Stories on Qauntum's changes ran in every vertical storage publication. Leder's PR finesse was also on display for a project she did involving the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to terminally ill children. She knew the Phoenix-based nonprofit had been given a free storage tape upgrade by Quantum and timed the announcement to hit during the week of the Storage Networking World show (conveniently held in Phoenix) in April. Although the entry was at the last minute, the "storage" benefits described by Make-A-Wish garnered the nonprofit the trade show's award for Best Practices in Storage. Leder also arranged for a freelance reporter to meet with members of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and three Quantum executives who donated the tape drive for a story that will be running in a storage trade later this summer. "I want to feel that I'm having an impact and am pleasing people," Leder says. Molly Parsley 30 Marketing & PR Manager Carat Interactive 415.633.0125 Molly.email@example.com To celebrate her 30th birthday earlier this month Molly Parsley ran in the Bay to Breakers race, a 12-mile run in San Francisco that benefits The Leukemia & Lymphona Society, Sports Medicine Institute and Organs 'R' Us. Participating in the race wasn't much of a stretch for Parsley, who has been making significant strides in interactive PR ever since she graduated from Indiana University School of Journalism in 1996 and moved directly to the Bay Area to catch the Internet wave. The wave crashed, of course, but Parsley hasn't had any trouble keeping her head above water. "Most people have had eight-to-ten jobs in the Bay Area [through the boom-and-bust], I've had two," she says. After a short stint at the now-defunct USWeb, Parsley landed at Internet advertising firm Lot21, where she started to build professional relationships with reps from the interactive community. When Carat Interactive acquired Lot21 in January 2002, however, Parsley started to find her sea legs professionally. "Carat was mostly known as a media buyer so I had to rebuild our reputation so people would know that the company was not just a media buyer but now had a creative division," in what was formerly Lot21, says Parsley, who points to the creative Web services Carat Interactive now provides to such clients as Adidas, Palm One, Pfizer and Radio Shack. "I've really been pushing clients to highlight the innovative work we're doing and show the industry that we're competitive." The media marketplace has certainly taken note of the new creative at Carat, which is part of the Aegis Group. Recent stories have all mentioned Carat's work in producing Web designs, online videos and broadband entertainment. The May 3 edition of Advertising Age talked about Carat Interactive's creative work as part of a piece on Adidas' new online commercials. Late last year Ad Age covered the 'Stars in Your Eyes' campaign, a tie-in to the Oscars that Carat Interactive produced for Hyundai. Indeed, in just two and a half years, Parsley's ability to communicate the business changes at Carat Interactive has sparked a bevy of stories on the firm, many in a favorable light, including 2004 Interactive Agency of the Year (Planning/Buying, Media Magazine) and 2003 Interactive Agency of the Year (BtoB). The company also snagged three categories at the Web Marketing Associations' WebAwards in 2003: The Best Entertainment Take-Over Ad (UPN), The Best Technology Animated Banner Campaign (Palm Inc) and Best Technology E-mail Marketing Campaign (Palm Inc). Parsley says she feels like she's just getting started. "We're proving that online could have a lot of creative branding benefits in addition to generating response rates for direct sales leads." Josh Rosenberg 27 Senior Account Supervisor, Consumer Marketing M Booth & Associates 212.481.7000 X565 firstname.lastname@example.org When Josh Rosenberg first met last September with executives from Remy Amerique's Scotch Whisky brand, The Macallan, he learned that the U.S. launch of The Macallan Fine & Rare (F&R) - the world's most expensive collection of vintage single malts, valued at $10 million - was just five weeks away. Two weeks later Rosenberg hopped on a plane to see first-hand how the whiskey was produced at The Macallan's home distillery in Speyside, Scotland. "I got to taste all of their current whiskies and was able to see through the client how passionate the whisky maker is about the brand," says Rosenberg, who was recruited by M Booth & Associates in 2001 after starting his PR career at Cone Inc. Billed as the "world's most precious whiskey," The Macallan launch at New York's famed Rainbow Room drew more than 120 trade reps and 70 journalists, with stories running in a wide range of publications including Cigar Aficionado, Men's Health, Newsweek, New York Daily News, the New York Times, Playboy and Wine & Spirits. All of the Macallan Fine & Rare brands were featured on an edition of CNBC's "Squawk Box." Year-to-date The Macallan's sales have increased 11% while Rosenberg and his team have generated 60 million media impressions. Rosenberg's work for Remy has landed the firm assignments for two other Scotches in the Macallan line - Champagne Piper-Heidsek and Highland Park. Rosenberg has also been integral in spreading awareness for significant changes in the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! brand. He came up with the idea to approach the client, Unilever Bestfoods, to address the trans fat issue. Through developing relationships in the field, Rosenberg knew that trans fats would be getting a lot of media attention because of a pending fat food labeling announcement from the Food and Drug Administration (in the summer of 2003) that could hurt the margarine business. Rosenberg whipped up a communications plan to address the fact that I Can't Believe It's Not Butter contained trans fats. The night before the FDA ruling, Unilever announced that it would take the trans fats out of all its I Can't Believe It's Not Butter products. Rosenberg rushed the information to an Associated Press reporter, who included the announcement in a story that ran on the day of the FDA ruling. The extensive print and broadcast coverage afterward - the Dallas Morning News, the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal as well as "PBS' News Hour with Jim Lehrer" and numerous local network affiliates -- pointed out that Unilever was taking the lead in meeting the health needs of consumers. "It established the company as the market leader and as being ahead of the [health] trend," Rosenberg says. Kraig Smith 27 Senior Account Supervisor media imPRessions 312.222.9591 email@example.com While majoring in journalism at Marquette University, Kraig Smith participated in an internship at St. Mary's Hospital, the largest Catholic hospital in the Milwaukee area. "Healthcare has always been an area I've liked and I have a lot of respect for the medical innovations that are accomplished," says Smith, who co-founded Chicago-based PR firm media imPRessions in August 2002 after a two-year stint with Edelman, where he managed tech and b-to-b accounts. The hospital internship during college has served Smith well in what is still a burgeoning career in PR, particularly for one of his mainstay clients, CMP Healthcare Media, a group of 14 clinical publications that wasn't on the media radar before Smith took on the account in February 2002. "I took [the group's PR] from zero to 60 pretty quickly through marketing a lot of bylined articles," Smith says. "I've been able to take their story up the media food chain." He expanded the group's news coverage from trade shows and conferences to include national, regional and local news outlets, such as Medical Marketing & Media and Pharmaceutical Executive. He also secured feature-speaking opportunities for CME editors at the 2002 Pharmaceutical Marketing Congress and Advanstar's 2003 MedEd Forum. What's more, he has put together a series of medical-related surveys -- conducted by CME editors -- that have been distributed to healthcare reporters with the hope of garnering more exposure for the group. "It helps with media relations when you have that ability to gain front-line opinions of doctors, which the pharma trade editors are seeking." Smith has also refurbished the PR for Apartments.com. For years, the online housing directory conducted online contests, such as "Messiest Apartment," with a number of different PR agencies. When Apartments.com signed on with media imPRressions last December, Smith launched the 'Room to Move' contest to add more humor to the brand. "It was a completely different concept," he says. The contest, which ran from February through May, awarded $10,000 (for the first-year's rent) to the 20-something who could prove why he/she deserved to move out of their parents' house. To expand the audience Smith and his team recruited HGTV's Debbie Travis to do a full makeover of the vacant room "so when the kid moves out he stays out," Smith says. The winners were announced exclusively on NBC's "Today" show and the story was subsequently picked up by several NBC affiliates nationwide. Perhaps more important to the client, the contest generated 42 million media impressions, according to Smith. "The client was happy and intends to run the contest again to build the momentum." C. Renzi Stone 26 President Saxum Strategic Communications 405.608.0445 firstname.lastname@example.org C. Renzi Stone, who started three years for the University of Oklahoma Sooners basketball team, wanted to play professional hoops after graduating in 2000. But the NBA wasn't waiting. He ended up playing in Belgium for a bit and then knocked around the States as a member of a basketball exhibition team that would scrimmage against Division I schools. But the lifestyle got to be a grind and Stone thought he would have a pretty good shot at building another career, this one in public relations. Perhaps because it's in the genes. "I grew up in a PR and marketing family," says Stone, who launched Saxum Strategic Communications last July after a stint at Wilson Research Strategies. At one point his father, who owned a chain of convenience stores, pulled a PR stunt that would make Bill Veeck blush: He bought the Tulsa Fastbreakers (part of the Continental Basketball Association) to plug his chain of convenience stores named, natch, Fastbreak. The apple never falls far from the tree. For the last few months Stone has been heavily involved helping The State Chamber, Oklahoma's Association of Business and Industry, to push for lawsuit reforms. (The drive was sparked by a memo sent from an Oklahoma State Senator to trial lawyers out of state asking that they file class action lawsuits in Oklahoma because of favorable jury awards. The memo was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, which subsequently ran an Op-Ed in December titled, 'Oklahoma is Not OK.') Stone started his PR efforts by huddling with editors of the two major dailies in town, the Daily Oklahoman and the Tulsa World, to communicate the concerns of industry about the rise of "frivolous" lawsuits. He brought in self-styled journalistic muckraker John Stossel to speak at a fundraising event to promote lawsuit reform and also ran radio ads in several key districts urging listeners to contact their representatives to support lawsuit reform. A bill with a bevy of lawsuit reforms went to the State Legislature last week with The State Chamber having taken the lead in support of the changes. Stone, who anticipates $1 million in billings in '04, has also brought a multi-pronged PR approach to The Reserve on Stinson, a $17 million dollar student apartment complex in phase one at The University of Oklahoma. Despite not having any above ground construction Stone has garnered favorable publicity for the development through focus groups with university representatives and student groups, a feature in the real estate section of the Daily Oklahoman and a local ad campaign. The complex, which opens in August, has already signed up 70% of the available leases. "We're problem-solvers," Stone says, "and help people who have had a hard time communicating their messages." Stephen Tankel 27 Group Manager, Corp. Issues Weber Shandwick 212.445.8270 email@example.com Stephen Tankel faced a daunting task late last year when he started to work on the account of a Caribbean country that desperately wanted to overhaul its communications agency. Tankel admits the situation was fairly entrenched and the government agency's reputation was at stake. Fortunately for Tankel, a 1998 graduate from Cornell University who took a year off from college to work on the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1996, the canvassing skills he acquired in presidential politics helped him to get things off on the right foot. "The first day we went down there we designed an audit and over a period of time talked with each employee [at the agency] about a whole series of issues: Were they doing the job they thought they were hired to do? What training programs were available? Were they being utilized effectively?" says Tankel, who joined Weber Shandwick in 2000 as an account executive and was promoted to group manager in May '03. Tankel helped make recommendations in a recently submitted report on how to realign the agency as it relates to the rest of the government. That way, overall communications can be faster and more effective. Sound familiar? "This is something that government and companies all over the world are going through, which is that they have to respond a lot more quickly," Tankel says, adding that the client is happy with the report and is hopeful the recommendations will be adopted. "This was a little different than the normal type of PR because we were adapting existing best practices to fit local needs." For Tankel, dealing with a foreign government required a delicate balance. But he's been in similar situations before. In the wake of the 9-11 attacks he was relocated to American Airlines headquarters in Dallas/Fort Worth for two months to assist in crisis management and conduct the PR for (eventual) changes in the airliner's security procedures. "We had to be careful about what we were going to talk about," he says. "You want to be open as possible but don't want to compromise any security operations. We had to protect the brand and work with all the different strategic concerns among the stakeholders." American was pleased enough with Tankel's work during the post 9-11 crisis that company executives requested he return for four months in 2002 to serve as American's spokesman during labor negotiations with the pilots union. At this rate, maybe Tankel should be getting some extra sunscreen for another trip to the tropics. Ronn D. Torossian 29 President & CEO 5W Public Relations 212.999.5585 Ronn@5wpr.com Ronn Torossian doesn't mince words when he talks about how he intends to make his PR firm, 5W Public Relations, a major player in the PR world. "I'm going after the same business that [Howard] Rubenstein and [Dan] Klores have been able to develop, a cross between entertainment and politics, where you can take on other clients as well, " says Torossian, who founded New York-based 5W Public Relations in January '03. (The company name stands for Who, What, When, Where and Why.) While Torossian has his work cut out for him competing against grizzled PR veterans like Rubenstein and Klores, 5W is certainly off to an impressive start. In 2003 -- a sluggish year overall for hiring in PR - Torossian hired 25 full-time employees (from none) and this year expects billings to nearly double to $3 million (from $1.7 million in '03). Torossian has grown his business through an eclectic mix of clients, including Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, EDS, LA Gear, and Marriott Hotels. Active in Israeli politics from a young age -- he was a spokesman for the Likud Party in Israel after graduating from SUNY Albany in 1995 -- Torossian counts the Israel Ministry of Tourism as a client. He's also the first Jewish lobbyist for the Christian Coalition. "There's no better training ground than politics for a young person who wants to get into PR," says Torossian, who during his stint with the Likud Party would sometimes toggle back and forth between CNN's Larry King on one line and a State Department rep on the other. Torossian, a Bronx native, has also shown a knack for targeting the urban market. In April, he created "AMPdi's Making the Brand" seminar (a la MTV's "Making the Band"), featuring his client AMPdi, a lifestyle-marketing group specializing in urban-driven marketing campaigns. About 30 reporters attended the conference, and stories ran in DNR, Forbes, Fortune, Fox News Channel, the New York Times and Vibe, among other national outlets. Perhaps more important, dozens of companies contacted AMPdi to inquire about its services. "We're very aggressive and very hungry," Torrossian says. "Clients know we're going to sweat and bleed with them." Scott Warner 29 Director Qorvis Communications 703.744.7824 firstname.lastname@example.org After a long day of strategizing with clients like Starwood Hotels and SafeNet and pursuing his MBA (part time) at the University of Maryland, Scott Warner thinks about getting some shut eye. But then he might get a call at three in the morning from a reporter in Australia. Warner doesn't mind. He knows he has to be available to international media reps 24/7 as part of the pro bono work he does on behalf of September's Mission, a nonprofit organization formed to support a memorial on the former site of the World Trade Center. Warner works closely with the group's founder, Monica Iken -- whose husband was killed in the 9-11 attacks - in helping to articulate her message about the importance of a memorial dedicated to the people who worked at the Twin Towers. "We've had her on every TV and radio show, from Chilean/Japanese/Swiss TV to CNN," says Warner. "But that's not something I have to pitch, so it's more strategizing." He was recruited to be an associate of McLean, VA-based Qorvis Communications in 2000 by company co-founder Doug Poretz (after he worked with Poretz on a PR project during his stint at Arnold Worldwide) and has since been promoted to a director. Warner has helped Qorvis grow into one the largest independent PR firms in the DC metro area, working on crises (former NBA player Jayson Williams, the family of the congressional intern Chandra Levy), investor relations, product launches and mergers. Warner just finished a media road show plugging SafeNet, a Baltimore-based computer security company that recently acquired bigger competitors Cylink and Rainbow Technologies. He traveled with senior executives to visit with key customers and local media in Boston, Las Vegas, New York and San Francisco. "With this story you have to recognize employees concerned about layoffs (there were none), notify stockholders that the value of the stock is going to stay strong, and alert clients that there will be new services," says Warner, who during the media tour was able to land SafeNet CEO Tony Caputo on a local business show in New Hampshire for two nights running (in addition to coverage from CNBC and the Wall Street Journal). "I've always had a knack for communicating complex technologies. But I drill down to see what it means to the local area and then take that complex technology and turn it into a business story." In a similar vein, Warner sees getting his MBA as critical to developing his career in PR. "In the short-term it will help with the business issues my clients are dealing with," he says. "And in the long-term it will enable me to implement the communications strategies you need to lead a PR [department] in a Fortune 100 company or run my own firm."
PR NEWS’ 2004 15 To Watch…The Young, the Restless and the Next Gen
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