Charting the future of public relations

5W Public Relations

When I wrote last year that 5W was “bold, brash, and occasionally even uncouth,” I wasn’t sure how founder Ronn Torossian would react. I need not have worried. Torossian revels in his firm’s maverick personality.

Holmes Report

Holmes Report

Multispecialist with strong media relations capabilities
 
When I wrote last year that 5W was “bold, brash, and occasionally even uncouth,” I wasn’t sure how founder Ronn Torossian would react. I need not have worried. Torossian revels in his firm’s maverick personality and isn’t at all worried that some of his antics—a press release offering a month of free PR services to any client that had fired its previous agency, and more recently an attack on party-giver and publicist Lizzie Grubman—might ruffle a few feathers.

Torossian does take issue with some of the other perceptions about his firm, however. It’s not surprising that clients in a couple of unusual and seemingly contradictory niches (right-wing politics and the world of hip-hop) have gotten so much attention—a client list that includes the Christian Coalition, American Friends of Likud, Sean Combs and Lil’ Kim is going to raise eyebrows. But 5W has also been quietly building a portfolio of mainstream corporate clients like Seagram’s, EDS and Cardinal Health.

The clients fit into several broad practice areas: consumer, sports and entertainment (Sean John Boys, Bad Boy Entertainment, GQ and The Source); fashion and celebrities (Lil’ Kim, NBA star Jalen Rose, criminal defense attorney Ben Brafman); travel and non-profit (the Israel Ministry of Tourism, Hale House); and crisis communications (litigation support for Kim, work for religious network Trinity Broadcasting). They are attracted by the firm’s hard-core media relations focus (with a particularly strong emphasis on New York media) and its work ethos: staff are equipped with Blackberries 24/7 and expected to be on call whenever a client need arises.

Many people have made assumptions about the culture at 5W too, with “sweatshop” being the most common misperception. But employees resoundingly reject that notion, giving the fast-growing boutique high marks across the board and hailing Torossian’s personal leadership—no other CEO garners this kind of kudos from his staff. Torossian “is an inspiration” who “works hard and puts a lot of heart into the business,” says one respondent. He “is a hard driving guy but there isn’t a single employee in the company who doesn’t trust him.”

Founded in 2003, the firm has grown in less than two years to boast revenues of $3 million, with two acquisitions—Handelsman PR and SMS PR—adding both clients and depth of management, with Adam Handelsman becoming a senior VP and Hill & Knowlton veteran Stephen Schechter joining as VP. EDS and Cardinal Health were among the big corporate wins, but there was new business from United Retail Group, Fishman & Tobin, and Stacie J (a contestant on The Apprentice). Torossian’s plans for future growth are—not surprisingly—even more aggressive: he’s aiming for $5 million by the end of 2005, and isn’t afraid to say so.

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