clinton charity scandal

Clinton Charity Scandal Gets Uglier

Hillary Clinton made a promise. The books would remain open to avoid any accusations of impropriety regarding who was donating to her family’s charity. Now, though, it is being reported that the charity is NOT disclosing the names of donors.

This could be a major plot point in Secretary Clinton’s impending run for the White House. It was back in 2008, when Ms. Clinton promised President-elect Barack Obama there would be “no mystery” about who was donating to the Clinton Global Initiative. According to the Reuters report, Ms. Clinton pledged to publish a list of donors on an annual basis in an effort to ease concerns that, when serving as Secretary of State, she may be open to accusations of outside – particularly foreign – influence.

Early on, Ms. Clinton and the Foundation she founded with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, released what they claimed were complete lists of names, divulging more than 200,000 donors. They subsequently continued to update the list. Then, according to Reuters, the charity’s flagship health program stopped making the annual disclosures as early as 2010. More than four years later, as Ms. Clinton contemplates a run at the White House, these failures to disclose hinder promises of transparency she makes on the (not quite) campaign trail today.

Worse for Ms. Clinton, when combined with her private email snafu, even the most elementary politician can add two-and-two to proffer a pattern of, if not dishonesty, than at least a lack of transparency. This is one possible reason there are yet to be any credible Democrats in the 2016 race. They don’t want their presumed nominee to take a beating in the primary while they hope the GOP candidates will tear each other apart like they did in the last election cycle.

Speculation? Certainly. But the scenario does absolutely no favors either to Ms. Clinton or to the charity she represents.

founding farmers ronn torossian

Can Founding Farmers go National?

At first blush, it seems like an impossibly idealistic dream. A cadre of farmers trying to turn the “farm to table” concept into a chain restaurant. Ronn Torossian explains how they are making it work.

It began in the likeliest of unlikely places – North Dakota. A group of local farmers got together with a simple plan. They wanted to begin an upscale, farm-to-table restaurant chain along the east coast. You read that right. A bunch of guys in North Dakota wanted to open not just one, but multiple, restaurants on the densely populated east coast. And they wanted to do that without anyone playing middle-man.

It’s not that the direct to consumer sales idea had not been floated before. It had been a near-constant agenda item for local farmers unions. And why not? According to Businessweek, in the 15-year period between 1992 and 2007, farmer’s markets and farm-to-table restaurants had “tripled the direct sales of food.” Tripled. Obviously, there was a market. But where…and, more importantly…HOW?

Most restaurants work on a multi-tiered success premise. Founders develop and market a brand; local chain location managers or franchisees manage the operations of individual locations, and independent suppliers get them everything they need at wholesale prices. However, when you are dealing with perishables and slim margins, the restaurant business can be notoriously fickle. Failure is epidemic, even with established chains. So, of course, cutting out middle-men, which cut into profit margins, has always been a desirable option. But it’s tough to make it work. Particularly on a large scale.

And, truth be told, the guys behind Founding Farmers nearly tanked as well. Their first foray into the unforgiving world of the restaurant business was a 14,00 square foot eatery in Washington D.C. Costs were astronomical, and not even beltway denizens were crazy about paying the menu premiums expected.

So the guys went back to the drawing board. Two years later, in 2008, Founding Farmers was launched. And it has REALLY taken off. With three massively successful locations in the D.C. area, the owners are considering expansions along the east coast. They know the formula, now they just have to expand into areas that will take a bit more massaging.

After all, D.C. is a hotbed for foodies in proximity to family farms that provide all the perishables the restaurant needs to keep fresh food on the menu. Currently, Boston is on their radar, and that’s certainly an apt choice. Dense population, high culinary expectations … and less competition than NYC. The key here will be effective and impactful consumer and restaurant PR. Founding Farmers already knows how to make the business work. Now they just need to make their target market care enough to give them a shot.

Coming Out on Top & How to Get There

Have you ever noticed how, so many times, the “Top” or “Best” or “Greatest” lists contain the same names? Why do you suppose that is? Well, for one thing, the definition of greatness doesn’t really change all that drastically, year to year. Plus, once you’ve made it, you’re on everyone’s mind the next time a list comes around. But, then how do you make it?

Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR and President of the Ronn Torossian Foundation believes this question should be a primary concern for any organization trying to increase its donor, or volunteer base. But, that coveted seat at the table, so to speak, isn’t exactly easy to stumble into. You have to craft, and execute the right PR plan.

Torossian explains that there are 3 initial steps all charity organizations must take with their PR to be eligible to make a legitimate attempt at top billing.

#1 – Define your brand

Understand that when you are first getting started – and for many years to come – there will be companies out there with more fame, more money, and more attention. The only – and best – way to stand out is to make certain your brand is very specific. Too many charities try to be all things to all problems in order to get attention. The problem there, of course, is that there are already a bunch of other organization already out there doing all that stuff. And they can do it better because they are well staffed, and well funded. But, defining your brand is not about what you do. It’s about what people believe, or understand that you do. There is a difference.

#2 – Be specific in what you do

Your cause needs to attack a specific societal ill, or support a specific group. Do that, and people can understand exactly how they are giving, and what they are supporting. Whatever it is, the more specific you get, the more passionate both your volunteers and your supporters will be. Plus, you will have more opportunities to make a more dramatic impact.

#3 – Do before you ask

Even if you have to go out, and help another organization while you are building support for your own, do it. Once you have established that you are doing good in the community, people will be more apt to support you. In fact, once you have shown that you are making a difference in something very specific for very specific reasons, that is exactly how people will label your organization. BOOM. You are branded.

Now go out, and do some good.

ronn torossian foundation

3 Tips for Media Interaction

Publicity can make, or break any brand; a non profit organization even more so. People love to give to something they read about in the paper, or hear about on the news. But, if you don’t know these 3 rules for media interaction, you will blow your shot … and you might not get another one. Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W Public Relations, and Founder of the Ronn Torossian Foundation, explains the best way to help you successfully interact with local media.

Follow their protocols…

No matter where you send your press release, that publication, or production will have a submission policy. Follow that policy. Ignore it, and they will likely ignore you. Publications get countless submissions on a daily basis, and they don’t have time to give you any special treatment. Unless, you’ve earned it. Emphasis on earned. How you earn that treatment will be different based on the publication, and the editor involved. Remember, there is a system, but these people are, in fact, people as well.

Craft a proper press release…

There is one right way, and endless wrong ways, to send out a press release. However, that “right” way will differ slightly from publication to publication. Bottom line, though, most people don’t mess up the subtle differences. They mess up the stuff that matters most. If you don’t know how to write a press release that will get read, hire a professional PR agency to do it for you. If you don’t have the budget, contact the editor, and ask how they want things done. Figure out how to make their lives easier, and they will appreciate it.

Be prompt and prepared…

When a reporter, or editor, or producer contacts you, be available, and be prepared. If you are in a meeting, set up a way to communicate that to the reporter, and get back to them in a specific time period. You may have all the time in the world, but the media lives in a world of hard deadlines. If you can’t keep up, they will fill “your” space with something else. When you do speak to a reporter, be prepared to answer the who, what, when, where, and why questions. Know what you are going to say, and NEVER “wing it.”

Following these tips is no guarantee you will get press coverage. But ignoring them virtually guarantees that you won’t.


Horrific Weather Pattern a Non Profit PR Opportunity

Earlier this month, a dangerous winter storm stretched across 2,000 miles of the central United States. Wind, ice, and snow covering the country from Minnesota to Texas. The hazards were obvious, and people suffered from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

Tens of thousands lost power, there were record lows in 10 states, and 19 states suffered from unusually frigid weather.

Ronn Torossian CEO of 5WPR, says this difficult time can be an opportunity for many local, and national non profits to establish themselves, and earn some goodwill and positive PR.

“No, PR is not the primary concern in these times,” Torossian stated, “But, there is absolutely no reason why a charity organization cannot consider their PR footprint while responding to these horrible circumstances.”

In fact, Torossian says, factoring in public perception before diving in to help often causes charity organizations to take a moment to plan better, getter better organized, and, because of this, see better results.

Sure, the reflex is to just jump out there, and help, and most charities should have a rapid response team for these sorts of endeavors. But, in the meantime, representatives at the center of the organization should be working through a plan to do the most good they can. This takes time, planning, and exemplary use of resources.

People out there need help, but wasteful, or sloppy reactions hinder response time, and effectiveness.

Stopping to plan not only increases the positive impact of the response, but it also puts the organization brand out there in the best possible light. Fair or not, the people not directly helped by the organization – and even some who are – will definitely judge a charity based on the results of it’s response.

This is the crucible in which many charities are challenged, and tested. Will yours be ready when the storm comes?