Ronn Torossian Bill Gates

Gates Understands Timely PR

Ebola. It’s a hot word in the world these days. Hot and incredibly terrifying. It conjures up horrors without cure … and with dubious cause. It feels Old World, Medieval, something from a darker, less modern time. And these days, it’s everywhere.

There are countless groups, large and small, out there working to help, to heal, and to find a cure. And Ronn Torossian says these groups would be well advised to add PR to their programs. Consider the recent ALS Challenge. While the jury may still be out on how much the challenge “helped,” there is no doubt that many people know a lot more about ALS than they did a month ago. When it comes to funding movements, knowledge is value.

And now the fight against Ebola has found an ally who knows a thing or three about publicity. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has directed his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to pledge $50 million to fight the viral Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The donation was pledged via a press release that also intimated that it was the “Largest Ever” toward a humanitarian cause.

Gates and his PR team understand very well how much the press loves a “bigger, better, or more” headline. If you can be the best or biggest, or beat the best or biggest, you have a great chance of getting ink.

Another aspect of PR that the press appreciates is timeliness. The Gates Foundation announcement stated that the specified funds would IMMEDIATELY benefit the UN agencies and international organizations involved in fighting the viral outbreak and spread.

Next, the release offered specifics as to what could and would be done with the cash. Medical supplies would be purchased and emergency operations would be conducted. These specifics fit nicely into the press’ 5W format of “who, what, when, where, and why.” Making it easier for them to make a story makes it more likely for you to be recognized.

And then there’s the nuance of the statement. The press appreciates headlines that allow them to use superlatives such as “historic” and “global” and “epidemic.” If you have that reach, keep that in mind. And, if you don’t, consider the superlatives that would jump off the page in your sphere of influence. If you can do something to build those headlines, you will go a long way toward increasing the media’s response to your nonprofit public relations efforts.

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One Mistake that can Destroy your Business

Assumption. You all know the old joke about what happens when you ass-u-me… but did you know that there is one assumption that most businesses make that can literally derail your entire PR and marketing program, and eventually, send your business crashing into anonymity? Worse, this assumption is so common that, when surveyed, more than 7 out of 10 business owners got it wrong.

We’re talking about branding. More specifically, we’re talking about understanding what your brand “is” in the marketplace, and knowing how to accurately communicate that information. While, as we said, more than 70% of business owners firmly believe they have an actionable understanding of their brand, the statistics show us that less than 15% have actually defined it in a workable, applicable, real world way. That’s fewer than ONE IN SIX business owners who have an adequate marketplace understanding of their brand. Dramatically worse, less than 5% are actually practicing that brand in any appreciable way in their day-to-day business at work.

These are otherwise intelligent, business-savvy professionals going about their day, ignoring the core of their public relations messaging. So where does that breakdown occur, and, more importantly, how can it be fixed?

Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, said, today more than ever, your brand is more than just your calling card; it is how you communicate your value in a constantly-evolving multimedia world.

Not your “values” … your “value”. See, one of the reasons for this brand confusion was the trend a few years back to make your brand all about your values. In truth, your brand is more about how your customers see you, and what you can offer to them. That is how they establish your market value.

Notice we did not say brand had anything to do with the products or services you offered the marketplace. Instead, it is about how customers see you. What can they get from you? This question encompasses more than just products. It’s about service, price, convenience, respect, appreciation, knowledge… those things, and all the other reasons people will make a buying decision. It’s the reason people will stand in line to buy the next Apple device, and barely bat an eyelash when anything else is released on the market. Don’t think for one minute people are buying on features and benefits. They are buying based on what the brand means to them.

That is why this question – and the horrific set of assumptions that began this article – is so central to your business success. Your brand is absolutely core to your public relations. It is the WHY, and the HOW, and the WHO of your marketplace interaction. For far too long, too many businesses have settled on the WHAT, and the WHEN … and they still don’t know why no one cares.

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.

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?

Kid selling Halloween pumpkins for charity

Local Charities Scare Up Some PR This Halloween

Non-profits use the holiday to increase community engagement

During most holiday seasons we hear about how strapped, and in need local charities can be. For sure, the need out there is huge, and this time of year it seems to expand exponentially. But, how can a charity use the holiday season to actually increase it’s footprint in the community, and potentially, increase incoming holiday donations.

One word: Halloween

The scary fun family holiday is the perfect opportunity to get out into the community, and get noticed; to engender some goodwill, and increase your reputation in the community.

Whether you celebrate Halloween, fall festivals, or seasonal carnivals, people this time of year are LOOKING for opportunities for some good, clean family fun. And maybe a little spooky, naughty fun, too.

Volunteer with an existing event

Sometimes the barrier to getting out there as a group is financial. You may simply not have the resources to do something on your own. But that doesn’t mean you should do nothing. Partner up with an existing event or business that has the resources, but may lack volunteers. Then wear your branded apparel and get out and have some fun helping your community.

Do your own thing

Whether you sponsor a Trunk or Treat, host a fall festival, or go all out with a seasonal carnival, the money you invest will likely be money well spent. First, each of these events can easily be turned into fundraisers. So, beyond the community goodwill, you are filling the coffers in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season.

Be unique and welcoming

If you choose to do your own thing, don’t just mimic something someone else is already doing. Look for a way to be unique, and different. To give folks an entirely new way to get out, and have a good time.

No matter what you choose to do this spooky season, be sure to get out, and do something. Don’t let this prime opportunity pass you by.

When “It Wasn’t Us” Doesn’t Cut It

When it comes to reputation, particularly business branding, perception (or image) is everything. This is especially true online. The web can make or break a brand’s reputation, even if the image presented is entirely unfair. Now, we’re not talking here about gossip sites like TMZ or Gawker. Users understand what they are getting there. That’s the web at its worst common denominator. Entertaining? It can be, but it will rarely, if ever, show a person, business, or brand in the best light. And Internet viewers get that.

Attacking Guilt by Association

We’re talking here about the “real” or perceived “real” news publications. Those which readers are apt to believe or, at least, allow to color their opinions. When a business or brand runs afoul of these sites, things can go south in a hurry. But what if it wasn’t your fault? What if the negative perception didn’t come from you…but it came from “you”???

We put the “you” in quotes because that is EXACTLY what happened to a world-renowned charity recently. This particular charity is known to have political leanings, but has never before been described as outright discriminatory.

That all changed when an interview with a high-ranking official in the organization offended an international group of people by claiming that the charity as a whole disapproved of them.

When challenged by the show host, the official clearly and succinctly repeated his position. According to him, the ENTIRE organization was fundamentally opposed to that particular group of folks.

As you can imagine, this did not sit well with folks in that group and their supporters. It may have been less alarming if the person involved was not presented as someone having authority in the organization.

But that’s exactly how he was presented. Suddenly, that group – which depends, as all charities do, on the goodwill of people – found itself the target of some serious ill will. The segment of the charity in the United States really started taking a beating online and in social media.

But here’s the rub…the individual doing the interview had nothing to do with the international face of the company at all. He was in leadership…but in leadership of a small part of the organization on the other side of the world.

But that was not the perception. But what could the organization do about the incorrect perception??? Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, has some tips.

Disavow That Guy

“The organization as a whole did this well,” Torossian said. They came out publicly and said, essentially, this guy has an opinion, but it’s not our opinion. That’s simply not us.

Make Your Actual Position Plear

But distancing yourself from the dissenter is not enough. You must clearly and articulately state your actual position. In this case the charity did that.

Repeat As Necessary

You may not get your point across in one go-round. In the wake of something as drastic as this, you better make very clear your position. Repeating obviously and publicly is the only right way to go.

For more on how to handle your nonprofit PR online and elsewhere, contact Ronn Torossian and 5WPR here.

Charity Crisis

Four Ways To Avoid a Nonprofit PR Crisis

Ronn Torossian helps keep you compliant

For a well-meaning charity there is nothing quite so bad as accidentally making a financially fatal mistake. You may have never intended to cross a legal or ethical line, but once it’s crossed, you end up with both a financial and public relations crisis that will damage your public reputation and could destroy the good work you want to accomplish.

Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W Public Relations and president of the Ronn Torossian Foundation, has four tips to help you stay on the right side of the law and keep you out of a public relations crisis.

The purpose of this article is not to offer legal counsel. Torossian is only offering advice as a friend and fellow charity worker who wants to help any who wish to do good in their communities.

Disclaimer aside, these are traps I have seen more than a few good nonprofits fall into, and we want to help you avoid them.

#1 – State and local tax issues

While some charities are exempt from sales tax, this exemption may not apply to your organization, particularly in certain situations. Want to feed a large number of people at a fundraiser or other special event? You need to be very familiar with the tax laws that may apply. Also, you need to understand the usage statutes and budget for an intended or special use permit as necessary. This is not the time to get forgiveness instead of permission, but charities try it every day.

#2 – Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) pitfalls

This is one of those most folks never think about. But if, for example, a food or beverage provider sponsors your event and is, in turn, the only food and/or beverage provider at that event, their sponsorship payment could constitute UBI. Another potential UBI issue could happen when a charity swaps web links with a sponsor and THEN goes beyond simply listing the logo and sponsor name. Making substantive or qualitative statements about a sponsor could indicate UBI.

#3 – Federal “deductibility”

Okay, this is a big one. It’s the first question the average donor asks when giving to a nonprofit. “Is this tax deductible?” The issue is rarely IF the donation is deductible but whether or not the charity gives “fair and equitable value.” Donors should only deduct the amount paid and the value received. (PS – This one has a lot of variables.)

#4 – Gambling and games of chance

Poker tournaments, casino nights, raffles, bingo – these are fun and profitable ways for most charities to increase their income. However, different states have different laws about this in general and, in many cases, on a game-by-game basis. You need to know not just what the law says in your state, but how it has been interpreted and applied. Don’t let a misreading or a misunderstanding derail your good work.

The content of this article is in no way meant to convey or represent legal counsel. Ronn Torossian is not an attorney and laws in your area may differ.

Four Ways To Increase Your Visibility

Deepen your nonprofit name recognition with these easy tips

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If all non-profits have one thing in common, it’s a need – or desire – to increase their visible footprint in the local community. Yes, being a household name is cool, but being a visible benefit to your local community is what can really bring out the regular volunteers as well as increase name recognition and regular donations. Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5W Public Relations and President of the Ronn Torossian Foundation, offers four easy tips to help you accomplish your branding goals.

#1 – Social media activity

You would think this one would be the ultimate no-brainer in this day and age, but sadly many miss the boat in this. If you want a larger public face, you need to be active in not one – but several – social media platforms. Which ones depends largely on your sort of charity, but Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest are the best places to start. Instagram, Twitter and Google Plus are also wise investments. But here’s a vital tip– if you get started, you better keep up!

#2 – Volunteer T-shirts

We threw this one in to see if you were paying attention. Totally low tech and high value, volunteer T-shirts can help (literally) define your impact at local volunteer events. Be sure to pick a color that will stand out. Bright neon, something that will help you get noticed, with your charity name and logo prominent. Remember, this is about making an impact, so don’t be subtle. Have fun with it, and soon your team T-shirts will be everyone’s favorite event souvenir.

#3 – Naming rights

One of the easiest ways to put your name out there is to literally put your name out there. Sponsor a team, school or event. Make sure to do it regularly. This is a definite signal to the community at large that you have “arrived.” While some may complain that you are using “donated” funds improperly, this can be circumvented in one of several ways. The first is to ask a donor to buy the rights in your name. Another is to sponsor a charity that could use the funds but already has the administration in place.

#4 – Public participation

One of the best ways to be recognized is to be seen as much as possible. Even if you can’t or don’t have the administration to sponsor your own events, get out there and support others. You have to start somewhere and showing up in force at another group’s benefit is a great way to do some good and make your presence felt.

Torossian says the best thing about these tips is that you can pull the trigger on them almost immediately. Most don’t have a long-term timeline and don’t require a large allocation of administrative staff to make them happen. Get started today and reap the benefits faster than you can imagine.

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