Ronn Torossian, the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, spoke to two classes at Harvard Business School last week. Following a case presentation on the “United Breaks Guitars” case study, during which United Airlines handling of a broken guitar resulted in a PR nightmare, Torossian led a student discussion on crisis communication strategies and insights.
Torossian also participated in a Q&A, where students inquired about his offered thought leadership and unparalleled experience on notable topics within the industry, including Nike and Colin Kaepernick’s images, influencer marketing, the ever-evolving social media landscape, and strategies within crisis communications.
“Crisis doesn’t care whether it’s your birthday, your vacation, the weekend – when it occurs, the company must be prepared with an authentic and genuine approach,” said Torossian to the students. “In the case of United Airlines, the company failed miserably, but that’s in part because many large airlines simply don’t give a damn about their customers. A golden rule of crisis communications is that authenticity really matters. Does anyone in this room really think airlines care about their customers?”
Torossian emphasized the importance of understanding sectors, noting, “Don’t confuse the airline industry, where consumers are nearly held hostage to a very select group of companies, to other industries.”
The classes also discussed the importance of timing in crisis, and how many companies understand the best strategies behind revealing bad news. As Torossian noted, “There’s a reason companies announce bad news—firings, revenues loss, and operating loss – on a Friday afternoon, because they know they are going into a slow news cycle.”
One such company that understands the communications landscape, according to Torossian, is Nike.
“Nike is an extremely smart company. They knew exactly what they were doing when they partnered with Colin Kaepernick,” explained Torossian. “They knew there would be good and bad reactions, and they were prepared to weather whatever storm came from it. More than ever before, citizens slash influencers slash every man are able to have a voice much more than ever before.”
“With all the social media platforms expanding and evolving, companies need to be very aware of how this platform gives any consumer a voice, and for those notable ones to have an even bigger impact,” exclaimed Torossian. “Today, a positive statement from Kim Kardashian is perhaps as valuable as a Super Bowl commercial, and that is not going to change anytime soon.”
“Harvard Business School is known to educate the best and the brightest, and it was evident in the student’s insight and analysis,” said Ronn Torossian. “The student’s foresight and engagement was inspiring.”
With more than 20 years of experience creating powerful narratives, Torossian is one of the most well respected public relations professionals in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has guided the company into becoming one of the top 10 independent PR firms in the nation with more than 150 professionals in the company’s headquarters in the iconic Helmsley Building in Manhattan.
Torossian has been recognized with many industry and business awards, including being named PR Executive of the Year by the American Business Awards, and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semifinalist. He also has led 5WPR to being named an American Business Awards PR agency of the year.
Torossian regularly provides expert commentary in the media, and his book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations,” is an industry best-seller. A native of New York City, Ronn Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.