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5WPR Founder Chats New Book, Why Everyone Needs Good PR In The Digital Age

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR, one of the top PR agencies in the country. With clients ranging from Lil Kim to Whole Foods to Marc Ecko, Torossian continues the legacy of excellence developed by his company since its inception in 2003 by sharing some of his knowledge of the game. In his new book, For Immediate Release, he drops gems on how to successfully utilize public relations, marketing and branding in the digital age. VIBE caught up with him to talk about the inspiration behind his book and to get some insight into why everyone could learn a thing or two about good public relations.

Talk about the concept behind For Immediate Release and the inspiration behind creating it.

I think there’s a lot of people who talk about PR and very few of them actually earn a living doing PR. I’m not a professor or someone who learns things from classrooms I’m somebody who makes a living from doing PR and so I wanted to offer people the opportunity to learn what real life PR is about.

You’re right that there are a lot of self proclaimed publicists out there, so what’s the science behind effective PR?

There’s a lot of different things. I think being effective at PR means understanding your brand, who you are, what success looks like and it’s different if you’re a celebrity or if you’re a Fortune 500 corporation of if you’re a local store. There’s different goals and objectives in terms of what good PR looks like but certainly, good PR is only good if its strategic and if it’s focused. All press is not good and all attention is not good. It’s about having the right exposure for your brand.

You’ve worked with various celebrities who have had their fair share of drama so what’s the first thing you should do when the client is going through a crisis?

First of all, realize that a crisis is exactly that, a crisis [and] it doesn’t wait for you. That means you need to act quickly, even if you have other things or distractions going on. Nobody cares if your basement is flooded and nobody cares if your Aunt Bertha is sick, the media is going to write the story with or without you. So you have to be a part of the story and there’s a lot of different things that have to be considered when you’re doing that, so it could be anything from a lawyer that gets in the way—lawyers might tell you “Hey, if you make the wrong statement a year from now when we’re in court you’re gonna have a problem with that,” well guess what, your business, your customers, your employees might not wait a year for that story to come out so it’s going to hurt you along the way; its going to hurt you way before you ever get to court. So that’s something to consider. You need to know that crisis is immediate, its not waiting, its going to happen very quickly and he needs to be prepared and ready for the crisis so it means you have to think about everything from what will your Google search results look like if you don’t handle it to what will your customers say, to what will your vendors say so its happening quickly and the world moves very quickly and you’ve got to be prepared. Warren Buffet said something very interesting, which is that it takes 20 years to build a relationship and to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.

In your book you talk a lot about public image so in terms of social media, particularly Twitter, do you think it’s smart for celebs to have a Twitter?

I think celebrities need a Twitter page, I think that the best thing that people should realize is that their public brand is always out there. What that means is that you shouldn’t be tweeting things that you don’t want the whole world to know so if you’re out drunk and you don’t want anybody to know well then don’t tweet it. If you don’t want somebody to see naked pictures of you then don’t send it, look at Anthony Weiner. That’s the world we live in today and it’s true whether [or not] you’re a celebrity. People can talk all they want about privacy online but guess what? If you’re applying for a job somewhere and your email is [email protected] then you should change that before you’re applying for a job. We had an intern a few years ago who tweeted about [her] leaving work and going to get high, well [she] didn’t need to worry about coming back to work the next day. That’s not something I want associated with our brand and many of our people don’t think of that. So, you need to understand that people have to have a public [and] private persona and that goes for celebrities and many other people as well.

Is it a good or bad that fans have more access to their favorite celebrities online?

It’s a good and a bad thing because what does that mean? It means more access is good but you also have to be careful with it. Again, today is a world where everybody has instant access and demand instant access to everything. If your best friend calls you and you don’t call back in a few they’re going to think you’re dead and one has to realize that in terms of how they communicate. So. It’s great and negative to have instant access. So what I would tell you is, that you have to be very prepared ready and cognitive of the various things that instant communication means. It means that you can be rewarded but you can also be endangered.

As a publicist but also a celebrity in your own right, how do you balance being on both sides of the fence?

For me, it’s very important for us to promote our business the right way, which means that I wanted to write a book because I think that we have a lot to share with people from our success. I’m 37, I started this business, a NYC public school kid who thank God was educated and I’m an entrepreneur who has built a business, and it’s important for me that we share some of the things that we’ve learned along the way. So, when were working for a client its all about our client, we don’t share any secrets in the book. This is not a tell- all book [that] reveals client’s secrets. This is a book where we’re talking about strategies and focuses to win at PR.

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Issa Rae To Produce HBO Documentary Exploring History Of Black Television

A documentary on the history of Black television is headed to HBO with Issa Rae as one of its executive producers. Seen & Heard, a two-part documentary, will explore the history of Black TV as told by those who created, and starred in groundbreaking series from the past and present, the cable network announced on Wednesday (Aug. 5).

In addition to showcasing archival material, Seen & Heard will offer up cultural commentary on Black representation in storytelling, featuring interviews with writers, showrunners, actors, celebrities and other “notable influencers.”

The participants will reflect on their personal experiences with Black representation on television, and share insights into their current creative ventures, inspiration, and experiences.

Seen & Herd will be executive produced by Rae and Montrel McKay’s Issa Rae Productions along with award-winning teams from 3 Arts Entertainment and Ark Media, including Phil Bertelsen, the latter of whom will direct and produce the film. Bertelsen's credits include the hit Netflix documentary, Who Killed Malcolm X?, Madam President, and The Legacy of Barack Obama.

“Black people have such a rich, but often unacknowledged history in Hollywood," Rae said in a statement. “We have defined American culture and influenced generations time and time again across the globe. I'm honored to pair with Ark Media to center and celebrate the achievements of those who paved a way for so many of us to tell our stories on television.”

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Zoe Saldana Says She Regrets Starring In Nina Simone Biopic

Zoe Saldana regrets portraying Nina Simone in the widely panned 2016 biopic, Nina. Reflecting on the film in an recent interview with Pose creator, Steven Canals, Saldana became emotional over her decision to portray the music legend.

At the time, Saldana was subjected to mounds of criticism, all of which she ignored, and forged on with the role. In hindsight, Saldana realizes that she should have used her leverage to give the role to someone else.

“I should have never played Nina. I should have done everything in my power, with the leverage that I had 10 years ago — which was a different leverage but it was leverage none the less — I should have tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman,” said Saldana.

“It’s painful,” she added. “I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman, and I am, but it was Nina Simone and Nina had a life and she had a journey that should have been and should be honored to the most detail because she was a specifically detailed individual.”

Saldana began to cry as she spoke about Simone and the film, “She deserved better. With that said, I’m so sorry because I love her music.”

 

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#NinaSimone #ZoeSaldana

A post shared by the Jasmine BRAND (@thejasminebrand) on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:21pm PDT

 

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#ZoeSaldana Cries Admitting She Never Should Have Played #NinaSimone: I’m Never Going To Do That Again (Part 2)

A post shared by the Jasmine BRAND (@thejasminebrand) on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:26pm PDT

The mountain of backlash against the film included a tweet from a verified account dedicated to Simone warning Saldana to “take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.” But Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, defended the portrayal.

“It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture,” she said in 2016. “It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies.”

Saldana, who is Dominican, darkened her skin and wore a prosthetic nose for the film. Nina, which featured Mike Epps, David Oyelowo, and Ella Thomas, debuted in limited release and on video on demand.

Watch Saldana’s full interview below.

 

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Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) sits down with "Pose" (@poseonfx) creator and executive producer Steven Canals (@stevencanals) to chat about Afro-Latinidad, colorism in the Latinx community, Nina Simone, and more. #AfroLatinx #AfroLatinidad #BESE #ZoeSaldana #StevenCanals #Pose #PoseFX #AfroLatinos #Dominican #PuertoRican

A post shared by BESE (@bese) on Aug 3, 2020 at 6:54pm PDT

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Danielle Brooks To Portray Gospel Legend Mahalia Jackson In Lifetime Biopic 

Fresh off the success of The Clark Sisters biopic, Lifetime is preparing to release another film on a famous gospel legend. Danielle Brooks, of Orange is the Knew Black fame, is set to play gospel pioneer, Mahalia Jackson, in an upcoming film executive produced by journalist Robin Roberts, the network announced on Monday (Aug. 3).

The film, Robin Roberts Presents: The Mahalia Jackson Story, will be helmed by Tony Award-winning director, Kenny Leon, whose credits include the Lifetime remake of Steel Magnolias, featuring an all-Black cast. Brooks and Leon previously worked together on the stage production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Brooks starred as “Beatrice” in Much Ado About Nothing, and made her Broadway debut in The Color Purple, the latter of which earned her a Tony nomination.

“Having had the privilege of working with Kenny on 'Steel Magnolias' and Robin Roberts on 'Stolen by my Mother,' I am ecstatic to have them join forces to work together on this special project,” said Tanya Lopez, Lifetime’s EVP of Movies, Limited Series & Original Movie Acquisitions. “Adding Danielle Brooks as Mahalia is icing on the cake. This team is committed in celebrating the legacy of Mahalia and reintroducing her to a world that needs her spirit more than ever.”

A four-time Grammy award winner and Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, Jackson was born in New Orleans in 1911. She began singing at an early age and become one of the most revered gospel artists in history. Her 1947 recording of “Move On Up a Little Higher” sold eight million copies, and it wasn’t the only platinum-selling effort from the music icon. Jackson also broke multiple barriers, including becoming the first gospel act to perform at Carnegie Hall.

In addition to recording more than 30 albums over her career, Jackson was an active participant in the civil rights movement. She performed at the 1963 March on Washington, and hoped that her music would act as catalyst to “break down” racial division.

Jackson died from heart failure and complications brought on by diabetes in 1972 at the age of 60.

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