PR Pros: Frank Tortorici of Marketing Maven On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro
… Ability to Ask Questions with Passion — The best PR people are inquisitive. When presented with numerous client needs and objectives, it is critical to get to the core of each campaign to discover what the client truly expects to achieve and in what media they would be most comfortable and appropriate. If you’re not a normally inquisitive individual, the constant plumbing for details can quickly feel cumbersome.
Have you seen the show Flack? Ever think of pursuing a real-life career in PR? What does it take to succeed in PR? What are the different forms of Public Relations? Do you have to have a college degree in PR? How can you create a highly lucrative career in PR? In this interview series, called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” we are talking to successful publicists and Public Relations pros, who can share stories and insights from their experiences.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Frank Tortorici.
Frank Tortorici has been at the forefront of the public relations and media relations fields since 1984.
An expert in business-to-business and financial public relations, Tortorici also has experience in many sectors, including tech, crisis communications, and pharmaceutical media relations. He has worked in public relations agencies, including Edelman, and in-house at not-for-profit institutions. Tortorici served as public relations director for the global business networking organization The Conference Board for nearly 20 years.
Tortorici has hundreds of solid media contacts and has conducted national and international campaigns for clients in the business/financial, consumer, and healthcare spheres. He has also developed and supervised social media campaigns for many of his clients. Clients serviced by Tortorici include Peppers & Rogers Group (management consultancy); TeleTech (international call center and customer solutions firm); The Conference Board (global business research and membership organization best known for the Consumer Confidence Index); Clark University; Bryant University; TABS Analytics; Econsultancy (global digital marketing industry organization); DeVito Verdi (advertising); Ernst & Young; Ayer Advertising; Love Cinema web portal; John Hancock Financial Services; the law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel; RE/MAX real estate and many more.
In addition, Tortorici was a contributing editor for many years of the music website, Sonicnet.com, which was acquired by MTV Networks.
He graduated cum laude from New York University and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was always a very strong writer and wanted to put that skill to use in a career. I explored journalism and enjoyed writing stories for newspapers but jobs in that field pay fairly low. Public relations seemed like a good compromise and offered better wages.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
In public relations, one often must learn about many industries all at the same time. When I started at Marketing Maven, we had the good fortune of being hired for PR by a global company that made virtual reality products. Not only did I have to bone up on all the VR basics very quickly, but I had to entertain the client and impress them with my knowledge of the subject area when they visited LA for a VR convention.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started in the field, I had to make a list of New Jersey magazines and newspapers for a client based in the state. I felt confident that I made a great list to present to my supervisor, but she was quick to correct me about my first entry on the list. It was the Jersey Journal, but not the Northern NJ newspaper. My same-named title was the official journal of Jersey cows!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am working with a major cleaning and disinfection company on communicating to the public how important their workers are in maintaining and promoting healthy public environments as the pandemic continues. I am representing a cybersecurity expert who can speak quickly and intelligently about the never-ending array of cyberattacks, some of which involve the federal government and/or major corporations. It has been challenging and exhilarating to secure him placement in national print and broadcast media.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Flexibility — The key to PR success is to be able to move back and forth between projects. I can be steeped in the intricacies of Bitcoin one minute and then need to quickly pivot to impress a client on my knowledge of digital marketing.
Tenacity — You have to persevere in a media relations career, because most story ideas are rejected. I have learned to become a glass half full person and to be optimistic that a positive conversation you recently had with a reporter about a client’s extensive knowledge about 401ks and other retirement vehicles will soon be the basis for a story in the magazine for which that reporter writes.
Communicative — The ability to share ideas easily and in a non-confrontational manner is required at all times. The best PR people develop new ideas all the time for campaigns and need to be able to convey them effectively to co-workers and the media. They also must be able to share opinions on others’ pitch concepts and strategies in a constructive and non-combative way.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are?
There are: general media relations, reputation management, crisis communications, and management of written communications for your clients. It is imperative to perform all these duties with excellent writing, clarity of mind and a focus on your clients’ messages while also emphasizing truth and honesty. It does not behoove any party to convey lies in your work processes.
Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism? Can you explain what you mean?
My opinion is that the best education for a future PR person is a liberal arts education from a good college, with either a degree in journalism or communications. Since you’re always working for different industries during a PR career, a varied education is optimal. In my case, I received a journalism degree from NYU with a specialization in public relations.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Networking is very important in public relations and communications. When you’re starting out, it’s vital to meet as many industry people as possible via PR-centered panel shows, group meetings, trade shows, conventions and parties. You should also maintain a healthy LinkedIn presence and get as many connections as possible. Remember to treat everyone you meet via work with respect and help them to the best of your ability and your network will grow naturally.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
I have found that the best way to generate leads for new business is to remain in touch with your professional network, either digitally or by telephone, and always discuss the non-proprietary elements of clients’ campaigns and the industries in which you are working. This shows others your mastering of many industries. If you hone your network well and keep up with your peers, you are bound to encounter business leads that make sense for your skills.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Ability to Ask Questions with Passion — The best PR people are inquisitive. When presented with numerous client needs and objectives, it is critical to get to the core of each campaign to discover what the client truly expects to achieve and in what media they would be most comfortable and appropriate. If you’re not a normally inquisitive individual, the constant plumbing for details can quickly feel cumbersome.
Juggling — If you work in a PR agency especially, the key to being successful is the ability to juggle quickly and efficiently. You need to be aware of the concerns and meet the needs of a slew of clients all at approximately the same time. You might have to shift gears within a few hours from an account that requires time-consuming research to a higher paying, more visible client that wants media attention on a moment’s notice.
Eye on the News — It is critical for a PR person, at whatever level, to keep an eye on the news constantly. And these days, that means all types of news — TV, online, newspapers, magazines, radio and podcasts. A great PR practitioner always finds items in the news to use for whatever campaigns they are leading for their clients. A good example: if there is a high-profile hacking in the news, make sure that you tie it in to your client’s cybersecurity expertise and get that client on TV talking about the incident.
Ability to Elevate Others — Some careers are all about the glory. You’ve written the next great novel; you’ve built the most elegant and functional office buildings or you’ve appeared in a major motion picture. PR is not a career that’s all about personal glory. The successful PR pro learns how to find the best in OTHERS and to bring that excellence to the forefront via their skill in written and verbal communication.
Powers of Persuasion — In order to rise high in the field, you also need to be able to convince others that many products or services are valuable and worth their time. That’s not to say that you have to lie, but you need to focus on the best aspects of whatever it is that you are pitching and convey them to the public with enthusiasm and via the media most appropriate for their industry.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Just always put kindness at the top of your choices of how to interact with others. Whether it be a personal or business interaction, things will run more smoothly, and everyone’s interests will be considered, and many times even satisfied, if humans treat each other with kindness.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.
PR Pros: Frank Tortorici of Marketing Maven On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.