On Wednesday night, I had a meeting with Juda Engelmayer and Adam Handelsman, two top executives at Ronn Torossian's 5WPR, to hear them out. The meeting could accurately be described as "strained, but civil." I told Handelsman—who sold his own firm to 5W in 2004, and is now a partner in the agency—to send me a letter outlining his objections to our coverage of Ronn and 5W, and we would run it. His email came last night, and it is reproduced in its entirety below.
Last night I, and another senior manager of 5W, sat with Hamilton Nolan, because we wanted to speak with the person who harbored such venom for my firm. To say the recent blogs are mistruths are a huge understatement. It's virtually impossible that there are few, if any, on- the-record sources, and I am now certain that Nolan is harboring a vendetta armed with "unsubstantiated" and "Anonymous" posters comprised of evidently jealous individuals.
First off, it is imperative for everyone to understand the origin of Nolan's animosity. It started in 2004 when he was a reporter at PRWEEK. Hamilton was assigned to cover Ronn Torossian on a story about self promotion with in the PR industry. Nolan then decided it was his right to start contacting 5W clients for comment. That is and was completely unacceptable behavior from an industry trade reporter, and Ronn refused any additional comment. Let me know which PR firm CEO would stand idly by and let a reporter contact clients without permission. This was the origin and now we jump to the present. On an almost hourly basis we read about the monster that is Ronn Torossian and 5W house of horror.
At 5W, we read these posts, all negative of course, and we have tested the source. Yes Hamilton , we have sent numerous posts, responses and few to none ever make it up on the "comment" section. Go figure! At the restaurant last night Hamilton said, I welcome your letter... well here it is.
In the post regarding working at 5W, which all those anonymous people say is so bad, you have nothing but blatant lies.
Per Gawker on March 11... "Among the feedback we've gotten:"
* 5W's turnover may be even higher than Gawker's. Some employees like to refer to "Fired Fridays." The turnover rate at the junior level, especially, is described as "ridiculously high." One former employee says "having a child would have been more pleasant" than her time at 5W.
Turnover is in fact the opposite as posted; with promotions, bonuses and raises bestowed to staff with incredible frequency. In fact, three years in a row, The Holmes Report named 5W one of the best firms in the country to work for. It's interesting with "all" of the supposed criticism there isn't any employee (or former) employee of 5W who has gone on the record. Many staffers, including myself and most of the firm's Sr. Vice Presidents and Vice Presidents have been on board for years.
* Those who sit close to Ronn's office are subjected to overhearing "many rants and arguments."
There is no yelling and screaming at the firm. We don't allow it nor do we tolerate it. Ronn, in fact, assigns management improvement reading to his senior staff. The most recent book distributed was "The No Asshole Rule" which discusses how management must be decent.
* Ronn forced his staff to endure "Q&A sessions" in which he "would simply talk about himself."
I never thought breakfast with CEO for new staffers was a punishment. The fact that once a month Ronn takes new employees to breakfast is trait that should be mimicked and not frowned up. That he introduces himself and offers a history of the firm is expected.
* On business trips, some employees were asked to stay with friends to save the company the cost of a hotel room.
A complete and utter lie! I would never - unless there were absolutely no rooms available in the hotel - ask employees to share rooms. Some staffers have volunteered to stay with family or friends because they might live close by, but they would never be asked to do anything that creates discomfort. I deem it inappropriate.
* Although reporters frequently complain about being driven crazy by PR spam from 5W, the company management's strategy has been articulated as: "bcc the shit out of everyone."
The last remark is directly attributable to me, and it had absolutely no reference to the media... it referenced Ronn and myself, and our request to be copied on emails. This is so that we as managers are able to stay in the loop on all accounts. Furthermore, we constantly discuss the need to be focused and targeted with our media outreach - even to the point of specifically sending staff notes about NOT spamming or mass emailing to media lists.
* 5W does not pay overtime to low-level employees, in violation of labor law; that Ronn has docked employees for a full day's pay, or a vacation day, for being 15 minutes late to work, causing several people to resign; and that employees don't get proper comp time after working 7 days in a row or more.
5W has one hourly employee, everyone else is salaried. We are in full compliance with Federal, State and City labor laws. No one has ever been docked for being 15 minutes late to work, not even an hour. No one has resigned ever due to being docked pay. As for comp time - no one works seven days in a row, and when someone has to work late for a client, they are permitted to come in later or take equal time off.
So let's review the facts... 5W Public Relations has grown from 1 person to 85 people in five years. If Ronn was such a pariah, then he would never have made PR WEEK 40 under 40, Adage 40 under 40, or asked to speak at all the prominent PR industry trade events. Just last week, the firm was named the 21st largest independent PR firm in the U.S. and we maintain incredible media relationships, with the exception of this one blogger!
We at 5W Public Relations secure top-notch media coverage for our clientele on a daily basis. We work with emerging brands to Fortune 100 corporations. We are an INC 500 Company. Our employees are the most important component of the firm and their enthusiasm and work ethic are what drives our success. Yes we work hard and yes we are not the easiest place to work, but if you are invited to join this firm you will certainly grow and prosper.
Executive Vice President, Partner
5W Public Relations