Reality Television Public Relations

Book Excerpt From “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations” by PR firm owner Ronn Torossian

Now, what would a book on PR be without at least mentioning reality TV shows? Everyone wants their “15 minutes of fame” and many think if Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of Jersey Shore can become a “star,” they can, too. That’s all well and good, except that I can think of few clients I would advise to make, or even to participate in, a reality TV show. So few people ever appear in a positive light on reality shows, and many more have been damaged by them. Here’s another secret: it’s tough to make any real money from being featured on reality programs, even though they are a lot of work and intrude on the personal aspects of your life.

For people who are successful in their professions, getting in front of a reality show camera is not usually a good career move. Don’t put yourself in the position of being followed around and made to look like an ass, because that’s what a lot of reality TV boils down to. Don’t think you will succeed like the Kardashians, who have managed to do reality TV right and have become a great brand in the process. They are the exception. Don’t believe the hype.

Getting an offer for a reality TV gig may be a boost to your ego, but if you are running a business, it has to fit your mission and brand. It’s still a high-risk proposition because show producers will always be pushing you to reveal more, to act a little crazier, and so on. Think of what you’d be giving up in terms of your privacy. I was walking down the street on a gorgeous fall evening recently with a client, one of the richest people in the world, when he mentioned that a reality production company had approached him about a reality show based on his life. He was tempted to say yes and wanted to know what I thought.

“Stop and look around,” I said. “Here you are walking down a midtown Manhattan street, your privacy intact, enjoying a lovely evening. Do you want all of that to go away?” I reminded him he traveled without security and wasn’t asked for his autograph; however, once he began such a show, evening walks would be a thing of the past. Not to mention how the producers would portray him. Why would someone with that many assets to protect want to put himself in such a vulnerable position?

I told my client about an actor I knew who had found fame and some financial success as a character in a major hit series.

Interestingly, he told me agreeing to be on the show was one of the biggest mistakes he’d ever made. He wished he could go back in time and change the decision. I couldn’t believe it and asked him why. After all, it had helped make him relatively successful, something that’s rare for most working stage actors. It was because he couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized and accosted by fans. He couldn’t take the subway, eat in a restaurant, or walk down the street. However, he wasn’t wealthy enough to afford a full-time driver and car so he was stuck, and he had made a decent living before in an unrelated field—which he now had trouble doing as a “celebrity.”

A former client, who also happens to be a nasty person, manufactures a great product that got amazing media. He was tremendously successful but is just not a good guy. He, too, was approached to do a guest spot on a reality show, and my whole team cautioned strongly against it again and again. Sure enough, he didn’t listen and had an awful appearance on the program, which had a serious and quick negative impact on his business.

His appearance resulted in his company being blasted, and wherever he went, people asked him about the program but not his product. In fact, as this book went to print, three of the first ten items on a Google search of his name and product reference this program. I’d venture his ego cost him millions.

There are times when a reality show can work. It depends on many factors: the script (unscripted television is actually quite scripted, by the way), your personality, the producers of the show, and your business. Anyone with a special expertise that can be used in the right way probably has the best chance of reality success.

Under these circumstances, a show can be a PR machine for a small business. Antique dealers and bounty hunters, for example, could benefit from shows that follow their comings and goings. DC Cupcakes on TLC has been a great show for its stars, Sophie and Katherine, who left high-powered careers behind to start Georgetown Cupcake. In its second season, the show has raised awareness for the cupcake brand and has created numerous revenue streams for the pair.

Although the show depicts dramatic situations (the usual bickering, tension between business partners, nutty customers), it’s all done in a lighthearted and humorous way that fits with the original cupcake brand.

In this case, the show has raised the profile of the women’s bakery. When the show goes off the air, the two women will likely still have a successful bakery to run and maybe even other business opportunities. As the show’s executive producer, Terence Noonan, points out, “The girls still ice cupcakes, and at the end of the day, that’s their most important job.” When you stop doing what got you attention in the first place, you can run into trouble.

The Book can be purchased at:

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.