Dick Pirozzolo, APR PRSA BOSTON Member Spotlight
Since he founded Pirozzolo Company Public Relations in Boston in April of 1981, Dick Pirozzolo has introduced new technology, promoted financial institutions, helped US business enter international markets and represented the interests of foreign governments and corporations in the US.
Pirozzolo Company (http://www.pirozzolo.com) clients over the past few years include J/Brice Design, a global hotel design and development firm with new hotel projects in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt, FCM360 – an international high speed trading infrastructure company with clients as far away as South Africa – and Trayport Ltd. (GFIG/Nasdaq), the UK-based commodities and derivatives trading platform serving the European Union and Southeast Asia. He figured prominently in fostering US-Vietnam reconciliation and trade during the mid-90s.
In addition to running his PR firm, Dick is co-author of four popular books on home design and construction, two corporate biographies and numerous articles on home financing, energy and home building. His byline has appeared in Consumers’ Digest, Yankee, The Boston Herald and The Washington Times, as well as PRSA Tactics, PR News – Media Training Guidebook, PR News – Crisis Management Workbook, The Advertiser, Trade Show Week, Banking Technology, e-Forex Magazine and PR News.
He has lectured on international public relations practices in Jakarta, Indonesia and is a Media Bistro instructor teaching media relations, crisis management and starting and managing your own PR firm.
In addition to PRSA, Dick is a member of The National Press Club, Washington, DC, The Society of Professional Journalists (Sigma Delta Chi Honorary Society), The Foreign Press Association of New York and the New York Deadline Club.
Do you approach public relations with an overall philosophy?
“Clients have limited resources and the media is tired of blah, blah, blah stories about the latest techno-twist. You have to cut through the patter. Journalists want two things: issues and powerful stories,” Pirozzolo said. “Take Trayport, whose platform can trade anything – derivatives, equities, commodities. We focused on promoting the company’s carbon offset trading capability because climate change is a big issue in the US. We used that issue to build brand awareness and brand equity. We got 66 top New York journalists to cover our US introduction at an evening seminar on carbon trading. Without infusing the issue of climate change into the conversation, Trayport would have been just another financial technology company.”
In addition to climate change, Dick has taken on high-speed computerized trading, Vietnam reconciliation and trade, US pension plan (ERISA) reform and foreign investment in American farmland. He’s served Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (MAFF) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) as well as businesses based in the United Kingdom and Israel. He also serves on the Public Relations Committee of the New England Canada Business Council.
What are some of your most memorable PR achievements?
“The most fun I’ve had recently was introducing Ambassador Kenneth Taylor – the real Ambassador to Iran who was portrayed in the movie ARGO – to the Boston press at a New England Canada Business Council event. It was great to get the back story told in Ben Affleck’s hometown.”
Earlier, on behalf of the Vietnam Government, Pirozzolo Company managed a multi-year campaign to win Vietnam-US reconciliation and establish trade between the two former enemy nations. “Aside from visiting the ‘new’ Vietnam before it became a stop on the adventure travel itinerary, there were a lot of highpoints. An especially memorable moment was when David Brudnoy interviewed me with former US Senator John Kerry, who was paving the way toward normalizing relations with Vietnam.
“We also got a call from the Clinton White House. A few terse questions and then the Clinton press staffer said, ‘We like what you’re doing. Keep it up.’”
What background do you see as ideal in today’s PR world?
“I don’t like to pigeonhole academic backgrounds, since a lot of disciplines develop logic, communication, leadership and managerial skills. You do see a lot of discussions on LinkedIn about whether journalism matters anymore as a background for public relations.
“Of course being a journalist is more relevant than being an entomologist. Overall though, I tell anyone entering PR today to get a good foundation in print journalism or video production. It’s not so much that you need to be a get-the-scoop kind of journalist like Zoe Baird in House of Cards, but you do need to be a great storyteller. You have to be able jump right in the middle and suck in the reader or viewer. You have to find the conflict too. Even the most prosaic new technology brings conflict with it. What’s the resolution? How does it benefit the people your client serves? And in our age of celebrity, you have to discover what makes your CEO interesting and capitalize on it. Cool counts.”
Isn’t journalism too narrow for today’s PR professional?
“Journalism is just the start. Public relations has always been in danger of being siloed in every organization. You do the publicity, they do the ads, and someone in HR does the company newsletter. Siloed communication is in even greater danger today. One person does the website, another social media, another does media relations, someone else writes the CEO’s speeches. Yet the PR person on staff is better equipped than anyone in the organization to pull it all together. No one is going to give that to you. You have to earn it and sometimes fight for it. Learn management skills, study leadership, take sales training courses. Learn how to talk like a CEO and a Marketing VP.
Yes, but how did you get started?
“I was lucky in a lot of ways. I became a US Air Force Information Officer in a war zone. In my early 20s, I was thrust in with the top journalists from around the world – AP’s George Esper, NBCs George Lord, and the New Yorker’s Frances Fitzgerald. I participated in the daily press briefings jokingly called “The Five O’Clock” follies. I didn’t know what I was doing but I learned fast. I owe a lot to the NCOs I worked with who were great news writers. I could go anywhere, talk to anyone. I had enormous freedom.
“I really admired the journalists who covered Vietnam so, when I left the Air Force, I got a job as a reporter with the Worcester Telegram. Great fun and training, but the pay was less than a third of what I was used to. Eventually a guy named Jack Star who headed PR at Boston University hired me based on my media relations experience in Saigon. I moved there to head up a new PR firm that was part of an ad agency, before going out on my own. It was the tail end of the Mad Men era and I was glad to leave it behind.”
APR turns 50 this year, care to comment?
“The APR designation may not be widely understood, but whoever sees ‘APR’ on your business card knows you took the time and trouble to get credentialed in your chosen field. It shows you take your profession seriously, that you are committed. That you go the extra mile.”
Any parting words?
“Keep up with technology and new strategies like content marketing and integrated marketing communication. Adopt new technology but remember, Pinterest is hot now but may one day be relegated to the trash heap of technology along with the fax machine. Learn video especially – I learned the power of television when I was a PR consultant to WBZ-TV (CBS). TV may be viewed more on iPads than TV ‘sets’, but the power and impact remains as strong as ever.”