Influencers Who Inspire Series: Ramon Ray of

We begin our PerkettPR “Influencers Who Inspire” series with a chat with Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist,

Ramon is a journalist, technology evangelist & editor of, author of “Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses” & “Technology Resources for Growing Businesses” and a national, in-demand speaker.

What made you choose journalism as a profession? 

I didn’t choose it,  it chose me and it was quite accidental. I just really loved to write and so I started writing, then one day Black Enterprise and Inc. Magazine said could you write some articles for us – and the rest is history :)

What four  or five things are always “routine” in your day?

Deleting email, sorting email, sending email, toggling tons of tabs in my browser, wishing I could do puppet shows for poor kids in Mexico, Dominican Republic or somewhere.

Why is small business technology news of interest to you in particular? What has it taught you?

Not sure. I’ve always been a tech tinkerer (as in take apart talking teddy bears in the 1970’s/80’s, shutting off the lights in my home, etc). I think this love of tech and the blend of my love of reading/writing became the love of small business technology news. It has taught me that things change, companies go and come but relationships are forever, ideas are a dime a dozen, successful execution is all that matters.

 Over the years you have had the opportunity to interview some truly great public figures and influencers (such as Hillary Clinton). What has been your favorite interview thus far? Why?

A few things stand out… Back in the days when I didn’t know how to be a journalist I tried to slip Bill Gates a hand written note. His team saw it and took the note away. I didn’t know you were supposed to asked his PR person to interview him. This was many years ago.  I opened an event for Michael Dell and he said he read my blog – that was cool.  Scott Trip founder of TripIt – his story of his company’s growth was really nice (listen to customers). In another context I’ve meet President Obama, President Bush (both) and several other heads of state.  I also really love SXSW and other events where I can meet with my media peers from the world of small business.

What tips do you have to help PR professionals better work with you?

True relationships are so important; where I like you and you like me. Not giving me a story that does not fit. Knowing that I love the story and the market at times more than the feeds and speeds of a product. I like talking to people, but I’m also a massive reader so I get much more (at times) out of some video, blog posts, pdfs and other things than a phone call with an executive running a prepared PPT.  NOTE: the PPT talks are GOOD I just mean that there are other ways to get one’s message across.

What advice would you give to a small business to help them continue to compete with larger competitors this year?

Wow….I could write a book on that.

1)  Be honest

2) Over give

3) Be very excited

4) Do not take NO for an answer

5) There is plenty of room at the table for the big guys and the little guys

6) Fit in where you can and show your value

7) Don’t be afraid of big companies – even those who are direct competitors

8) Big companies who are evaluating you and a bigger one of your competitors will give you a big chance if you’re prepared

9) If you screw up, fess up and OVER make it right

10) I could go on…

You traveled a lot as executive producer of the Small Business Technology Tour and for other events you attended in 2011. What travel secrets save you time, money or sanity when you are on the road?

Plan in advance. Be redundant (I often have 2 notebooks, a tablet and 2 phones) failure is NOT an option. Leverage your network of friends. Pay people (even friends/or “child labor”) for work done (even if you ask for a discount). Review, review, review. Get a team member (I have lots of areas where I’m not so great – hence my team shine in those areas), have a virtual team – even if you are solo,  your virtual 1099 team can do wonders.

How do you unwind after a hectic work week? Do you have any interesting hobbies or little known facts about yourself you would like to share?

I play piano, love doing puppet shows, love joking around and laughing loud, love great food at restaurants (I hate those restaurants that give you a big white plate and a tiny piece of food and charge you $78 for it), watching movies (Bourne, Bauer, Ethan (as in MI3) are my heroes and others like that). But really in my downtime – I TOTALLY ENJOY email, RSS feeds, Twitter – related to small biz tech (I know it’s lame but I really, really LOVE IT).

What are you most looking forward to in 2012?

I’d love to speak lots more to audiences on tech, marketing/pr and/or entrepreneurship. I’d love to provide more content on my own site and for others. I’d love to speak lots more to audiences on tech, marketing/pr and/or entrepreneurship (you know I think I wrote that twice..hmmm). Event production is tough, but I really love it and I think I do it well so working with bigger companies to produce events for their audiences would be like mint!

I’m looking forward to being 40 years old in 2012!


Do you have any follow-up questions for Ramon? Suggestions for other influencers you would like to see interviewed in the PerkettPR Influencers Who Inspire Series? Please add them in the comments below.

PR Pitching PR – an Influencer Twilight Zone

In July I gave a presentation at T3PR titled, “Driving your online footprint: PR experts as influencers.” My focus was on how a new breed of PR experts have fast become influencers in their own right through the power of social media and personal brand building: why it matters, how it’s indicative of our changing industry and how the reputation of today’s PR executive matters more than ever.

While PR executives are traditionally the man behind the curtain, the invisibles, the ones who quickly put the right person/product/client in the spotlight – in front of influencers like the media – and then get the heck out of the way, the rise of social media has allowed PR executives to become influencers themselves. Companies aren’t just hiring them to do PR, but to be their web-celeb spokespeople, red carpet correspondents, marketing analysts, brand-to-customer ambassadors or even video/TV stars.

PR executives in general – most of whom may never be on BravoTV – have both an opportunity – and a risk – to show how we really think. It has always been my belief that if you simply talk to reporters and hold your own in a conversation (that is, not just pitching when you want something but rather, an overall practice of sharing thoughts and insights on the products you promote, the industry you’re in, the articles reporters are writing, or business in general) – you will gain a greater amount of respect and ultimately, be more successful in working with them. And over the last few years, several of our industry colleagues have paved the way for “Flaks with Brains.” Some are newcomers, some are veterans – but their use of social media has raised awareness of public relations executives as strategic thinkers – sharing valuable insights beyond the confines of a client’s boardroom.

And that’s great. But what does it mean for the traditional list of influencers that a PR team might compile and pursue? These days, the lines are blurring. A lot of business people blog – especially PR and marketing executives. Every day a new list comes out of marketing influencers, top PR blogs or “Most Powerful Twitter Users.” And even if the folks on those lists are PR industry colleagues, they might be important to your client because of their social media clout.

I know because I’ve experienced this phenomenon from two sides in the last six months. On one side, we had a client who asked us to connect with, promote to and otherwise engage industry influencers on their behalf. A handful of these influencers were people who own PR or social marketing agencies that we often compete against, but whose founders are building powerful personal brands – writing books, speaking at conferences, topping every social media power list – that they are now seen by many brands to be as influential as reporters and analysts. Suffice it to say, our strategy in such cases is not to pitch these folks in the way we would pitch a reporter. It takes a different approach, one that’s just as thought out and maybe even more personable than pitching media. (In an honest side note – sometimes having a client ask you to pitch fellow PR colleagues feels a little bit like The J. Geils Band lyrics in “Love Stinks.”)

I’ve also been pitched by PR reps lately – but usually it’s a very personal approach by a fellow industry colleague that doesn’t feel like a pitch, so much as someone asking for a favor (smart). More recently, I was pitched by a well-known, global PR agency, citing my influence in the blogosphere and asking me to interview their client to help raise awareness of an upcoming show. The pitch “encouraged” me to write about the event and interview the CEO on my blog (which one, btw? #PRtip).

My first thought: “That was a long and impersonal pitch.” My second thought: “That was weird.”

But maybe it’s not so weird. Had the pitch been more specific, I could probably better understand why this firm thought I was worth pitching as a blogger for this particular client. And I might even have found interest in writing something.

All that being said, I’m sure this is happening more and more – PR pitching PR. I can see more clients wanting agencies to pitch marketing and PR influencers who actually work for other agencies but are also strong voices in the social marketing sphere. If you have a client who sells to PR and Marketing audiences, it’s bound to happen.

So how are you building your influencer lists? Do you include PR and marketing bloggers – those who are also industry colleagues – in your outreach? Do you approach them differently than you would a journalist? We’d love your thoughts – and advice to PR pros looking for the best way to break into this new foreign territory.


Forbes Names the Web Celeb 25

Congratulations to the influencers of the influencers who were named “The Web Celeb 25” by Forbes.

What’s most interesting about the list is that, while many tech leaders and bloggers are on the list (Mike Arrington – #2, congrats!), a celebrity gossip hound is at the top and a stay-at-home Mom has one of the most widely read blogs in the world.

It just goes to show once again that the Internet has evened the playing field – from authors and actors to the corner CEO’s office, the world is open for the taking and the Internet makes it possible for anyone to do so. What an exciting concept.