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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023

Story Driven

The common thread of the clients represented by public relations agency JMPR is that all have great stories to tell. For that is how agency founder Joseph Molina sees himself and his staff – as storytellers, albeit ones that are excited about what those clients have to offer. The firm’s emphasis on transportation and lifestyle clients is a reflection of Molina’s personal interests as a collector of contemporary art and luxury automobiles. He owns two Bentleys, an Aston Martin and a Rolls Royce. A native of Orange County, Molina spends his professional and personal time in the West San Fernando Valley. He honed his journalism skills in the U.S. Army and as a music writer before starting JMPR in 1977. Galpin Motors, Bentley, Ducati, Bugatti, aircraft manufacturers Cirrus and Piaggio Aero, trailer maker Airstream, and KOA Kampgrounds are among clients the firm represents. “The key is not necessarily to specialize but to understand the DNA of the client,” Molina said. Question: During a recession the first thing that gets cut is advertising and public relations budgets. Did you find that to be the case this time around? Answer: I’ve been through three recessions. This one was different. PR never got cut in those, it was everything else; it was marketing and advertising. PR got cut this time. Everybody got cut so severely that the fear factor was amazing. Because of the nature of who we represent we kept wondering about our viability and if there was a world for us. We strung it together account by account. You had two or three months of fear and then just took it from there. We tried to find out, so there is a recession how can we make news that will further our clients’ goals. My long-term planning was the specific month I was in at the time. It was an interesting roller coaster year but now that we’ve been through that I think we can almost go through anything. We are coming out of it now. Q: Does public relations involve branding and building brand awareness or are those two different disciplines? A: It is all about brand awareness right now. What do you stand for, what will I experience if I buy or partake of your service. What is the consistency of what you do, what can I expect? We sell expectation and reputation. When you get in trouble then it’s explanation. My advice to anybody who wants to hire a PR firm is try to find out whether the person you are talking to enjoys what they are doing or likes your company or gets your company. If they cannot do so without any sense of excitement, move on. In a way we are glorified cheerleaders for these brands, these reputations. If we are not smiling and happy to be there, we are not the right people. Q: The car companies you represent, were they as hard hit in the recession as the domestic manufacturers? A: Yes they were. This time was different. They were hit. They were all hit hard but they all had the good sense to realize if you didn’t talk about it, if you didn’t tell people you’d be so exclusive you’d be anonymous. The fact is what are you going to do, are you going to tell everyone in America they don’t have their dreams, that they can’t aspire to something. This is not a country where people put their dreams on hold. People still aspire to own very nice things or special items. It was really interesting going against the tide on that one. Q: What do you see your role in the company as being and how has that role changed? A: Rainmaker. Creative soul of the company. I know the historical reference of everything and I know how things fit into the culture we have. I have my finger on the pulse of culture. I am a bridge between two different cultures – baby boomers and whatever is out there now. It is all changing and it is fascinating. But there are still great stories to tell. The upside of it is, in the PR business, you don’t have less print or newspapers; you have more outlets. All these websites are just eating up content and they are looking for things. Q: Having all those online outlets makes it easier then to get out the stories of your clients? A: It’s a new golden age. They are all about content but the difference is accessing that thing. Most kids now that we see coming out of college think that you can e-mail somebody and (get that access). I maintain that, no, e-mail is what you do once you have a relationship. Face to face or on the phone creates a relationship. Too many people these days think they are doing their job if they send an e-mail. They are not cultivating a respect and an interest from the other side. They waste a lot of reporters’ time. If they are more aware of content why would this site care that we have something to talk about, whether it’s a Bentley or a KOA campsite. It’s an art form. Communicating is an art form in regards to public relations. Q: What percentage of your placement is in new media? A: Fifty percent, easy. I am sure it is above that now. The only reason it is not higher is that some of the things we represent go to people who still make decisions at the traditional level. They go to Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal. However in the same breath you have to go to the online component. Q: A pet peeve of mine is PR people writing press releases that are not clear and are difficult to understand. A: Yes. They forget to talk like human beings. I had that recently here where someone was trying to write a release and they had all this verbiage. I think a lot of people don’t know how to write upside pyramid style, AP style. Get to the point; don’t waste a reporter’s time. Time is what we don’t have anymore. They just take their time and take the long way around. No. Don’t take too long to tell it. It drives me nuts. Q: Going back to your client base of high end luxury brands – the recession created a backlash of sorts against excess. How do you present your clients’ stories in the face of that? A: The first thing, this is how we are weathering the recession. With Bentley we’ll point out how the car is designed is a kind of stealth wealth factor. Bentley is a lower-key luxury car than other well-known high end cars. You can tell it’s a Bentley but it’s not obnoxious. These products are microcosms of what’s going on in that area, of what’s happening in the world. We have aircraft like the Piaggio that is 33 percent cheaper to run than an executive jet. It’s a turboprop not a jet. It’s cheaper to run, it’s better on fuel. It’s all the things that are more commonly known as greener. So you accentuate that. When (executives with) the Big Three got called up (to Congress) and got asked did you fly here in your private jet, we were on that within 24 hours for our clients who are prop manufacturers. There are other ways to get from point A to B that will avoid this and make the shareholders feel a little better about their management. You tie in to an existing story. That was a gift for us. Q: Where do you see the firm going in the next three to five years. A: Double in size and less centric around me. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to sell it to my employees. It would be great to have my daughter enter the business but that’s something she is going to have to work up and not something she is entitled to. It’s something she has to earn. It would be great if this firm would have a future without me. Most entrepreneurs wouldn’t say that, but to me it would be like I left something. I’d like a great finish, a big finish. There are other things I’d like to do with my life but I don’t know what they are yet. Joseph Molina Age: 54 Title: President, JMPR Public Relations Education: Defense Information School, U.S. Army Most Admired Person: The late Robert E. Petersen, founder of Petersen Publishing. Mr. Petersen created Motor Trend, Hot Rod Magazine and the Petersen Automotive Museum. He was a genius with his finger on the pulse of what the public wanted and knew how to cater to their hobbies through his publishing. He boosted me well beyond where I had been and opened doors. Career Turning Point: In 1977, I walked into James Young Coachworks, the Bentley and Rolls Royce restoration company in Van Nuys, and saw the potential for a great news story. They became my first client and referred me to everyone. Personal: Married, 2 Children (Girl, 21 – Boy, 14)

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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