Member Spotlight with Tom Mariam
Monday, September 21, 2020
Posted by: Renee Wolf
President, Mariam Communications LLC
Associate Director, Communications at Jones Day
PRSA-NY Member since 1986
LinkedIn: Tom Mariam
How did you get into PR?
I certainly did not plan on a career in public relations during my school years. I went to college at Columbia University looking at either journalism or the law as my professional calling. I worked at Columbia’s radio station, WKCR, as the sports director and a newscaster. I loved gathering and then sharing information in my own words. Journalism appealed to me in that way. After graduating from Columbia, I earned my Master’s in Broadcast Journalism at Boston University.
I soon became part of the original team at The Wall Street Journal Radio Network, where I learned even more about business and finance than I did about journalism. A few years later, a professional colleague at the American Stock Exchange saw my resume and contacted me about a position to lead broadcasting as a new PR tool in its Corporate Communications department. It was one of the first PR positions anywhere focusing primarily on broadcast publicity, conceived by the Amex’ chairman, Arthur Levitt, later the chairman of the SEC. I got the job and wound up doing many of the things I was expecting to do at a news organization.
I hosted and produced a nationally syndicated weekly talk show on business, Amex BusinessTalk¸ for more than 10 years with a fabulous list of guests, including Ed Koch, Walter Wriston, T. Boone Pickens, and Debbi Fields. I anchored live reports on the stock market activity every half-hour on WCBS-AM here in New York. We became the first stock exchange in the world to put a live camera on our trading floor – more than a decade before the New York Stock Exchange would do so – something that is now part of regular coverage each day on all the news channels and newscasts. CNBC, CNN, and Nightly Business Report all used our camera for live broadcasts. I helped produce many of those segments.
PR has become my professional career ever since with senior positions at the renowned PR firm, Rubenstein Associates, the consulting firm Booz-Allen & Hamilton, and then, to tie the loose end with my interest in the law, with several leading law firms, including Cadwalader, Clifford Chance, Curtis, and Jones Day. I also ran my own consultancy for more than a decade.
What is your favorite PR experience?
I have enough interesting PR stories to write a book. It’s hard to highlight just one of my PR experiences over all the others. I will cheat and list two since they are linked indirectly by popular music culture, albeit more than 25 years apart.
In 2016, while at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, I received a call from a prominent partner, Steven Reisman, on November 1. The date is significant because Steve called to ask if I knew whom Drake had dressed up as for Halloween. Unlike my teenage kids, I do not follow hip-hop very closely so, of course, I did not know. Steve then, not so sheepishly, said, “Me!”
Normally, the idea of a major rap star dressing as a lawyer from a New York corporate law firm would be as unbelievable as it sounded. Except Steve had developed a close friendship with Drake and many other top music stars. He also was well-known for handing out $2 bills to both friends and strangers. Plus, Mr. Reisman was always honest with me. So, I knew it had to be true.
Steve wondered if we could get a mention in “Above the Law,” the gossipy daily blog that focuses on law firms. I told him, “Sure,” but added that I thought we can go bigger. A lot bigger. I suggested Page Six of the New York Post. Steve was on board with the plan.
I sent an email to Richard Johnson, then the editor of Page Six, explaining this bizarre story involving a Page Six type celebrity (Drake, not Reisman). Within 15 minutes my phone rang. It was Mr. Johnson very enthusiastically asking me for details, including a photo, which I had available. Just before we hung up the call, Mr. Johnson asked one more question: “Is Mr. Reisman Drake’s lawyer.” I told him, “No, and we hope not,” adding that “Steven Reisman is a bankruptcy lawyer!” The next day there was a
photo of Drake on Page Six
with an explanation of why he dressed that way for Halloween.
What do you love about PR?
There are a number of things I love about PR. The biggest one is the broadest. I love creating a PR strategy at the start of an initiative and then seeing it through to fruition, where you have tangible results that satisfy your client.
For instance, when I started to handle public relations at Curtis, the firm felt its International Arbitration practice was worthy of recognition as the leader in its field. Curtis had received little publicity at that time and was rarely mentioned in the list of top law firms in international arbitration. I led the creation of a strategic plan to publicize the practice across a variety of platforms, including media placements, awards, and rankings, speaking engagements, and thought leadership. After a few years, Curtis was ranked Number One in International Arbitration by
The American Lawyer and featured in a cover story.
Why is PRSA-NY membership so valuable?
The first piece of advice I was given once I started working was to get involved in professional organizations. It was invaluable guidance that I have passed on to many others over the years, as well as used a lot myself by becoming active in the Legal Marketing Association and New York Financial Writers Association, in addition to PRSA.
Involvement means a lot more than just paying member dues. It means attending events, taking a leadership role, and mentoring colleagues, among other things. PRSA has always done a wonderful job of exposing its members to aspects of PR that they otherwise would not encounter first-hand. Whether it be a Meet the Media panel, or a session on a particular industry, or simply networking, PRSA brings us together to learn from one another and become familiar with one another personally. The connections made through PRSA often lead to new jobs and, perhaps more importantly, new friendships.
I served nearly a decade as the vice president and program chair of the Westchester-Fairfield chapter of PRSA, in addition to my participation in PRSA-NY events. It was a valuable experience and one that I always take pride in. So, when you encounter someone new in our profession, you too should encourage them to join and take full advantage of what PRSA has to offer.
The New York Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America is one of the oldest, largest, and most prominent public relations chapters in the country. Located in the media capital of the world, it offers top-level professional development,
networking, mentoring, and awards. PRSA-NY serves communications professionals in agencies, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government, as well as independent practitioners.