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Women Bisnow
September 11, 2008

PR Maverick


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

It's on the tips of everyone's tongue. "Print is dead; it's all online; the web is going 2.0." We know how the print world is reacting, but what about PR?  "Delivery systems have changed—videos in airports, fitness clubs, hotel rooms, elevators, taxi cabs—but the content has stayed the same," says Ris? Birnbaum, founder and CEO of Z Comm, a Bethesda-based PR firm of 15 with a focus in broadcast.


Birnbaum has focused her career on communications since she began as an anchor in Miami where she covered hurricanes, race riots and the gubernatorial elections. When she moved to radio, with the ABC radio network, she became a switch hitter and covered sports and health trends, doing play-by-play at Wimbledon. Coming to Washington with her then-husband, a lobbyist, in the 80s, Birnbaum made the switch to PR and founded Z Comm in '89, focusing on what she knew best, radio.


"Hollywood East," is how Birnbaum refers to her recently renovated apartment at the Watergate. "I'm more LA or New York," says Birnbaum, also a screenplay writer, whose screenplay Newsflash, about kids getting to produce a news show, was a finalist at the Monterey County Film competition. "I've always been a writer," she says, a skill that helped turn her PR company into a broadcast, PR, and publishing company with customers like Amtrak, Campbell's Soup, Mr. Coffee, OnStar and the National Cancer Institute. "We just did a PSA for HUD with Dennis Haysbert from 24 on disadvantaged housing. It was a phenomenal success because housing is in the news and we coupled that with a celebrity," she says of their ability to find a story behind every product.


Renew, reuse, recycle may be "it" words for all those going green, but in the PR world, the buzzword is "re-purpose." What used to take five shoots to obtain enough footage for different advertising vehicles can now be done in a single shoot. "If we do a shoot we can use it for a conference video, a pod cast, a PSA, an electronic press kit, YouTube. We need different kinds of film shot in different ways, but we do it all at once. It saves time in the long run," says Birnbaum who is well aware of the information overdose of our times. She's just making sure she buzzes louder than the other guys.

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