John Maroon – Good Sport, Public Relations Guru
John Maroon is the founder and CEO of Maroon PR, a generalist PR firm based in Columbia, Md., that boasts more than 30 diverse and esteemed clients nationwide, including Roy Rogers restaurants, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Big League Chew.
John’s monumental success in his chosen field no doubt hails from an extensive understanding of the rules of the game garnered during an early, storied career in sports public relations. From an assistant position with Major League Baseball’s American League, John ultimately rounded the bases to become the Director of Public Relations with the Baltimore Orioles. There, he established a longstanding relationship with Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., and has since helped focus national media attention to the legendary player’s businesses, Ripken Baseball and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.
When John launched Marron PR in 2006, the agency initially served sports organizations, exclusively, but over the last 10 years has grown to become an all-encompassing PR firm focusing on all manner of clients, from bubblegum to baseball hall-of-famers, and beyond.
LXCouncil: Maroon PR is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Can you tell me a little bit about how the company has grown and evolved over the course of the last decade?
John: Yeah, we turned 10 in April – and it’s been a good year. It’s really interesting … I was in sports public relations. When we first started the company, we had two clients. It was Cal Ripken’s business, Ripken Baseball, and it was the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore. … And, now, today, we still have Cal as a client, obviously, but we are much less focused on sports. So our client base is much broader. I would call it a generalist PR firm – businesses, nonprofits, restaurants, and, yes, sports properties. We’re much more well-rounded than we were in our early days. And then, obviously, our industry’s evolved greatly.
We still focus on traditional PR and media relations, but now – like the rest of the world – social media is a big part of what we do. We have a team that focuses just on that, as well as digital content creation. We have an on-staff videographer that creates digital content for clients. It’s part of our business that I see growing quite a bit moving forward.
LXCouncil: Your Public Relations career has its roots in the sports industry – having worked with Major League Baseball, the Orioles, and the Washington Redskins, among others. What lessons did you take from that arena, and how do they continue to influence your efforts today?
John: Well, I’ll tell you – the one thing that you learn that’s much different from what we do today – with a team, it’s almost, in a way, like working with a politician in that you have a dedicated media base that’s paid to cover your every move. So no matter what you do, you have media covering you. Every single day, you have [writers] and TV stations all covering your game. In our industry, it’s not like that. It’s much more reliant on strong storytelling, and media pitching, and convincing the press that your client is worthy of coverage. It’s a little bit different that way. What’s the same is relationship building with the press, and making sure that you’re working well with the press day-in and day-out. So relationships that I’ve built during my days as a team public relations director remain in place today and help me a great deal.
LXCouncil: Has there been an instance or experience with your involvement in a peer group that has helped you grow as a leader?
John: The big value that I get out of peer groups – and LX Council is one of the best I’ve ever been part of – is the fact that you’re around other business leaders. And the mere fact that you’re around other business leaders, and other business owners, and you can pick their brain about any situation. You know, you’ve got the cone of silence going on in that room, and it’s a great thing. It’s a great comfort to us. Because being an owner, often times you’re on an island – right? You don’t have anybody that kind of understands the challenges that you face, except other business owners. Being able to see how they do things – being able to pick their brains and bounce ideas off of them, has not only helped me run my business, but has helped me become a better leader of my people. If you have a better handle on how things are going, and the direction of your industry, and what other industries are doing, it instills greater confidence in your team.
LXCouncil: What would you say that Maroon PR does that is unique, and what differentiates your company from the rest of the market?
John: Good question. You know, it sounds a little cliché, but I do think that the way in which we work with the press sets us apart. I only know this because the media tells me it sets us apart. In that we really develop relationships with them. We don’t badger the media. A lot of PR firms think the way to get your story in the paper is to take 82 calls and send 52 emails. And that might help you once – but it will never help you in the long run. We have a long view of our clients and the work that we do. I think in a way, that’s a differentiator.
I would also say, being based in Columbia, Md., right between Baltimore and D.C. – two of the biggest business names in the region are Ripken and Plank, and they’re both my clients. So that’s a source of great pride for us. We do the entire PR for Plank Industries, everything that [Kevin’s been] doing of late with Under Armour, and then we obviously have got everything from Cal, which has just been a salvation since the day we began. In a lot of ways, that gives us the credibility – the fact that these very credible business leaders trust us with their brands.
LXCouncil: Maroon PR boasts more than 30 diverse clients nationwide. Whether you’re putting together a campaign for a bubblegum manufacturer or a baseball Hall of Famer, what, to you, is the most important aspect – or the core – of the job?
John: What is the core of the job? It’s integrity. You know, in the PR business – I guess with every business, right? You have to have integrity. You have to be somebody that people will trust. Especially, when you’re dealing with the media, and you’re representing your clients to the media, there is that line. The client has to know that they can talk to you and trust you with a lot of information. And the media needs to know that they can trust you – that you’re not going to lie to them and steer them in the wrong direction. That you’re going to work honorably. It’s a tough balance to pull together.