Roll Global is the billion-dollar holding company that you’ve probably never heard of. Yet many of its brands are household names: FIJI Water, POM Wonderful,Teleflora, as well as the Wonderful nut brands.

Last fall, Rob Six returned to the Los Angeles-based holding company as SVP of corporate communications following a brief stint as Edelman’s EVP and group head of corporate and public affairs in New York. Before that, he was Roll’s VP of corporate communications. 

The Holmes Report spoke with Six about Roll’s ambitious marketing structure that mimics an agency environment -- and the luxury of having million-dollar PR spends.
Roll created the in-house Fire Station Agency as its full-service advertising and communications shop. What’s the role of PR within that structure -- and ultimately, how is it different than a traditional in-house team?

We’re very much structured like an agency -- and we don’t use outside PR agencies. I have 16 people working for me and everyone works on various ‘clients’ [the Roll brands]. We’re in the process of creating core teams, like a media services team that will, for example, focus on pitching.

And PR sits within marketing?

Yes, so I think we approach marketing, communications and advertising in an integrated way. When you’re on the agency side, you don’t sit with marketing and pass ideas off. We also sit with Fire Station as part of the creative process. I report into the president of the Fire Station, who reports into Roll’s owners, the Resnick family.

Roll Global is a $3.4 billion company, and yet, you still get to work with the founding family, the Resnicks, on PR programs?

That’s the beauty of being private, we get regular access as the senior leadership. Because there are only two people [Roll’s owners Stewart and Lynda Resnick] who are making decisions, budget follows great ideas. If we have a great idea, we can sell it directly to the Resnicks. I enjoy this aspect and being a part of the decision-making.

Speaking of budgets, in some cases, PR gets million-dollars budgets at Roll. That’s a luxury many companies would like to have. How do you allocate that spend?

We get million-dollar budgets for certain PR campaigns, not all. But the bottom line is always about driving value. For example, pistachios has gone from a seasonal food to year-around, so we think about campaigns that pulse this out.

We have a huge advantage because we do PR in-house and do not have the overhead of having to pay outside agency fees. This allows us to re-invest back into developing exciting, multi-pronged PR programs that generate buzz and interest in our brands.

There’s obviously a budgetary consideration. Did anything else play into your decision not to have an agency on-retainer?

We felt that having people work directly on your business, always thinking about your business, was the best way. There’s a belief that we can deliver really great results being ‘embedded with our clients.’ I’m not sure this works for every company, but it makes sense for us because we get great results.

And we do use agencies internationally and for execution in the US. We use Edelman for this sometimes and we used PMK*BNC for the activation for the  [Wonderful Pistachios Super Bowl ad featuring pop star PSY] in New Orleans.

You’ve done some creative things, like FIJI water branded City Guides that explore restaurants and hotels around the world. Why did you go into brand publishing like this?    

FIJI Water has always been positioned as a premium brand that you can access through great hotels and restaurants. So this is an extension of the brand and a chance to engage consumers on fantastic content that changes every month [with a new featured city].

This was driven by PR and digital; we needed to create the content. We also knew our FIJI fans would want a high-touch engagement and they’re passionate about travel and food. So it was important to have beautiful photography and for the content to be well-written.

But how do you establish credibility as a source for travel information? There are so many travel and restaurant sites.

We worked with people on the ground in each city. And for us it is a two-fold objective— we’re looking to engage our consumers, but it’s also an opportunity to partner with a hotel or restaurant [that serves FIJI Water] to help them get visibility.

You’re in charge of both promoting Roll’s brands, but also telling the corporate story of a relatively unknown company. How do you approach this? 

When I first started, we talked about the brands individually, but we saw there is this wonderful corporate story about these products. All of [our snacks] are healthy and good for you, they’re often ranked number one or two in their category. This naturally extended into our CSR message.

The Resnicks are philanthropists, but they also give all employees $1k to give back to their communities with the idea that the employee knows where the need is within his or her community.

But we’re a private company so we don’t really need to do executive visibility and sell ourselves to shareholders. [The corporate story] is about a company that gives back.