What I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO, By Cindy Riccio

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Cindy Riccio opened the doors to CRC after a longstanding range of experience developing and executing award-winning public relations and social media programs for leading Fortune 500 companies and agencies.  She is an avid news connoisseur with a passion for storytelling and is proud to have worked with some of the world’s most stellar brands. Since celebrating the agency’s first decade of business last year, Cindy has created a collaborative team of digital marketing strategists with influencer marketing and social media capabilities that have led the agency to be recognized as one of the top 20 PR firms in NYC from more than 2,000 firms basedon their expertise as ranked by Expertise.com and cited by the New York Observer as one of the top New York Specialty Agencies.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your "backstory"? My backstory is one of a true marketing and communications generalist who has a love for words and ideas.  A graduate of New York University with a B.A. degree in journalism and communications and a special concentration in public relations, I’m a member of the Public Relations Society of America, Women in Communications, Advertising Women of New York, The Fashion Group International and Cosmetic Executive Women.

My leadership style is a true result of years of experience traveling up the ranks of global, mid-sized and boutique agencies coupled with corporate marketing departments of top consumer- packaged good companies. My first big agency job at Saatchi & Saatchi’s PR division, The Rowland Company, taught me the basic principles of communication and client service with Fortune 500 companies and that quality over quantity wins; what gets measured gets managed.

Shifting from a PR agency to leading public relations for L’Oreal and Hanesbrands, I grew my business acumen, brand management and relationship building skills through collaborating with top leaders and marketers. That experience along with my shift to opening my own PR agency, led to Hanes Hosiery being CRC’s first client…and ten years later, our most tenured client.

1. Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?  There are so many interesting things that happen in our business.  When we were approaching our ten-year anniversary, a technology company based in Taiwan was launching a beauty app in the US and we won the business amongst six other beauty agencies even though our expertise is more rooted in apparel and consumer lifestyle.  As a result of the first year, The Holmes Report named CRC as a finalist in 2017 for the North America Sabre Awards: Innovation and Insight in Communications and Marketing for Perfect Corp’s app launch in the U.S. for YouCam Makeup.

2. What do you think makes your company stand out? Our diversity of backgrounds and areas of specialty. There aren’t many shops that have a strong PR discipline with creative digital marketing strategy and influencer marketing, all under one roof.  CRC provides data analytics, creative content, social strategy and SEO/SEM with teams who collaborate and understand how all the pieces fit together.  Can you share a story?  On any given day, we move from media buying tactics for digital and social media boosting to syncing up Google adwords for search strategy to planning a press event with business and style reporters. 

3. Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? We’re launching a new protein bar in the US called SimplyProtein owned by Atkins Nutritionals and a new plant-based therapeutic skincare brand, Ceramedx, as well as a plant-based dairy-free yogurt, The Coconut Collaborative. Health and wellness are our sweet spot right now.  On a more stylish side, we’re ramping up for a very busy fall season. We just released the fall DKNY intimate’s ad campaign featuring Emily Ratojowski and we’re planning an in-store event at Bloomingdale’s for Echo’s 95th anniversary

4. What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive? My advice is to understand that we all have strengths and passion points.  Once you’ve identified what each is for your employees, give them the ball and let them run with it.  Let them see the fruits of their labor; both good and bad.  Accountability is key.  And, always have their back.

5. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is   there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? There are so many people I am grateful for. My parent’s wisdom is at the core of my leadership values.  First and foremost, my mother raised me to be independent and confident. She encouraged me to take risks and to trust my insights and abilities. I’ve also surrounded myself with smart, talented people throughout my career who have served as great mentors along the way such as Marina Maher of Marina Maher Communications, Lisa Travatello of Weber Shandwick, Current and Burson-Marsteller, Brian Maloney of Maloney & Fox, Bill Koenigsberg of Horizon Media and Ken Jacobs of Jacobs Consulting.

6. Can you share a story about that?  I could command a room full of adults to listen to my stories from the time I was six years-old.  Storytelling was always my passion and my Mother encouraged it.

7. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? This past spring, we partnered with Project Sunshine for their 15th annual gala to raised $1 million. Project Sunshine works hard to raise awareness for the emotional needs of children facing medical challenges and their often-forgotten caregivers. The organization recruits and trains volunteers – community members, college students, corporations, and youth – to deliver creative, recreational, and educational programs. During Project Sunshine week, CRC added a dose of sunshine and vetted two mid-tier influencers to deliver curated baskets and arts and crafts to sick children. Ensuring childhood remains a place of wonder, we gave parents a break with a special visit to Weill Cornell Hospital and Rusk Rehabilitation Center.

In 2017, CRC partnered with CARE to increase their fundraising and awareness in the NY metropolitan market resulting in an op-ed in The NY Daily News by their new COO on World Refugee Day and an appearance at The Today Show windows with Hoda Kotb. CARE works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice. Women and children are the center of the organization as they cannot overcome poverty. In the days leading up to International Women’s Day, we asked people to join us along with Honorary Chair Sheryl Sandberg, to “Walk in her Shoes” by taking 10,000 steps each day for one week as solidarity with the journey taken each day by women and girls around the world, who walk up to four miles for basic needs like food and clean water for their families.  CRC encouraged people passing by to write #WhyICARE on an interactive board near Times Square about ending global poverty, spreading awareness of CARE’s work to help end global poverty.  Refinery 29, CBS-TV and WPIX-TV calendars posted the event and the campaign generated more $40,000 with over 6,000 people interacting with board generating 47 million social media impressions to create a voice in the metropolitan area.  

o  In 2010, I led a team of executives at the largest independently owned media agency, Horizon Media, to fundraise $200,000 to contribute to CityHarvest for the agency’s 20th anniversary. 

8. What are your "5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO" and why. (Please share a story or example for each.) 1. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you have a problem.  Every person on my team knows more than I do about their area of specialty. 2. You get what you give. CRC provides personal development training which ultimately gives each person the ability to be their personal best.  3. Dialogue is and will always be the best form of communication.  Conflict comes with the territory.  You have to be engaged with eye-to-eye and one-on-one conversation. 4. If you don’t love what you do, don’t do it.  Our most successful and longest lasting clients exist because we are passionate about their business.  We understand their challenges and get in the trenches to help them out. 5. You have to be in control of your time and you can’t unless you say no.

9. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? It would be a movement that teaches the importance of living in the moment and the power of being present.  Our modern world of technology and social media means that no one is ever really paying full attention because we’re all trying to keep up with what key influencers are saying and posting on Instagram, snapchat, Twitter and Youtube.  #pause is my movement to engage people to breath, think, stretch, imagine, recalibrate and pause to reflect on what’s important to them at this moment.  Whether it be family, career, a cause they are passionate about, a wrong that needs to be righted or a personal goal, #pause reminds all of us to take stock of one’s self without interruption. You never know what your idea can trigger.  

10. Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote"? There are a couple of life lesson quotes that are my favorite: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein and “My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.” ― Ellen DeGeneres.

11. Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? I’m a Libra so it’s all about balance. Always.

12. Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? Tyler Haney of Outdoor Voices because she’s young and innovative and encouraging recreational activity with functional fabrics that get people to enjoy the great outdoors. Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post because she is a visionary and pioneered online news and is still an inspirational leader.