"Right around senior year I realized I didn't want to be an accountant and I didn't want to be a lawyer," Cannon said. "So I kind of backed into public relations."
Cannon's first foray into public relations was his internship at Burson-Marsteller the summer between his junior and senior years. The internship led to a job offer after he graduated in 1985. After two years at Burson-Marsteller, Cannon moved to Los Angeles to work on documentaries, commercials, and other television programming. He eventually sold the company to The Evans Group, a Los Angeles-based advertising company. He began working with the Los Angeles Times, helping to spearhead LATimes.com.
In 1998, Cannon moved back to his native New York, where he joined Marcis Interactive. In 2001, he joined DraftDigital as senior vice president of interactive marketing, a capacity in which he served for two years before he left to open his own company, The Cannon Group.
"I decided if there was ever an opportunity to open up an agency, now was going to be it. What I did not want to do was to try to go into traditional advertising or even an interactive agency. And I really felt, and I still feel, that developing branded content, developing media placements, is a more powerful way to drive a company's market or communications program," Cannon said.
According to Cannon, the company focuses on providing integrated PR services primarily to mid-level companies, such as Fuel Outdoor, OneWorld Apparel, Freedom Yacht, and Everglades Technologies. The Cannon Group blends traditional PR with new, up-and-coming elements and tactics such as branded content and Internet communications.
"We really built upon the Internet to augment some of the traditional services. And so what we've found is a lot of the companies we're working with, both in terms of large companies and small companies, is 'yes, they want the press placement' and 'yes, they want the story placement,' but they also want to see a positive return on their investment, which is they want the press to start driving sales," Cannon said. "And so what we started doing is developing, sort of augmenting, traditional public relations practices with online emails, with online advertising, even doing direct marketing and direct sales, leveraging the press with our stories."
The mass communications industry as a whole has changed drastically over the past few years, and Cannon feels that PR is perhaps the most adaptable to these changes.
"I think today what you are seeing in public relations is people crossing communication barriers, or different media, whereas advertising, I think, takes a long time to adopt a new medium. Public relations is much quicker at adopting new mediums, and, as such, it has gone into branded content, branded entertainment, leveraging blogs and online content in order to get the message out. No longer is it just getting press stories or stories placed in newspapers, on the radio, or on television; I think it's really become more of a strategic medium than a tactical medium," Cannon said.
Cannon said there are several things people need to do in order to be effective PR experts. First, they must learn to write, speak, and pitch well. Once they have mastered those qualities, they must learn to identify the needs of both the client and the journalist.
"Your job is less to force the message onto a journalist and is more about what the needs of a journalist are, learning what the needs of the brand you are working with are, and finding a way to bring those two together. And I think, again, it comes into to content marketing, content development, in order to do that, so listening, being aware of what peoples' needs are, I think, is as important as learning how to pitch, write, and talk," said Cannon.
Cannon has written two books. The first, Make Your Website Work for You: How to Convert Online Content Into Profits, was published in 1999 and teaches readers how to leverage their online content in order to extend their websites beyond their URLs. The second book, Leadership Lessons of the Navy SEALS: Battle-Tested Strategies for Creating Successful Organizations and Inspiring Extraordinary Results, was co-written with his brother, Jon, and was designed to help companies develop policies and procedures necessary to building their business.