Meet Our Team: Lisa

Lisa, our PR manager, has been with the rock-it team for almost 3 years, and has had a hand in every successful campaign that’s been produced during her time with the company. A journalism graduate, Lisa is also a pro editor and a whiz with words. She edits everything that passes through the fourth floor, not an easy nor a small task. She does it with a dimply smile and good cheer, every time. She also likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.

Twitter: @lisa_power

What is your guilty pleasure?
Singing at the top of my lungs and dancing around my kitchen like a lunatic. I’m pretty sure my upstairs neighbours can hear me, and I am NOT a good singer.

What do you love most about living in Toronto?
I like to people-watch, and there’s a never-ending crowd of characters running about. And, of course, the incredible accessibility to art, culture, food, nature and entertainment.

Favourite outdoor activity?
Lately, I’ve taken a shine to gardening. I don’t have a garden here in the city, but my mom lives up north and I like to putter around out there when I go visit. I also love anything near, on or in water.

Best gift you’ve ever received?
My dog, Angel, given to me by my grandparents. She’s a purebred shih-tzu, and the sweetest, most loving dog. She’s clumsy like me. We’re a good pair.

Best part about being a publicist?
Meeting so many creative and talented people and successful business owners is inspiring. It’s also amazing to see a campaign through from ideas scribbled in a notebook to flawless execution. I love making clients happy.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website – http://www.prdaily.com/  
Designer – Lucian Matis.
Store – Indigo/Chapters.
BookThe Shack by William P. Young.
Snack – Peanut butter + anything.
Season – I love all four.
Sexy – Accents.
Inspiration – Dreams.
Drink – Caesar. Drool…
Motto in two words – Hakuna Matata!

Media, Darling: Bernadette Morra

Each week, we will ask one of our friends in the media how to best to grab their attention, what they love about PR professionals and find out their PR pet peeves. Their insightful words are golden for both novice and seasoned PR specialists alike – so listen up!

Bernadette Morra is the brand new editor-in-chief of FASHION Magazine. She was with The Toronto Star for 20 years, first as fashion writer, then (since 1993) as fashion editor. She left The Star in 2008 to be a freelance writer and launch a website for jewellery lovers. Bernadette has reported from the runways of Milan, London, Paris and New York, and interviewed many top fashion designers, models and celebrities including Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Nicolas Ghesquiere, Victoria Beckham and Linda Evangelista.


www.fashionmagazine.com

Twitter: @FashionCanada
@BernadetteMorra

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?

By opening their remarks with a sincere comment on a story they read in FASHION magazine. I am always interested to know what people have to say, good and bad, about the work we produce. I am not fishing for compliments. I want to know what stories or images resonate, what lingers in our readers’ thoughts, what influences them to change something in their life – even if it’s buying new shoes.

Sending some useless promotional article that is meant to grab my attention is, quite simply, irritating. Then I have to spend time that I don’t have thinking about what I am going to do with this thing I have no use for. One memorable item that crossed my desk: an empty violin case. For the life of me I can’t recall what it was promoting.


What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
When thorough, accurate, concisely written background information is provided and when they assure that an agreed-upon interview time is met.


What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Besides misspelling my name, not researching the magazine and proofreading their copy before they send it? Being rude. You would be amazed how many are. Especially if they are representing a celebrity. Some people seem to think this gives them license to behave like complete boors.

Another problem is translated copy that is grammatically incorrect and otherwise badly written. I feel like I can’t trust it because I am not sure if the information is accurate.


Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
A story is a story – it doesn’t matter if it presents itself scribbled on a paper napkin or engraved on a silver platter.


Yum, yum: Matt’s Mom’s Banana Bread

For as long as I can remember, before I meet up with my parents for a birthday, Father’s Day – whatever, my mother always asks me if she can make me something. I always answer the same thing: “If you must, I’d love your banana bread.”




This banana bread is epic. Moist and delicious. Wherever I go, if it’s on the menu, I try it. Nothing has stacked up to my mom’s. And now, I share it with you. 


Never knowing the recipe, and being pretty savvy in the kitchen myself, I was a little taken aback when I saw how simple it was to make. I thought there may have been some mystery spice or secret ingredient. To the naked eye, it doesn’t look too special. Obviously, Mom puts a lot of love in it, and isn’t that the best tasting ingredient? (Insert ooohhhs and awwws.)

Matt’s Mom’s Banana Bread

½ cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups ripe mashed bananas
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour. Half whole wheat or spelt can be used
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 cup oatmeal
½ chopped walnuts or pecans or 1 cup mini chocolate chips or mixture of both


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Celsius. Grease a 9-cup Bundt pan or two small loaf pans.
2. Cream together margarine or butter with sugar. Blend well.
3. Add eggs one at a time, and continue beating.
4. Add vanilla and mashed bananas.
5. Sift dry ingredients together.
6. Gradually mix in sifted dry ingredients, alternating with sour cream.
7. Stir in nuts, chocolate chips and oatmeal. Do not over-mix.
8. Pour into well-greased pan.
9. Bake for 50 minutes or until loaf tests done. You can use a tooth pick by inserting in bread. If it comes out dry, your loaf is done.


Ta da!

PR Tip: In our industry, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is utterly important. Nothing shows appreciation better than a freshly baked loaf of banana bread. If you aren’t a baker, send the recipe along with a thank you note next time!

Rants and Raves: Open Offices

This is a special Rants AND Raves post. Working in an open office environment has some major advantages and can create some minor issues. Overall, working elbow to elbow with your coworkers is fun and makes for some big laughs and brilliant brainstorming sessions.

Here are some ups and downs about open concept offices that we’ve experienced. We bet they’ll sound familiar to everyone else with this groovy office design.
Raves

  • Saying hi to everyone at once first thing in the morning, then discussing the various outfits sported by the team before getting down to work.
  • Furry little friends brightening our day. Our office mascots, Angel and Brooklyn, can visit everyone in the open layout for a lil’ scratch behind the ears.
  • Team brainstorms and problem-solving, in an instant.
  • Spontaneous dance parties that erupt when we’re stressed.
  • Being able to sneakily roll your eyes at someone across the room, without anyone else noticing.
Rants

  • Not being able to sneak in five minutes late without anyone noticing.
  • Hearing the same Katy Perry song on the local radio station 15 times a day.
  • Smelling the spicy chili that someone ate for lunch, for the rest of the afternoon.
  • Five publicists on five phone calls with five important clients = noisy.
Solutions to the above:

  • Don’t be late! Open concept or not, it’s not a good impression to make with your boss or team, or a great way to start your day.
  • Personalize your tunes for the day with an online, build-it-yourself radio station. We like Grooveshark and The Hype Machine.  Use earphones.
  • Bring spicy chili for everyone! That way, no one can complain about the lingering odour (they’ll be too busy trying to keep awake after their delicious hot lunch). Or, invest in some yummy smelling candles to light after lunch is finished.
  • We’ve worked out an office dog schedule – more low-key days (like Friday) have Angel and Brooklyn, while high-stress days are dog-free (like during TIFF).
  • Installing sound barriers between stations helps with phone call noise. Also, we’ve found that discussing schedules can help. Knowing that your coworker is on an important call at 1p.m. can mean that you schedule yours for later that afternoon.

Open offices mean that you must be much more considerate of your fellow desk jockeys. The upside? A work environment that’s a lot more fun for everyone!

What are your recommendations for a smooth and easy open office work environment?

Fashion-able: Fashion isn’t always shallow (video)

The Power Publicist Meets a Power Ranger
Kelly Cutrone and Matt Austin Sadowski dish on Amma in Toronto.

Last week, rock-it promotions teamed up with People’s Revolution to help spread the word about the amazing humanitarian, Amma, who recently visited Toronto as part of a North American tour. The event was a huge success – thousands and thousands of people came to receive darshan, or a blessing in the form of a deep and sincere hug.

Most people have gotten to know Cutrone as a tough love fashion PR guru on The Hills, The City and Kell On Earth. While this may make up a part of her personality, in reality (not the pseudo-reality of “reality” TV), she is an open, warm and spiritual person.

Kelly has been genuinely affected by Amma and her message of love. She is committed to using her fame and notoriety to help spread the word – pro bono. Plus, she’s funny, sarcastic and has personality to spare.
Here’s an unedited insider’s glimpse of the real KC at our offices on the fourth floor. Stay tuned for a future Q&A with her and more projects with rock-it and People’s Rev!  Check out her regular web series Wake Up and Get Real (co-hosted by Justine Bateman) or pick up her NY Times best seller If You Have To Cry, Go Outside.

Meet Our Client: YuMee Chung

YuMee Chung is the brains and the beauty behind Passport to Prana, a unique yoga program that offers people the freedom to try their city’s best yoga studios by eliminating the cost barrier that comes with yoga in a big city. The Passport To Prana card retails for a one-time fee of $20 to $30 (varies depending on the city) and gives the card holder access to try one class at 10 to 70 studios (varies depending on city).

Chung taught yoga for years before launching Passport to Prana with business partners Raj Gandhi, Prajna Harsora, Scott Peterson and Jim Benedek. She has taught yoga to CEO’s, Hollywood directors and high-profile celebrities, including Val Kilmer and Diane Lane, and offers yoga instruction on her personal website.

Photo courtesy of Marc Davidson

What do you do?

I work with Passport to Prana to promote the practice of yoga in major North American cities, including Toronto, Vancouver, New York and San Francisco. We started out in Toronto five years ago and we expect to be operating in more than 20 cities by the end of the year.
I’m a lawyer-turned-yoga teacher and I play a business development role at Passport to Prana, which to me means dreaming big and not being afraid to stand traditional business practices on their head. And, yes, I do occasionally bust out a headstand while on the job.

How long have you worked with rock-it promotions?
We’ve been with rock-it promotions for three years–three very happy years!

What do you love most about your job?
I love that my job doesn’t feel anything like a job. I’m one of the lucky ones who can say I followed my passion rather than doing what was expected. Also, it doesn’t hurt that my co-workers are all talented, creative, funny and kind people who share my enthusiasm for the work we do.

What do you like least about your profession/industry?
Technical difficulties. Sure, they’re a fact of life for online businesses but they’re the one thing that threatens my yogic calm.

Photo courtesy of Cylla von Tiedemann

What’s your next big goal?
We always say we won’t stop until Passport to Prana gives you access to all yoga studios everywhere!

Why is public relations important to you and what you do professionally?
We know we have a great product but without PR nobody would know about it. PR puts us on the map and brings clients to our door.


Any other thoughts you’d like to share about your PR experience?
A PR professional who really “gets” what you do and is enthusiastic about working with you is worth her weight in gold.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website: Etsy.com. Nice business model, nice execution, nice way to spend all my disposable income.
Designer: Berlin-based BLESS.
Book: Whatever I happen to be reading. At the moment it’s Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.
Snack: Too many to say–I’m a snack monster. I would be 300 pounds if I didn’t do yoga!
Season: Spring, Fall and everything in between.
Sexy: Shiny, happy people.
Inspiration: The yoga practice and the people who do it.
Drink: Jasmine tea.
Motto in two words: Breathe and smile (Russell Simmons taught me that one after a sweaty yoga class at Jivamukti Yoga School in NYC).
Idea of perfect happiness: The state of missing nothing.
Indulgence: Date night with my husband.
Greatest achievement: Hopefully still to come.

Passport To Prana is available in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton and will launch in Winnipeg this August. This year, they have also launched Passport To Prana programs in the US cities including Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York and Dallas.

Media, Darling: Jen McNeely

Each week, we’ll ask one of our friends in the media how best to grab their attention, what they love about PR professionals and find out their pet peeves. Their insightful words are golden for both novice and seasoned PR specialists alike — so listen up!  
                                                                           

Jen McNeely is the founder and editor-in-chief of Shedoesthecity.com, Canada’s edgy lifestyle site for young women.

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
A personalized note with a good sense of humour. Do you know how many press releases I receive? Indian food, nail polish, sneakers, detergent, TV shows, album releases – I think in the ice cream category alone last month I received at least a dozen. Personalize your communication but be sincere. No one wants a perky reminder that feels like a template.
What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Unless your release really pops off the screen, a follow up phone call or email is a must.
I really respect and enjoy clever marketing solutions, which can be as simple as the way in which a package shows up at the door.
What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Treat you like an inbox instead of a person.
Your pet peeve
Oversell. Let’s be honest, it’s a cotton T-shirt, not a free trip around the world. Talk up – but let’s not be ridiculous about it. I know and you know that it isn’t a magic T-shirt.
I’m so sick of the word fashionista. Be creative.
Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
Great publicists will undoubtedly make a writer’s life easier. They are often natural connectors, which is always welcomed and appreciated. The best publicists are the ones you want to hang out with at a party but also maintain a level of professionalism. It’s a business built on strong relationships.
Don’t force it. If it fits the publication and they are looking for a story, then they will probably write about it. If it feels like you are trying to push a square through a circle, and no one is responding, it’s probably not going to happen.
Know the readership and tone of who you are pitching and suggest story ideas that suit that outlet.
Searchable subjects in an email are very helpful. If you start doing a chain of emails about one thing and introduce another pitch or change subjects, this should be reflected in the subject line.
Many of my best friends are publicists. I have great respect for those who can succeed in this field and do so without compromising their true character and values.

Fashion-able: Stylish Dates Under $20

There are lots of great potential dates in Hogtown, but they don’t always come cheap. Hop on the TTC, bike or walk to any of these fun spots for a date that’s low on cost and high on awesome.

Fun in the sun: daytime dates

Inside: Beakers and Bunsen burnersOntario Science Centre
Discover your inner science nerd with a trip to the Ontario Science Centre. You’ll be amazed all over again at how electricity makes your hair stand on end. Make a day of it and pack a lunch. There are lots of cool spots to sit, munch and take it all in.
Where: 770 Don Mills Road
When: Seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Cost: $18 for regular admission

Outdoors: Down by the waterHarbourfront Festival
Enjoy the summer sun and some cultural education at the Harbourfront Centre this summer. This gorgeous waterfront event space hosts something great every weekend. Check out their site for complete listings. Here are some favourites:
Love, Saskatchewan (Friday, July 23 to Sunday, July 25): Finally, some love for the “center” of Canada. Experience rodeo, Aboriginal art and cowboy culture. Yee haw!
Hot & Spicy Food Festival (Friday, August 13 to Sunday, August 15): NOW Magazine dishes up hot, spicy, sultry and sweet foods all weekend.
Fortune Cooking Food Festival (Friday, August 20 to Sunday, August 22): Notice a theme? We like food. There’s a Fortune Cooking Iron Chef competition. Amazing.
Where: Harbourfront Center, Queens Quay West 
When: Weekends, until September 6
Cost: FREE (some festivals charge for food)

By the light of the moon: romantic nighttime outings

Inside: Movies In The Mess HallThe Drake Hotel
The Drake Hotel goes retro with their summer-long curated film screenings. Each movie is a fun old-school flick, like Arizona Dream (Tuesday, July 27) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Tuesday, August 24). For a mere $5, you get a Sloppy Joe, beer and popcorn. Deal!
Where: The Drake Hotel, 1150 Queen Street West 
When: Until Tuesday, August 31
Cost: $5

Outdoors: “A thousand times good night” Romeo and Juliet
Canadian Stage’s Dream in High Park once again lures Torontonians to grassy hills to drink in Shakespeare under the stars. This production of Romeo and Juliet is at once modern and classic, and Jeff Irving and Christine Horne have buzzing chemistry on stage. Bring some wine, snacks, a cozy blanket and cuddle up to one of the most romantic plays ever written.
Where: High Park Amphitheatre, just east of the Grenadier Restaurant in High Park 
When: Tuesday to Sunday, July 5 to September 25, 8 p.m. (Gates open at 6 p.m.)
Cost: Pay what you can ($20 suggested donation)

Yum, yum: Arroz con Mariscos

Plan now for a weekend feast: Arroz con Mariscos (Portuguese seafood with rice)

Add a little calor to your life with this delicioso Portuguese dish. The combination of fresh seafood, rice and simple seasonings get an extra kick from spicy Piri-Piri sauce. It’s quick, tastes divine and will give the (false) appearance you’ve spent hours slaving over a hot stove. Enjoy with a chilled vinho Branco (Portuguese white wine).

Image courtesy of http://www.terra.com.pe/
Ingredients
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 4 cloves of garlic, minced
– 2 bay leaves
– 1 bunch of parsley
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 4 cups rice
– 2 cups shrimp broth*
– 2 cups water
– 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
– 1 tbsp. tomato concentrate
– pinch saffron

– salt
– Piri-Piri sauce (a delicious Portuguese hot sauce made from Piri-Piri hot peppers)
– 2 pounds fresh seafood (if possible) – shrimp, mussels, white fish, scallops and octopus. If not fresh, frozen works well. Make sure to thaw and drain well before cooking.
– cilantro for garnish

Steps

1. Sauté onion, garlic, bay leaf, tomato concentrate and parsley in olive oil in a Dutch oven or stovetop-friendly casserole dish.
2. Add rice and mix well to make sure completely covered.
3. Add broth, water, salt, red pepper, saffron and Piri-Piri sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook until rice is soft (about 30 minutes).

4. Mix in seafood, cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the seafood!
5. Remove from heat, garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.


*Shrimp broth: after peeling shrimp, save the peelings, add 2.5 cups of water and simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat. The shells pack tons of flavour and will make a delicious broth.

Rave: Inception

One of the cool things about being a part of a PR company is that we are invited to special previews, tastings and other sneak peeks. Last week, I was invited to the premiere of Christopher Nolan’s Inception (thanks, Warner Bros!).  I couldn’t have been more impressed and immersed in the film. In the not-so-distant future (we don’t quite know when this is happening), thieves are hired by multi-national companies to go into your dreams and ‘steal’ insider information. Cool stuff.
Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), the best dream thief in the world, is hired to enter Robert Fischer, Jr.’s (Cillian Murphy) dreams and plant an idea, instead of taking one. This job is complex, highly dangerous and has never been done before. Naturally, Cobb has a major incentive to take the risk — Why? I won’t reveal for fear of giving away the twist.

At this point in the film, I thought Inception was going to be similar to Oceans 11 or The Italian Job. Not only because it was an “impossible heist” flick, but because of the all-star cast (Michael Caine, Ellen Page, Tom Berenger and many more). I was wrong. I’m calling this film a psychological-metaphysical-sci-fi-action-love story. It’s emotional, fast paced, and well-oiled. Nolan knows what he’s doing.

The rich world he created, made even more stunning with a moving score, is simply explained so that the abstract ideas about our dream world make tangible sense. Rather than a Memento-like riddle, as complex as it is, this film is easily digestible. Translating dream worlds to the big screen is not always easy, and can quickly turn into an incomprehensible mess (Vanilla Sky).

With Inception, you walk out of the film equally excited about the story and by the power of cinema on the big screen.


Matt Austin Sadowski is rock-it promotions’ Creative Director, as well as a successful film director. His most recent documentary, Don’t You Forget About Me, about the late John Hughes, was featured on CNN, Variety, Globe and Mail and many more.  Twitter – @mattyaustin