We’re Not Just Pretty: Carmite Cohen

Carmite Cohen knew from a young age that she’d somehow do something in the entertainment industry, because she was always filled with useless pop culture trivia and seemed to know everything about movies and TV shows.
She grew up in Israel, and spent her childhood in various countries, including Iran, Haiti, Rwanda, Niger and finally, Canada. Movies and TV shows were always a fascination, no matter what language they were delivered in.
After graduating from The University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Film Studies, Cohen moved to Toronto and completed the Seneca/York joint program for Radio and Television Production. 
Working (for free!) on commercials, TV and film productions in order to gain experience, she was hired at Alliance Films in 1997 as a production assistant. By 1998, she moved to Licensing and Merchandising, and secured and developed book, toy, apparel and video game deals.  
In 2001, Cohen transitioned to the Home Entertainment department as director of Marketing & Promotions (DVDs were just entering the market – exciting!). She was promoted to vice-president of Marketing, Publicity and Promotions of Home Entertainment in 2005, then joined the Theatrical Publicity and Promotions department as vice-president.
Some of her favourite things: hanging with family and her two awesome kids, travelling, good friends, magazines, The Biggest Loser, a good burger, shoes, New York, and going to the movies, of course!

Alliance Films
How long have you been in your current position?  
Just shy of four years.

How does your company leverage PR?
Alliance has a very diverse slate of films, from commercial fare to smaller art films, so we approach each one as if it’s a product launch and assess its needs. The question we always ask is, “how do we start the chatter and generate as much awareness pre-release as possible?”

Depending on the film, we try to generate opportunities for awareness with tastemaker and word-of-mouth screenings, stunting events, grassroots efforts and promotions, on-campus programs, strategic third party partnerships, and now, more than ever, engaging with our audience through various social media opportunities.

Access to talent and content is the easy way for us to generate press for our films; building a PR campaign that will get everyone’s attention (including media) is always the challenge. But, that’s what makes it fun and if we’ve done our job well, the proof will be in the ticket sales on opening weekend.


What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?  
Industry experience is a given, but as important: confidence, passion for what you do, the ability to think on your feet, a great personality and a sense of humour. Because, lets face it, when you’re wrangling talent at 3 a.m. on day five of the Toronto International Film Festival, if you can’t laugh about it on some level, you’re in the wrong business.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
I’ve been fortunate throughout my career, having worked in various parts of the film business, to have met some incredibly talented and creative people – marketers, publicists, filmmakers and studio execs. I’ve learned something from all of them. I’ve learned to really listen, be a sponge, and absorb as much of their expertise and advice as I can, and hopefully use it to benefit my own personal and professional growth.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows? 
It’s fun to watch, but I think it’s a little misleading because most times, the job is glamorized and perceived to be one big party after the next. You never really see the grunt work it takes to put together that event. PR has many perks, but the reality of it is that most of the time it’s highly stressful and not glamorous, it’s hard work and long hours, but if you’re committed, you’ll succeed.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior? 
No matter what the situation, always be professional and remember that it’s not personal, it’s business and “crazy and unreasonable” come with the territory.

What do you love most about your job? 
I love that I get to go to work everyday and my job is to promote movies! I still get giddy with excitement when I see a new trailer for a film that I’ll be working on. After all this time, it’s still fun, I’m still learning something every day, and I get to do it with a great group of people.

A little more from the fourth floor (a list of your favourite things):
Website: Deadline Hollywood Daily, Huffington Post, InStyle, and for my trashy gossip fix, Perez.
Designer: Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney.
Store: Want, Kitsch Boutique, Zara and anywhere that sells shoes.
Book: They Can Kill You But They Can’t Eat You by Dawn Steel (first woman to run a major U.S. movie studio), Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Snack: Apples with loads of almond butter.
Season: Summer.
Sexy: The look and style of the women of Mad Men.
Inspiration: New York City.
Drink: A really nice Malbec.
Motto in two words: It’s all about convenience (that’s four, I know!).
Idea of perfect happiness: Glass of wine, stack of magazines and a quiet house (even if it’s just for a little while).
Indulgence: Boots.
Celebrity crush: Bradley Cooper.

Favourite tweeter to follow: Denis Leary, Eat This Not That, Dr. Oz, Skinny Jeans, Funny or Die, OMG Facts.

Media, Darling: Kate Carraway

Kate Carraway is a senior writer at Eye Weekly and freelance life and culture writer, who has worked with Vice, Globe and Mail, LA Weekly, The Daily Beast, Jezebel.com and Nerve.com, among others.

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
To me, it seems so simple, and I really am curious as to why 90 per cent of the pitches I get are so far off-base, especially because everyone says this: even if I’m not that interested in an event, or product, or person, I will absolutely consider it for a story if the pitch takes into account what I do and what my publication does. Easy, right? But I guess not.
I don’t say that to be condescending: I really don’t know what that disconnect is all about. It seems like a tremendous waste of time, energy and opportunity for publicists to be blanketing — and in doing so, alienating — their contacts with a lot of random press releases and pitches when just a few pointed, personalized pitches would have better results. I instantly delete anything without my name on it, and anything longer than a few hundred words; I instantly read anything personal, short and specific about how I might use this information for my work at Eye or elsewhere. Just like I have to sell the reader on my writing, you have to sell me on your client. Use my ego, lack of time and need for constant, solid story ideas to do it.
In terms of Eye Weekly, I often get pitches for bands, films, arts stuff, some of which might work. But as the senior writer, my job is to write a monthly sex column, a weekly personal column and a daily blog, and do a certain amount of other coverage that gets handed down from the section and senior editors. A publicist would ideally know who the person is who assigns that coverage (it’s on the masthead), because in addition to those stories being their decision, not mine, those editors might already have a coverage plan for Band X, Film X, Play X or whatever. So, if a publicist has a specific writer in mind, the appropriate editor should be included in the email, and the pitch could say, “Dear ——-, I think you might like to cover X in your section; I think Kate would love it/them because from past stories I know she likes Band/Film/Play Y.” Then the editor and I would definitely talk about the pitch, and it would have a 1000% better chance of becoming a story.
If my name is spelled wrong, if it’s about something like menopause or an exhibit in Detroit or the release of a new limo company or municipal politics, that confirms that the publicist doesn’t know my work or my publication, and has possibly alienated me professionally. I don’t like attachments (I assure you I wont open an unsolicited attachment unless it’s a party invite with the word “Moët” involved), or press releases about something I can’t possibly use (don’t tell me you’re now representing Brand X unless you’re pitching me something specific on Brand X). Less, but better, is what I would love to get from pitches.
What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
I’ve had success just by contacting the PRs that handle stuff and people I already care about. It’s also helpful having a personal column with my face on it, because even if the PR doesn’t know that I might care about their client, they might know who I am if they (and they should!) read all the local publications.
What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Other than shitty pitches? Calling me, unless it’s necessary. Calling is the best if there’s a last-minute change of plans (I use a BlackBerry but it’s easier to miss one of 100 emails in a day than one of five phone calls) or an emergency. I will definitely resent a phone call that is about a press release I have not responded to. If it’s a really good pitch and I haven’t responded, email again, but with more details and more about how I’d use it, not just to ask if I got it. (I got it; I just wasn’t interested enough.) This happened today, actually, and the personalized reminder email was so nice and cool that I’m going to attend a thing I would have skipped if they’d called. Maybe this is not very generous to say, but, c’mon. We’re all too busy for that.
Also, sometimes my boss will forward me an email that is exactly up my alley, but that I wasn’t initially sent. I don’t expect anyone to just know that I am really into punk rock and luxury beauty products, for instance (if you are repping a book about these two things together, please send immediately) but it’s a missed opportunity to not be paying attention to what local writers and editors pay attention to, what the themes are in their coverage. I can identify the professional and personal interests of writers that I don’t know personally or follow closely, just having read a handful of their stories.
Oh, and assuming that I know who you are is a mistake. That is not an insult, it’s just that writers are like squirrely, bookish weirdos who don’t remember what day of the week it is and publicists are cuter and nicer and are better at that stuff. It’s important that you remind me in person or via email when we met or worked together last.
(For the record: the biggest mistake that I make, I think, is bad scheduling; I have to cancel on events and reschedule interviews more than I’d like because that is my dumb reality of writing and hustling full-time, and things come up. I had to email the PR for Vawk on Monday morning to cancel, because Monday was a batshit-crazy workday and I didn’t feel right leaving the office to see a fashion show. You know?)
My pet peeve
I am not into the politics or dishonesty that sometimes comes up in the relationship between writers and PRs. Recently I was uninvited to several parties after I wrote something negative about other, related events. That’s actually totally fine: I understand and am sympathetic to what a publicist does and has to explain to their clients. But, just tell me. “We can’t invite you because X” or “You’re in the local media, this is for national press only” or whatever is fine.
Or, telling me straight-up that you didn’t like something I wrote, instead of telling my best friend’s friend that I’m a bitch, is good. It’s just work, you know? And the process is collaborative between publicists, writers, editors and readers, especially now, with instant feedback and more transparency. We should work together to do all of this better. (Especially in Toronto: people who work in New York and L.A. tend to be more direct and specific about what they want and what they think, which is very good for everybody.)
I try to be as clear as possible about what I can and can’t provide; when people offer to send samples or an invite I have a stock response about how they can send whatever they want but I won’t guarantee or even suggest that I’ll cover it in return. As a reader I feel like I know when something is being covered because it’s convenient, not because it’s worthwhile, and I feel betrayed by that, so I won’t participate.
Also, I hate parties with cash bars. Is that bitchy?
Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
Since basically all of that was about the dark side of working with PR, I want to make a point of saying that I’m inspired by the 10 or 20 PR people I know who are very good at their jobs. They’re like the patient babysitters and writers are like the spoiled brats; I am always really impressed by how together and friendly and attentive publicists are with their clients and with media people. It’s awesome. I am also rarely pressured to provide specific or positive coverage; I think that all the PR people I communicate with regularly know what it is that I cover and how I cover it. And ultimately, we need each other to do our work and develop our businesses, so the more we understand each others’ needs, the better. 

My ‘Hood: Michelle

By Michelle
I live at Queen Street West and Lisgar Street (near Dovercourt) – home to some of the best restos, vintage shops, art galleries and nightlife in Toronto.

I LOVE sandwiches! So, one of my favourite places to go for lunch with a girlfriend is
Cafe Bernate. This adorable spot has a selection of 30 delish sandwiches, including my go-to choice: ham, brie, avocado and red pepper on an Italian baguette. I often hit up Savoy at 1166 Queen Street West for brunch since it is affordable, serves yummy food in great portions, and tons of fruit with my homefries and bacon.

Although dangerous for the bank account, I adore that Queen West is lined with tons of interesting, one-of-a-kind boutiques, including House of Vintage, Art History and Shopgirls Gallery Boutique.

I enjoy going out and dancing, so living close to lots of jamming bars is a huge bonus. The Drake Hotel is a classic spot guaranteed to have sweet music and a cool crowd. Parkdale Drink spins amazing hip hop and reggae, so I get my dance-on there from time to time. The Rhino (1249 Queen St. W), Brooklyn (1186 Queen St. W) and The Social are also sick spots for fun nightlife.

I recently discovered a new gym at 99 Sudbury that I am loving – they even have a Ballet Boot Camp class. This gym is literally the most beautiful workout space I have ever seen (although you would never be able to tell from the outside) and the staff are super warm and friendly. Plus, it’s a five-minute walk from my house so I have no excuse not to go.

Finally, what would the weekend be like without walking around exploring all the fantastic art galleries in the area, including my personal favs, Lausberg Contemporary Gallery and Twist Gallery.

Fashion-able: Our favourite moments from LG Fashion Week Beauty by L’Oreal Paris

It was a whirlwind week, full of inspiring looks for spring, hectic schedules, interesting presentations at the new Fashion Environment and the split-second hush before the music starts pounding on the catwalk. This was an amazing season at the ever-improving LG Fashion Week Beauty by L’Oreal Paris.

As the agency of record for the FDCC, we had our hands in blogging, seating, registration, coordinating backstage interviews, calming nerves, bringing bagels and water, and working with some great creative minds. We were everywhere, every day, and had a great time. 

Many thanks go out to the talented designers, the amazing PR teams, both internally and externally, who helped out all week, the FDCC crew, who are incredibly hard-working, the media who help give a voice to our talented designers, and of course, the volunteers. Literally, this week could not have happened without volunteers.

Here are our favourite moments, from the rock-it promotions team:

The entire week fuels me with inspiration and energy. I love seeing the massive amounts of people that support LGFW and the fact that the Fashion Design Council of Canada (located in Toronto) produces the second largest Event of its kind in North America. It’s still quite young (only 12 years old, compared to say TIFF, which is 35 years old) and I am really proud that we are part of something that is growing so quickly.

In terms of shows, it’s never easy to pick just one, but I really enjoyed Thomas. I thought they had a really interesting execution to their show in terms of production (music, lighting, etc) and an edgy, but wearable collection. I look forward to seeing more from them. I also really enjoyed Denis Gagnon. He’s brilliant. Period.

TOFW SS 2011: THOMAS from istoica on Vimeo.

My favourite moment during any fashion week is the first five seconds before a show begins, when the lights go out and cell phones light up around the fashion environment. The anticipation and energy is fabulous!

During this fashion week, I also had the chance to view the Denis Gagnon show from the Tech booth. It was *amazing* to have a bird’s eye view of the models stomping it out. 

My favourite moment was the Pink Tartan show. Not only were the clothes bright, beautiful and summery, but the show was a bit of a family affair, as two of my sisters were there as well. One was backstage helping to dress the models for Pink Tartan and the other was enjoying the show with some co-workers. Fun!

Photo courtesy of blogTO
The Dare To Wear Love show – the entire production was fantastic, and it was fun to see Dina Pugliese ham it up on the runway in her Ines di Santo gown and toss her bouquet into the crowd. It was really incredible to see the number of people who came out to support the Stephen Lewis Foundation. What a feel-good way to end the week!

Photo courtesy of Sun Media/QMI Agency
Pssst… if you missed the show, you can still bid on last year’s stunning dresses in support of the SLF.

The ethereal, barely-blue wedding gowns at Romona Keveza’s show. It made me want to get married again.
Photo courtesy of She Does The City

This was my first-ever fashion week, and I thought it was great. The most memorable moment for me was the first show – Holt Renfrew’s opening night. I was dazzled and excited to actually be seeing a show live, rather than on TV or a website. I loved the sneak peek of Pink Tartan, and have been dreaming about the Smythe jackets ever since last Monday night. I am also slightly jealous of the teased, curly hair. It rocks.
Photo courtesy of blogTO

So many good moments to choose from! I loved seeing all my favourite fashion media in one place. And of course, working with Hoax Couture on the Dare To Wear Love closing show was fantastic. This is my second year working on this fundraiser, and it’s so inspiring to work with a charity in the context of LGFW. A great way to close the week – the Stephen Lewis Foundation does important work. Plus, the designs were so fun. 

Photo courtesy of George Pimental

We can’t wait for the next shows (well, after we catch up on some sleep).

Job Posting: Fashion Consultant

If you’re looking for a career change, want to get into the fashion industry or love helping people buy great wardrobes, this posting just might be for you.

Retail Sales – Ladies Fashion Sales Consultant – flexible hours 

Better Styled is a Toronto-based fashion consultant company, catering to corporate businesswomen.  Service and style are paramount and at Better Styled, you’ll enjoy the chance to combine your retail experience, body/fit knowledge and classic style with confidence in a setting and a company whose elevated standards reflect your own distinguishing good taste.   
Job Activities:
          Client contact and appointment booking
          Product presentation to client, determine the product that best suits the client 
          Client checkout, POS entry and payment processing
          Sales calls to potential clients, attendance at networking events, etc. to help build client base 
          Participate in product knowledge seminars
          Participate in season ending brainstorming sessions to evaluate the season
          Ladies’ fashion and/or sales background
          Image-conscious individual with a sense of style
          Organized, focused and results-oriented
          Good listener with superior deductive skills
          Understands customer service concepts
          Self-starter, able to manage their own time
          Outgoing personality and positive thinker
          Post-secondary education – college or university
Compensation will be negotiated individually, depending on applicants’ experience, qualifications and previous employment history.
How to Apply:
Please send resumes directly to erin@betterstyled.com or fax to 416-485-5101.
We appreciate all expressions of interest, however as a practical matter we will contact only those select candidates whose backgrounds best match our requirements. All resumes are retained and treated confidentially for consideration against future opportunities.

Yum, yum: the Pumpkin Patch

Throwing an adult Halloween party this weekend? Whip up a delicious, seasonal drink to serve to your guests. Or, drop by Quinn’s Steakhouse & Irish Bar and have them make it for you! 
Pumpkin Patch

1¼ oz. vanilla vodka
2 oz. orange juice
A dollop of canned sweetened pumpkin purée
A dash of nutmeg
Garnish: a small orange pumpkin candy
  • In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add vanilla vodka, orange juice, a dollop of canned sweetened pumpkin purée, and dash of nutmeg.
  • Shake well and strain into a Martini glass.
  • If you wish to add a garnish, take a tube of green icing and place a dab on the lip of the glass. “Glue” a small orange pumpkin candy to the icing.

Meet Our Team: Christina

Christina, our publicity co-ordinator extraordinaire, is a master at charming a room full of people at any event. Before joining the team at rock-it, Christina honed her skills at other PR agencies. She loves events and fashion, and you can frequently find her smiling face featured in the society pages of major publications.

Twitter: @christinallison

How long have you been a part of the team?
I joined the team last March.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Blowouts at Ritual 2 (@Ritual2). I love getting my hair done before an event, and I’m not a girl that can do it perfectly myself.

What song gets you out on the dance floor?
Mariah Carey’s Fantasy (the remix, yo!).

Best gift you’ve ever received?
For Christmas, my mom enlarged and framed beautiful black and white photos of my grandparents. They were both very chic and handsome. I love having their photos up as a reminder of what amazing grandparents they are.

Best part about being a publicist? Fabulous events, parties, co-workers and clients.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Designer Evan Biddell.
Store Club Monaco.
Book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.
Snack – Apples and peanut butter.
Season – Summer.
Sexy – Four-inch stilettos.
Inspiration – Good conversation.
Drink – Merlot.
Motto in two words – Laugh, live.

Media, Darling: Anita Clarke

Anita Clarke is the founder and Editor in Chief of the popular Toronto fashion blog, I want – I got. She’s been called a Toronto Fashion Hero by Now Magazine, Woman of the Year by She Takes on the World and one of the Worthy 30 by Shinan Govani. She has spoken on the topics of fashion, marketing, PR and social media. In July 2009, she was featured in a window showcase for Holt Renfrew that was shown in stores across Canada.
Blog: I want I got 
Twitter: @geekigirl
How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
First off, pitches that get my attention are, most importantly, relevant to my blog. They are well-crafted and not verbose. All the information I need is usually included in the pitch. 
I love PR companies that use flickr or other storage methods to provide me with all relevant images and press releases, without having to write a reply email. I also love pitches that provide me just the facts and no opinion. I’ve received many pitches where the writer proclaims that I’ll just love the product. That usually makes me more skeptical, as I like to come to these decisions myself.
  Anita in front of her Holt Renfrew Fashion Blogger window.
What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
I like that they can provide more information that would be hard to research otherwise. They really can add value to a post with images, samples and additional information. They provide access to designers, events, etc. and that offers lots of value for a post.
What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Not respecting my time. I think many people assume that I blog for a living when in reality, I have a full time job. I believe this is the case for the majority of bloggers. 
Sending pitches that are irrelevant to my site. 
Lack of respect for online media. If online media exposure isn’t important, then don’t engage them. Treating them as second class citizens doesn’t help your company or the brand you are representing.
The “mailing list method” of PR. You get more results with well researched and crafted pitches, rather than the email blast to everyone and their mother.
Your pet peeve?
I hate it when a PR company emails and says “I love/read your blog”, which is then followed up with a totally irrelevant pitch. It really leaves a bad impression for me, because they are obviously lying. Let the product do the talking instead of sucking up to my ego.
I have a fashion blog, but please don’t send me pitches that have to do with celebrity fashion.
I hate press releases in image format. Copy and paste are important to me.

Calling all PR students! We want your questions

We’d like to start a new regular blog feature, and we need your help. If you’re just starting out in a PR program, are in the midst of completing it or you’ve just graduated, we want to take your questions.

 Have a burning PR question? Send it to us!

We all know that it can be tough to get started in this business, to figure out whether you should work for an agency, at a corporation or for a non-profit, how you can find a mentor, how to dig up contact info for a journalist… the list goes on and on. We’ve asked those same questions at some point in our careers.

Send us your burning inquiries, and we’ll answer them on our blog. There are other people out there with the same questions as you. We’ll give you a shout out for your brilliant question, of course.

Just send to abigail (at) rockitpromo (dot) com. And remember: spelling, punctuation and grammar count – you’re representing yourself as a future PR pro. You never know when an opportunity will arise.

Fashion-able: Dare to Wear Love


So, as we promised earlier this week, here is more about the incredible show that’s closing LG Fashion Week Beauty by L’Oréal Paris, Dare To Wear Love, this Friday at 8 p.m.

This is a feel-good part of LG Fashion Week, featuring amazing local creations to stare at down the runway. 

The show is an exciting collaboration between Hoax Couture, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, the FDCC and more than 25 incredibly talented Canadian designers. The task for each designer is to create an African-inspired look, for men or women, from six yards of brilliant fabric, sourced from the continent. The designs will be complemented by African music and dance.

Some of the designers showing are Brian Bailey, Evan Biddell, Damzels In This Dress, David Dixon, Comrags, Linda Lundström, Lucian Matis, Pat McDonagh, Jason Meyers, Nada, Kingi Carpenter, Izzy Camilleri, and many more. Phew! 

Nada’s concept for the 2010 DTWL show. 

A very cool part of the show is the eclectic mix of professional models, celebrity models and friends of the family that will model the creations. Some announced celebrities include Arlene Dickinson (Dragon’s Den), Tara Spencer-Nairn (Corner Gas), Dina Pugliese (Breakfast Television) and pop singer Keisha Chanté. Word on the street is that Evan Biddell’s mom will walk the runway for him (awww). 

Tickets are open to the public and available to purchase online for $59.99 or $300 for a VIP package (which includes one front or second row seat and a special gift bag). All tickets are being sold (no freebies!), with all proceeds going to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. The Foundation works with grassroots organizations in Africa to help combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 

Targeting grassroots organizations to receive funding is important – they’re on the ground, working directly with people affected, and can help implement solutions without as much bureaucratic red tape. Very cool. More info at their website.

  Money raised through ticket sales and auction benefit people affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, especially orphans and grandmothers. Image: Hilary Hall.

Another cool part? The fashions from last years’ show will be auctioned off to raise additional funds for the Foundation. The auction is online and is live today at 3 p.m.! More than 20 gorgeous gowns will be sold at a special auction site until Tuesday, November 2. 

Linda Lundström’s 2009 DTWL desgin, being auctioned now!

Please come out and support this very worthwhile show, and enjoy some fantastic fashion at the same time! We’ll see you there.