We’re Not Just Pretty: Desia Halpin-Brill

Starting out in the culinary world, Desia Halpin-Brill soon realized that unless she got to eat with her friends, cooking and baking were not going to cut it. Looking for a new creative world, she attended Lasalle College in Montreal and received a scholarship to study at FIT in New York – where she found her fit.  After graduating with a degree in Marketing and Communications, she worked with a few agencies honing her PR skills with experiences that took her to the Cannes film festival, the AMA’s in L.A. and New York Fashion week.

In 2001, Halpin-Brill returned to Canada and Brill Communications was born. Over a decade in the biz later, she’s still enamoured with the PR world and runs
an agency with her husband  focusing on fashion, beauty and lifestyle.  With a fantastic team, Brill has grown to full service, bilingual PR agency. The client roster includes large retailers, beauty brands and Canadian designers, keeping everyone all busy as bees.  

Desia, second from the left, during a client event.
Twitter: @BrillComm



How long have you been in your current position? 
10 years.


How does your company leverage PR for your clients?  
We work predominantly with fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands, so it is anything from previews and launches to openings and pitches; sample trafficking; early morning shows and autograph signing; to fashion shows and presentations. We keep our couriers running and our showroom bustling, but never our clients or editors waiting.


What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?  
Personality. You have to have one, everything else can be taught or learned.
 
Who gave you your first big career break? 
A fashion PR agency in New York. I had helped organize a Halloween party for a friend and a publicist attending said they could use someone like me, and that’s all she wrote – I was hooked.


What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior? 
Be real, stay connected and always – I mean always – treat others the way you would like to be treated.
 

What do you love most about your job? 
The people. I love meeting new and interesting clients, editors, stylists, producers, actors, singers, etc.


If you weren’t doing PR, what would you do? 
Raising llamas.


A little more from the fourth floor:

Designer: Proenza Schouler.  
Store: I am kind of a shopoholic, so my stores change frequently. Currently it is Muji.
Book: Right now something fluffy: Chasing Harry Winston.
Snack: Cheese, in any form (except in a spray can. Yuck!).
Sexy: Sparkly eyes and a great smile.
Inspiration: Nature.  
Drink: Perrier.  
Motto in two words: Less is more (oops, that’s three).
Idea of perfect happiness: Sunshine.
Indulgence: A great glass of red wine.  
Celebrity crush: I have several: Brad Pitt, James Franco, Josh Hartnett, George Clooney and Mark Ruffalo.  
Favourite tweeter to follow: @pliving; @coreymintz; @designmilk.
  

Special Media, Darling post: Holidays

For the holiday season, we thought it would be fun to ask some of our previous Media, Darlings how they’ll be spending their holidays. Here are a few of the answers, we’ll post more next Thursday!
Nathalie Atkinson

 Nathalie and her sister.

What’s your favourite holiday tradition?

Personally, I love wrapping presents. I have a bit of a stationery and wrapping paper problem in that I amass a lot of the stuff, more than I can use. (Especially the individual printed paper sheets at DeSerres, when they go on sale.) I could be wrapping and wrapping and wrapping all year long – I find it really relaxing, sort of methodical and meditative. Slowing down and doing that is my favourite part of such a consumer season. I wrap everything that goes into every stocking, all my extended family’s presents to each other, but that’s still not enough, so now I even offer to do it for my friends and their gifts for other people. I’m not exactly Candy Spelling but our rec room is a temporary wrapping workshop right now. I should probably volunteer for the Salvation Army wrap station or something and get it out of my system.

Favourite store to receive a gift from?
In Toronto? My gourmand side says Good Egg in Kensington Market, hands down. There isn’t really anything in that store I don’t love. I cook a lot (see above) and for my birthday last week a very clever friend gave me a book called The Flavour Thesaurus from there; Mika has great taste and is a terrific buyer; I always find things I’ve never seen before, and her staff know their stuff and can help you find the perfect thing for everyone on your list. Whether they’re a foodster or not. It’s a whole lifestyle store.

In Texas? Anything from Specs, the humongous liquor store chain. I collect hard-to-find small batch bourbons and they have aisles of the stuff. It makes my sister’s Christmas gift to me very easy!

How will you spend your time off?
I’ll be in Texas. Baking, swimming, reading and browsing antique and vintage shops around Houston and Austin. It’s all about spending time with my whole family together, which I don’t get to do very often. My father travels overseas a lot and my sister lives in Texas, where my parents have a second home and my mother spends half her time, so we’re really only ever all together at Christmas. Our French heritage really dominates come the holidays and even my father, who’s from England and is therefore mad about all things Christmas in a different way, gets in on the French-Canadian traditions. He’s made the signature tourtières for years (along with his mince meat tarts and the Bûche de Noël), and my very favourite part of the holidays is the last couple of days leading up to Christmas, and in particular, Christmas Eve. 

 The delicious Bûche de Noël
 

My sister, mother, father and I are all in the kitchen cooking and preparing the snacks, the cookies, the sausage rolls and the meal all day long. The ovens basically run non-stop, the kitchen is as warm as a bakery, and my dad and I compare notes on the craft holiday beer we’re drinking as we cook. And we listen to our favourite Christmas album, which is Kenny and Dolly’s Once Upon a Christmas, over and over, singing along with abandon like goofy lunatics. It’s really fun.

What’s your favourite holiday tradition?

Growing up, my brother and I had a sleepover every Christmas Eve (sleeping bags and alternating our rooms each year). When we woke up Christmas morning we were allowed to go through our stockings but had to wait until our parents were up to touch the gifts under the tree. The excitement of it all always made me happy and it still stands out as a favourite tradition.

Favourite store to receive a gift from?
That’s a hard one! Indigo has a really amazing selection of stocking stuffers, stationery and home stuff (not to mention all of the books and mags) so I can’t say I’m ever disappointed with something from there.

How will you spend your time off?
I’m heading back to the East Coast to rest, recharge and catch up with friends from home. Halifax can be damp this time of year but there’s nowhere I’d rather be (and then back to Toronto in time to ring in the New Year).


What’s your favourite holiday tradition?
Two weeks before Christmas, buying a tree, setting it up, writing and addressing Christmas cards while watching Bill Murray in Scrooged. (Ed. note: a must-see. Go rent it if you’ve never watched it!).

What’s your favourite holiday tradition?
The nine adults in my family draw names and exchange stockings on Christmas morning. It’s kind of cheesy but doing a lot of small presents for one person is a good way to acknowledge who they are and what they like: specific books, cosmetics, silly stuff, notes, treats. I dig it.
 
Favourite store to receive a gift from?
Any used book store. I love getting books more than anything. Barring that, Holt Renfrew. 

How will you spend your time off?

I’ll be in suburban New Jersey and New York City at Christmas this year, so I’ll be chasing my nephews and nieces in the snow, and doing the classic Manhattan-at-Christmas stuff. 

Rockefeller Center


Media, Darling: Corey Mintz

Fed is a column in the Toronto Star written by Corey Mintz about his experiences of cooking for people in his home. Guests have included Toronto Mayor David Miller, lawyer Clayton Ruby, director Sarah Polley and the troglodytic Mole People that live in the basement apartment. Before this spoiled lifestyle, Mintz was a restaurant critic for the Toronto Star. Before that spoiled life, he worked for a living, cooking.

He always has Tic Tacs on his person and looks both ways before crossing the street.

Read him online
Read his blog
On Twitter: @coreymintz

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
Write cogently. The relevant information needs to be up top. I once received a pitch that began with “since the dawn of time …”. If your information is good, there is no need to disguise it with jibba jabba. For my column, the guests could be anyone, as long as they’ve got something interesting going on. But in 45 installments, so far only one guest has come from a PR agent. Nothing takes the place of knowing and trusting the PR source. But for me that’s a short list. There’s only one name on it, Debra Goldblatt, and she never pitches me anything.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Timeliness and truthfulness. If a story is good, exclusivity is a bonus.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
I can only apply this to my area of food. The mistakes I see again and again are: 1) Not understanding the subject you are speaking about. 2) Forgetting that your clients represent you as much as you represent your clients. If you are asking writers to write about, and eaters to eat at, a crappy restaurant, you’ve lost your credibility.

Your pet peeve (pertaining to PR)?
Nonsensical lead paragraphs attempting to associate every vodka cooler, rib festival or pair of solar-powered jeggings with Mad Men or Sex and the City. It oozes vapidity. Also, a lack of humanity, sincerity. A lot of the people I deal with only want to be seen as communicating their client’s message (with permissible asides about shoes, Glee, cupcakes, jogging or cats/children). Without having a personality, it’s hard to believe anything a publicist says. Why not contact writers to make an introduction without pitching anything? That’s how I got my job.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
It’s criminal to presume that your audience is dumber than you. It was either Roosevelt or Churchill who said, “Talking smart to a pimp, you done broke the first rule.” For me, that’s never a problem since I am not very smart. Still, I always read my work out loud before filing it. If the author thinks it sounds like a con, so will the audience.