We’re Not Just Pretty: Laura Quinn

As senior manager of public relations with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Laura Quinn manages the media relations and corporate communications efforts at one of Canada’s major cultural institutions.

She has worked in public relations for 10 years, starting as a temp with the publicity and promotions team at Alliance Atlantis Film Distribution, and leaving six years later as the publicity and promotions manager.
She has executed promotional campaigns for theatrical releases across Canada, run press days at seven Toronto International Film Festivals, and handled media relations for many film openings. After a séjour living in Paris, France, Quinn returned to Toronto and managed PR campaigns for Kiehl’s and the CONTACT Photography Festival through her work with a Toronto PR agency, and led public affairs for broadcaster TELETOON.

Twitter: @LQLauraQuinn
How long have you been in your current position?
I’m in my third season with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

How does your company leverage PR?
What’s really interesting to me is that as much as the TSO is about music making, we are also about audience making. In that sense, each department in our organization is leveraging PR every day – from customer service making sure patrons have a fantastic experience, to our development team engaging supporters, to our artistic team producing incredible concerts that have the world’s best artists thrilled to perform in Toronto with our orchestra, and our education team communicating with schools and young audiences to spark music lovers of the future. At every concert, each of the dedicated musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra perform their best to create exceptional and inspiring concert experiences – and that, really, is the best PR ever.

The PR team at the TSO works to make sure each part of the organization has what it needs to communicate with its audience and help support spokespeople. We work specifically with media for reviews and advance coverage, and we create collateral (we produce 18 unique house programmes each season among other communication vehicles) to help tell the TSO’s stories.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
A positive attitude; someone who believes in approaching life with creative solutions. I also look for an instinct for storytelling and a passion for connecting influencers. You’ve got to be smart, quick, organized and polite.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
My first boss at Alliance Films, Susan Smythe-Bishop, was a real mentor for me. She gave me the opportunities for the experience that led me to where I am today. I feel very fortunate that I was able to learn from her. She is creative, thoughtful and leads by example with lots of class and heart.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?
I watch Sex and the City and see Samantha and think “Man, PR people are lame.” Then I look around at my peers and realize that we are nothing like these caricatures. Honestly, if you want a good gab with some smart, hilarious and thoughtful people, hang with some of Toronto’s fantastic PR pros.

I don’t pay much mind to the fictional accounts on television. I don’t think doctors get too hung up about the actors on Grey’s Anatomy either.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
LISTEN. In PR, we spend a lot of time talking, but the most valuable moments in my work come from listening, I want to know what our artists are saying, what media are saying, and how we can help continue the conversation. And general career advice: do what you love and it will all fall into place.

What do you love most about your job?
What I love about PR is how democratic it is. All you need is a great idea and you can help support something, big or small, through your promotional efforts. I really believe in what we do at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and am proud to put my efforts around supporting the organization.

I also love that PR is about people and relationships. I really like people; they are different, they are wacky, they are inspiring, they are challenging and it’s our role to engage them all.

Every day I am inspired and motivated by TSO musicians and their performances. It’s a real luxury that I can take a break in my day to sit in on rehearsal to experience fantastic live music.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Designer: ALL-CANADIAN-ALL-THE-TIME, comrags, mercy, dace.
Store: 4 Life Natural Foods in Kensington Market
Book:  All-time fave is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Right now it’s Stunt by Claudia Dey.
Snack: Chocolate covered almonds.
Season: Spring!
Sexy: Effortless.
Inspiration: Is everywhere.
Drink: Tea, water and on winter evenings, warm, spiced rum.
Motto in two words: OWN IT (not in the consumer sense, but rather in the passion sense).
Idea of perfect happiness: France with my fiancé during soldes season.
Indulgence: I get my eyebrows done by Tarah at Civello on Queen Sreet West.
Celebrity crush: Gwyneth Paltrow.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @torontosymphony

Rave: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1

Last week, a few of us had the pleasure of going to see a sneak peek of the seventh Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, courtesy of Warner Bros. We’re comfortable with our inner-geek On The Fourth Floor, and more than a few of us have read each Harry Potter book as soon as it was released and saw each movie as soon as it came out in theatres. We may have even done a little dance when the tickets arrived.

The seventh and final Harry Potter novel is being told through two full-length films, allowing just the right amount of time to fit in all the major scenes from the book. This film revolves around Harry and his challenge to destroy He Who Must Not Be Named (Voldemort). 

With help from Harry’s good friends Ron and Hermione, they search for clues that will lead them to Voldemort’s Horcruxes and uncover an old tale of the Deathly Hallows – one that, if true, will give Voldemort the power to take over the entire wizarding world. After two hours of Harry Potter excitement, the film ends at a satisfactory point that will (hopefully) please fans long enough until part 2 comes out in summer 2011. 
The film offers suspense and action, with a twist of humour and romance, resulting in a movie that everyone will enjoy. Potter-heads unite!

View the official trailer here.

Sleigh Bells in August

People who don’t work in journalism, magazines, PR or other similar industries are a little, well, astonished to hear about our recent holiday media preview. “Why are you talking about Christmas already?!”, they exclaim. But, for the 60+ publications that paid us a visit last Wednesday, it was perfect timing for planning their holiday gift guides.

rock-it promotions held its second annual media preview on a sweltering August 4, and it was a smash success. Holiday tunes were playing, Santa was jingling bells and people were buzzing excitedly about the cool products and services on display from our clients. Here’s a peek:

Erin Nadler from Better Styled was on hand, offering personal image consulting tips and a preview of gorgeous fall clothing to be found in her warehouse.
A great fitted blazer on display, and a cozy, yet chic, belted sweater.
Joyce from The Drake General Store showcased a ton of unique gifts for everyone.
 Best ideas included a children’s make-your-own designer T-shirt kit, a festive garden gnome statue, Navajo-inspired throws and Jeff Koons-esque balloon animal bookends.
Luxurious nighttime foot massage spa Red Door offered heavenly foot rubs for everyone after they’d made the rounds. Imagine coming home in January after a long day of trudging through slush and snow, and remembering you received that gift certificate Red Door – time to warm and soothe those tootsies with a foot massage!

You Name It Baby has so many great, personalized products for babies and children. They definitely had the cutest display.
You Name It Baby can customize paintings, stuffed animals, blankets and robes, among many other items. They even did great custom lunchboxes on the spot for attendees.

Marla Brown Home offered up a glorious holiday inspired tabletop, minus the clichéd poinsettias and green and red colour scheme.

The event designers extraordinaire also highlighted their flower arrangement and concierge services by giving everyone a very cute Star of Bethlehem hostess gift to take home.
Come As You Are had the friskiest display, showing all sorts of fun sex-related goodies. gill and Holly were there as experts on everything from organic, locally sourced lubricant to the luxe gold-plated Lelo Earl products.

President’s Choice Home had a stunning display. Decorations, ornaments, cute penguin statues, baking supplies, photo frames–PC Home has got every holiday need covered.
The acrylic reindeer is pretty and classic.
Finally, Toben Food By Design created a globally inspired holiday menu that featured mini-Pho soups, Ahi tuna cones with wasabi, cheesecake lollipops and amazing beignets with injectable fillings.
There were also mini risotto balls, slivers of smoked salmon on potato latkes and freshly made Bellini mocktails. Wow!
We had so much fun at our preview that thoughts of snowy days and blustery skies are welcome now. So excited for the 2010 holidays! Thank you to everyone who came to make this such a great success.