Media, Darling: Shinan Govani

Shinan Govani is the National Post‘s resident snoop and people watcher. In addition to frequent television appearances and being Page Six‘s “go-to-Canadian,” Govani has also appeared in such publications as Salon, Details, New York, Fashion, and enRoute. “Shinan is to celebrity what the Bank of Canada is to the dollar,” Toronto Life once said. His beat has him meandering across umpteenth different types of scenes, in Canada and beyond, whether it’s the Art Basel scene in Miami, Fashion Week in Paris, the film festival circuit c/o Sundance/Cannes/Toronto, the society set, the chef crowd, etc. Earlier this year, he attended Vanity Fair‘s famous Oscar night party in L.A. – the only Canadian journalist to be invited inside the party.


Photo Credit: Sisi Penaloza
Website: National Post
Twitter: @shinangovani, @nationalpost


Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I can’t remember not being a media-phile and know-it-all, but I didn’t always know how it would translate into a career. Always had varied interests – including politics, culture, style, food – and the great thing about journalism, per se, is that one can minor in all those subjects at once, if one wishes. More specifically, for me, most of my interests in all subjects pivoted around the people in various tribes, so winding up with the kind of column I write is no accident. I’ve always subscribed to Jonathan Swift’s famous dictum: “Character is plot,” i.e. I believe all great stories – be they world events, or tabloid tales, or what not – come down to people. Their vanities, their hang-ups, their childhoods, their reaches for validation, etc.
I will also add that I was always the guy who’d have anxiety attacks when I passed newsstands, fretting about what I hadn’t yet read, as well as the kid with the flashlight under the blanket reading a book way, way after bedtime.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
More books, for sure (my first novel, Boldface Names, came out a few years ago). I’d like to maybe take a stab at writing biographies at some point. Also, I want to continue to give back, socially-speaking, having played in this crazy playground for so many years – continue to contribute in causes such as AMFAR (I co-chaired its annual gala in Toronto for two years, through which we raised close to two million dollars). I want to go live in Venice, Italy for a spell, but in the winter. I see it very clearly: Venice. In the winter. When the hordes of tourists have poofed, and the city is supposed to be the most hypnotic (it’s when the moisture from the sea hits the chill, creating a haze off the canals that filters the suns into variations of pink and gold). 
Also: I’d like to get around to making bread. But just once.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Read and write. And write and read.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 
I am a veritable Cookie Monster when it comes to media-consumption, so, in addition to many of the obvious (the Page Six-es and the Vanity Fairs) I’ll just throw a few things, at the top of my head, and in no particular order: some fun podcasts on KCRW, out of L.A., including Elvis Mitchell’s showbiz-insider, ‘The Treatment’ as well as the quite charming ‘Good Food’; Tatler out of the U.K. (required reading in my field); the weekend Financial Times (love the ‘Lunch With’ column, and David Tang’s high-larious advice column!); anything Camille Paglia or Ingrid Sischy or Bob Collacello; everything Daily Mail; the Daily Beast (much better curated than the Huffington Post); the Great Lives series on BBC4; columnists, far and wide, like Maureen Dowd, David Carr and Cathy Horyn in the New York Times, AA Gill in the London Times, Emily Nussbaum and Anthony Lane in The New Yorker, Mike Musto in The Village Voice; Arts & Letters Daily online; the Slate Culture Gabfest; Fashion Police on E! (I would never dare miss an episode!); Hardball; Rachel Maddow; the ‘At Issue’ panel on CBC’s The National; all the great aggregators on New York mag (The Cut, Grub Street, Vulture, etc); NewYorkSocialDiary.com (where the great gossipist Liz Smith still is going and writing!); Barbara Amiel in Maclean’s (I won’t even try to resist!)…NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ (I worship Terri Gross!)…AdweekSalonPolitico…Richard Lawson on theatlantic.com…Jason Gay on tennis in the Wall Street Journal…Roger Friedman’s Showbiz 411 column online…and it goes on. (Oh, how I miss Christopher Hitchens).
Special shout-out to Bon Appetit magazine, which, I believe, is the most-improved glossy, with Adam Rapport as editor. In many ways, it’s the best culture mag out there!
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Having tea with Jackie Collins, one-on-one inside the Plaza Athene in New York, was pretty nifty. But maybe ’cause it was just last month that I remember it so fondly. (I’ve been at this for a while!)
Worst?
Linda Evangelista. What a bore! Definitely proof positive that models, in most cases, lose all their power when they speak.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Plus ça change. Also: “You’re never as good as your best review, and never as bad as your worst.”e
As Good As Your Best Review, And Never As Bad As Your Worst’ –
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Oh, why the hell not?
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Bikram yoga.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
All my best experiences with PR pros have occurred through genuine relationships developed over my years of doing this. Let me be frank: in the context of a social column, it’s all about back-scratching and, well, that thing called chemistry. A press release is probably the least effective way of getting my attention. A publicist who can craft a story angle, or at least lead the horse (me!) to water with it, will definitely get my attention faster. A publicist who has given me a scoop on a matter something/someone that’s not a client, or is occasionally the source of intel, will get my attention when they need something from me! More specifically: my particular column is all boldface-oriented, so a fast-thinking PR will mould a story, or a mention, in a way that has boldface potential. In New York or L.A., when I hear from PRs, they’ll often send me the pitch, in proper paragraph form, having boldfaced the names in themselves, so I immediately get the pic. This doesn’t happen often in Toronto.
I hate?
Debbie Downers. And raisins.
I love?
People who can see and appreciate all the colours. And spicy food that makes me weep.
Reading?
Crazy Rich Asians, an advance-copy of a novel that I think is going to be huge. It’s out in June. It’s kind of like a Chinese Dallas meets a Chinese Real Housewives meets a Chinese Royal Tenenbaums. I also have a pretty interesting biography on the go: Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde.
Best place on earth?
The Maldives – primarily because I’ve never been. (The mind provides the best excursions!)
Hero?
Victoria Grayson.
Pool or ocean?
Ocean.
Voicemail or email?
Email. (Or tweet!)
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DG for the win!

Today on the fourth floor, we’re proud to announce that our very own boss lady, Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, is nominated for PR Professional of the Year in the first-ever BizBash Toronto Readers’ Choice Awards. The awards are based on reader votes, so we’re calling on our friends, family, readers and colleagues to help our fearless leader take the award this month.

#debgeeforthewin
Photo credit: Jessica Blaine Smith


You may know Debra from her work talent-wrangling at TIFF, managing the crowds at fashion week or any number of projects she’s worked on since founding rock-it promotions in 2000, but we want to bring you the inside scoop on DG. So today, we present 10 secret reasons why she deserves your vote:


1. Debra has a poet’s soul. No, really. She studied creative writing at Concordia University and always dreamed of becoming a poet. However, that soul also has a pragmatic side that encouraged her to channel her love of writing into something more lucrative than poetry.


2. She can hook you up. Not only is she keeper of the keys at some of Toronto’s most exclusive events, one of her first jobs was working for a dating service.

3. She’s the
woman behind the man in the mask.
From
working with Woody Harrelson, who starred as the comedic superhero
“Defendor” in the movie of the same name, to marrying Matt Austin-Sadowski,
who, once upon a time, was a green Power Ranger, DG is basically the industry’s
own Pepper Potts.



4. She’s also a fairy godmother. Or at least according to her adorable three-year-old daughter, whose favourite game is “Fairy Godmother,” with Debra cast in the lead role.


5. She tweets it like it is. Sometimes sweet, sometimes sassy, Debra’s tweets are always on the pulse of Toronto. 


6. She’s a pioneer. A strong supporter of social media, she was one of the first PR pros to recognize the unique voice of social media, and in particular bloggers, creating controversy by inviting them into the tents at fashion week years before the term “street style” was part of our everyday lexicon. 

7. She has great taste. Debra was the first person in Toronto to start a full service gifting lounge company called Tastemakers (along with VP of Operations, Leesa Butler). Modelled after swag lounges in the U.S., she recognized a missing niche here and eight years later, has sparked some competition, but still has the best lounge at the festival.


8. On the Fourth Floor. rock-it was the first boutique agency to start a daily lifestyle blog back in 2010. Not one day has been missed since it was launched. The Media, Darling feature is our most popular and has attracted praise from competing agencies and journalists, alike.

9. Once you are part of the family, you stay part of the family. Many of rock-it’s clients have been on the company roster for many, many years. Drake Hotel, Alliance Films, Loblaw Companies, Fashion Design Council of Canada, Frigidaire and Electrolux, to name a few. Debra considers all clients to be top priority and always goes the extra mile, whether on vacation, weekends or evenings.


10. She’s a cool boss. Do you get to Google Tumblrs, do each other’s hair and attend wine tastings
during office hours? ‘Cause we do. Plus, we love our flexible dress
code, the fact that we can bring our dogs to the office, and
occasionally start our emails to her with “Hey, man.”

For these reasons and more, please support #debgeeforthewin and help her take the award at BizBash’s Celebrate Toronto Events 2012 reception on May 22. Visit bizbash.com/torontovotes to cast your vote! Voting is open until Thursday, May 17 and you can vote once per day, every day.





Best On The Fourth Floor posts from 2011

For our last post of the year, we’ve put together a round-up of some of our favourite and most-read posts from the last 12 months. We have had almost 175,000 page views since we started in the summer of 2010 thanks to you. Fist pump. xo

Our first Media, Darling of 2011, Sasha Tong, was fun to interview, and her post full of good advice and insider secrets is our most popular to date. 

The snowboarding vs. skiing debate raged in our office in February, when we went head to head with each other to see which snow sport reigned supreme. The verdict? Find out here.

Back in March, we went to visit a brand new little resto that opened just around the corner from us called 416 Snack Bar. We chatted with owners Dave and Adrian, and have literally been back almost weekly to sample their tasty wines and homemade snacks. It really is our Cheers.

We eloquently expressed our rage regarding biking in the city in April, since we’d just taken our trusty steeds out of winter storage and were still getting used to the new “war on bikes” era ushered in by Mayor Ford. We hate to say it, but things didn’t really change for the better when it comes to biking downtown. Maybe in 2012?
We were excited when PR maven Kelly Cutrone stopped by the fourth floor in May, to give us some advice (and record a funny video with our own Matt Austin, a former Power Ranger). 
Delicious cooking made an appearance on the fourth floor in June, with a delicious fiddlehead and ramps recipe, complete with quinoa. Yum.

Our appreciation for art increased with our trip and subsequent post about the Abstract Expressionism exhibit at the AGO, featuring Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and others. 

Lazy summer days gave us plenty of time to ponder email etiquette, so we put those thoughts on screen and generated a strong response. People have opinions about email etiquette.

We checked out the brand-new Black Hoof cocktail bar. Needless to say, we were impressed with the clever and careful concoctions. 

TIFF was busy and exciting, and we celebrated our favourite moments and memories from a festival that were full of encounters with talent, great music and fun after-parties (in between all the work!).

Immediately after TIFF, we dove into fashion with LG Fashion Week Beauty by L’Oreal Paris. Guests really brought their style, so we snapped shots of our fave looks. 

We got our craft on at Miracle Thieves and created some clever and sassy pumpkins. 

Finally, we closed out 2011 strong with our very successful step-by-step ballerina bun post. If you see these pretty hairstyles around the city, and want to DIY, read this

Thanks again for reading, commenting, tweeting and subscribing. It means a lot. We have some fun things planned for 2012, so keep on coming to visit us on the fourth floor. Happy and safe new year to you all. xo

 

Media, Darling: Kevin Naulls

Kevin Naulls attended the school of hard knocks at the University of Toronto (St. George Campus), where he studied English, History and Philosophy. His humble beginnings started with an internship with designer Pat McDonagh (which he did simultaneously with a night job at Sun Media), and sneaking into shows at “the tents.” Around that time, he began writing a blog that would eventually deal almost exclusively with contemporary menswear and dudes with beards named Dressed for Dinner, which led to more pictures of bearded men on the Internet.

After writing for Sharp, The Sharp Book for Men, Eye Weekly, the Toronto Sun, The Block, and more, and still working nights at Sun Media, he was offered a job as Associate Online Editor at Toronto Life, where he lives and breathes today (and sometimes allows him to sleep at a reasonable hour). He very much enjoys it. 


Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
Like any idealistic young lad, I wanted to be a cartoonist, an actor, a lawyer, a criminologist and a philosopher. I gave up on those dreams long ago, but I still aspire to be a television comedy writer, and I’m writing spec scripts on the side. No, you can’t read them (not yet anyway).

Where would you like to be five years from now?
In five years? Well, I like the experience of working at Toronto Life – I am allowed to have a voice that is my own, and I’m learning new skills every day that I wouldn’t have (at least not as quickly) as a freelancer.  But I’d love to be the next Mindy Kaling, because I like fashion shows, fashion shows at lunch.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
I didn’t sleep before I got my job at Toronto Life. I ran my blog, worked nights and freelanced for multiple publications. I don’t want to recommend an unhealthy lifestyle, but everyone wants these jobs, and having a take-on-all-comers attitude is a clear sign to employers that you’re willing to push yourself to your limits. And stories don’t just fall into your lap every day, so it is important to get into the habit of fighting for a scoop.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 
What I read: Fantastic Man, V magazine, Interview, the New York Times, New York magazine, The Gentlewoman, Corduroy, The Awl, Gawker, Workwear magazine (when I can find it (send it to me! Or find me .PDFs!))

What I listen to: to ensure a person’s sexual issues are much more complicated than mine, I listen to the Savage Love podcast. To laugh out loud, I listen to Julie Klausner’s podcast How Was Your Week (I like to pretend she’s my girlfriend when I’m listening). I hate Slate’s Culture Gabfest—if I wanted to listen to lukewarm talk radio that is basically a roundtable of people with convoluted ideas about pop culture, I’d go to Trampoline Hall.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Talk is cheap, motherfucker.” – DMX

DMX may not have said it to me personally, but it resonated. I have no patience for people who do not speak for themselves in a critical way. I work in an industry where the emphasis is on brand building, and I refuse to pretend to care about something for free drinks and VIP experiences. 

Everything should be broken down, illustrating positives and negatives, because no one will learn anything otherwise – you’d tell your children that some things are right, and some things are wrong, and while “right” and “wrong” are subjective, I’d rather someone speak openly and be slightly wrong than lie down and take it, spilling adjectives onto a page that do not rightly reflect the subject. 


What rule(s) do you live your life by?
A couple of good friends once said “there are no rules on girls weekend,” and I tend to live my life that way. I’m not a cat though, so it isn’t all fancy free – I am professional, and stick to deadlines, even when I’m writing jokey captions or living in sewers.  I promise to always love the people I love, even when they sing karaoke better than I do. And like Maestro, I always stick to my vision.

Best interview you’ve ever had?
I had the opportunity to interview Robert Geller, and what could have been a 15 minute interview turned into an hour and 15 minutes. Most of the time subjects are so media trained that they become resistant—there’s this wall that they hit, as if someone is tapping them on the shoulder (sometimes there is someone) telling them it is time to wrap it up. We chatted like old school chums, and his level of candidness helped me with my story immensely. I like when people aren’t in a rush. If it is going to be a media circus, it almost isn’t worth it. I don’t have 2 minute interviews and I feel as if no one really should.

Oh, and obviously chatting with Felicity Jones during TIFF. That was unforgettable, and I thank Alex Thompson from Joe Fresh for making that happen. It might mean nothing to everyone else, but I was a huge Worst Witch fan and we gabbed about it briefly, which made my night. I’m willing to fight for a story, but it is nice when meetings happen so easily, and the other party (celebrity or otherwise) is actually really nice about having a chat.

Worst interview you’ve ever had?
Interviewing Alicia Silverstone during TIFF. It lasted all of 30 seconds, and 20 seconds of it was her trying to sell me her book. It was incredibly disappointing to say the least.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I love PR girls when they relax. So many are high strung, sporting impeccably bleached teeth and a perma-smile. Girls (and guys), I know it is your job to rep your clients (I know). Get off your game once in a while and have a bit of fun with the media you’re working with. Some of my best PR-media relationships are with those who know when to be professional, and know when it is cool to let loose a little bit. 

Also, this is such a small matter because I know a lower case ‘i’ can look like an ‘l’, but my last name is NAULLS, not NAULIS. And I am a Mr., not a Ms. (which, again, usually just makes me laugh). My biggest pet peeve though is when someone follows up on an email the day of sending it. Yes, your email is the most urgent email I’ve received all day.


Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins
My favourite PR person in the world is Steve Sane from Sane PR in the UK, but that has a lot to do with who he represents and how awesome everything is—not to mention his entire staff must work around the clock, because every single time I’ve asked for photos or information, it gets to me in mere moments. I’ve waited days in Toronto. The girls and guys in Toronto know who they are, because they continue to make my life easier by getting things to me on time, and not harassing me by phone. Not everything a PR person represents fits in at Toronto Life, and I’m sorry your job requires you to pitch me toilets, but please learn that I do what I can with what is given—sometimes a turd is just a turd (to be crass).

I hate?
Everything. But really, I don’t care for people who insert French words into sentences because they’ve been to Paris once (or twenty times). I find that I read this a lot in fashion journalism, but a good editor will strike that out and recast it using the English word (or equivalent). I hate walking to the streetcar on a cold damp day, and I hate when I forget to pack my lunch in the morning. I also don’t like when people talk about their jobs all the time, but in this industry, there is so much one-upmanship, that someone is always doing something fabulous (well, guess what, sometimes I eat dinner in my underwear while I watch television on my laptop).

I love?
Brassy women and hilarious men (my friends), beards (hilarious beardos go to the top of the class), meta-jokes, plaid shirts, Happy Socks, Mark McNairy shoes, fried spaghetti sandwiches, Cruel Intentions, Home Movies (cartoon series), Archer, American Dad, Life and Times of Tim, ice water, dark denim, scotch on the rocks, a good IPA, 13 Going on 30 and Aaron Spelling, 

Reading?
I bet you think I’m reading Jonathan Franzen, but I’m not. I’m re-reading Tyler’s Cape by Darren Greer in hopes that my book club Literection (this is real) will re-emerge.

Best place on earth?
Any hotel with a gigantic king-size bed, and a mattress you can just sink in enough (while still being firm). The important part of this scenario is that I have zero obligations while I am there, so I can come and go as I please. This one time I was in New York, my phone died on the first night and I forgot my charger, and it was the best trip ever.

Dinner guest?
Dead: River Phoenix; alive: Brenda Strong.
These require no explanation.

Hero?
Other than Cara Pifko, Tina Fey? Is this as obvious as Rory writing an entrance-to-Harvard essay on Hilary Clinton? Because I don’t care. She has the best comic timing, and everything she does is relatable, no matter who you are or what circle of friends you claim to be part of. I’d also have dinner with her, but with Tina Fey we’d also drink bourbon and shoot pellet guns at stop signs.  

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I was playing Words With Friends pretty regularly with my colleague Fraser Abe (but we are both pretty good and just started to annoy each other—we kept the games going for a long time by only placing two letter words). Now I play Family Feud and Friends and Instagram pictures of my shoes and socks.

Pool or ocean?
Give me a lap pool to myself and I’m a kid in a candy store. I love just swimming and swimming without people bothering me (or fish, or sharks, or octopi). But really, I’ll swim anywhere, especially at night.

Voicemail or email? 
Always email me, unless the matter is urgent (or be like me and annoy your friends by leaving not-so-urgent messages on a Saturday afternoon). But seriously, I prefer emails unless we’re close enough to have each others phone number for not-work shenanigans. 

We`re Not Just Pretty: Susan Smythe Bishop

Susan Smythe Bishop’s career in the motion picture industry spans more than 19 years. She joined Alliance Communications in 1992, and worked on (to name a few) The English Patient, Austin Powers and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. She also collaborated with many high-profile Canadian filmmakers, such as David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Denise Robert. Later, Bishop was promoted to senior vice-president of Publicity and Promotions, and raised the level of promotional activity from a local market focus to fully integrated national partnerships.

Bishop joined Maple Pictures in 2008 as co-vice-president of Publicity and Promotions, where she oversees the publicity and promotions for half of Maple’s product for the Theatrical and Home Entertainment divisions.

Fun fact! Bishop creates event cakes as a side business and donates all profits to the Canadian Picture Pioneers, as a way of giving back to the industry that she’s grown to love. She’s even earned the prize of “Best Wedding Cake” for two consecutive years at Bonnie Gordon’s annual Cake Competition.

Twitter: @MaplePictures

How long have you been in your current position?
I’ve been working with Maple Pictures for just under two years.
How does your company leverage PR ?
Our primary objectives are to increase awareness of our product and to grow our brand. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including taking part in press junkets, tailoring national opinion-maker screening programs, developing fully integrated national partnerships in all media (with a heavy emphasis on social) that encompasses publicity, sweepstakes/contests and event marketing. We place heavy importance on partnership marketing and working with like-minded companies. With this approach, we can tap into each other’s resources, extend our promotional reach and benefit from each others brand equity. 
What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
I’ve almost always hired at entry level positions. Ideally, I think that’s how it should always work as when someone leaves our department – the person immediately below them should be able to take over the reins.
 
An interest in PR and/or a PR background helps, and anyone that has done an internship with a like-minded company would be considered for an interview. In my opinion, the amount of experience required for an entry level position isn’t nearly as important as the personality of the person we are looking for. They have to be a good fit with our team, they have to have a very positive outlook, be a team player, have a good sense of humour and have a natural sense of gratitude. We don’t want to bring someone in who will expect to be promoted within six months, and really shy away from candidates that appear to be star-struck.
Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?  
This is a hard question because there simply isn’t just one. I have learned just as much (if not more) from younger staff as I have from my previous bosses. My early experiences gave me the foundation I needed. Paying close attention to my employees has shown me that it’s so very important to have balance in your life and not allow your job to define you. I’ve learned to look for inspiration in everyone I meet, so anyone I’ve come in contact with may have unwittingly become a mentor to me in one way or another. I’ve even drawn inspiration from people whose behaviour is so atrocious that I secretly thank them for showing me how NEVER to behave or treat people.
What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?   
Well, it actually makes me laugh a little because as far as I’m concerned, I think we have a rather un-sexy career! Don’t get me wrong, I really love what I do (in fact, it took me stepping away from it for a year to really appreciate how much I loved it and this industry). But, it’s not as though we are constantly hanging out with celebrities at parties.  
Our job is to make talent look great to the press, even if/when they treat us badly (and some do). We’re the ones that get soaked in the rain while holding the umbrella for the actors as they are stepping onto the red carpet; we are the ones to make sure talent are comfortably seated at the dinner table and that their order has been taken, before we sneak to the bar to munch on bar mix. And, it’s not just about working with actors. In fact, that is a small part of what we do. 
It’s sometimes our job to work 18 hour days to pull off an event or a huge promotion without a hitch or to get that proposal polished and ready to present. It can be a really fun, creative and fulfilling career for sure, but you will never find me in stilettos on the job – I’ll be the one wearing sensible shoes, and laughing with my co-workers, as they are the ones I want to hang out with!
What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?   
For junior PR pros, I would say be upfront, honest and earnest with everything you do. For senior PR pros, I think there is so much to be learned from the younger people in our industry. I don’t believe that “I’ve been doing this for years, so I have all of the answers” really holds up anymore (if it ever did), because things have changed on the media landscape so rapidly. The younger PR staff are so savvy and can adapt so easily to change. It’s important that we learn from each other.
What do you love most about your job?  
I absolutely love the people I get to work with each day – I’m so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of smart and fun people. I also really love the challenge of putting together a promotional campaign with next to no budget; it really pushes and challenges me to be more creative. More than anything though, I have to say that watching the younger staff learn and grow has become a huge part of what drives me in this crazy business of ours. That is so rewarding and gratifying.
A little more from the fourth floor:
Designer:  Douglas Coupland.
Store: Anthropologie.
Book: Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.
Snack: Riceworks Crisps.
Season: Spring.
Sexy: A great sense of humour.
Inspiration: O, the Oprah Magazine.
Drink: Lychee Martini.
Motto in two words: Be Thankful.
Idea of perfect happiness: Just hanging out with my husband and our dog.
Indulgence: Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream icing.
Celebrity crush: Colin Firth.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @JonGordon11

Media, Darling: Sasha Tong

After working at MTV in the U.K., Sasha Tong moved to Toronto where she quickly landed a job at eTalk.  She’s been with the show for more than five years and heads up the fashion beat. Tong has been lucky enough to interview some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, including everyone from Oscar and Juno nominees to talent at the Toronto International Film Festival; she’s been afforded some pretty crazy opportunities. Tong also now writes a weekly fashion and personal advice column on laineygossip.com.

Twitter: @eTalkCTV

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
The most important way to grab my attention is with a pitch that’s quick and concise. If I have to read through a novel to get to the point, then I’ve already moved on. I know what will work and what won’t work for the show, so you typically don’t have to convince me. It’s really important though, that you know what eTalk features on a regular basis, so something like “how to wax your bikini line” just isn’t something I can feature on the show. Oh, and if you get my name right on the email, then that’s a bonus.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
I always appreciate it when I’m dealing with a PR company that can get me everything I need on a tight turnaround. If you’re pitching me and I like it, I usually have to move quickly, so the more organized and resourceful you are, the more I love you for it. Because time is such an issue, I also find it useful when I can just shoot the shit with the publicist and be straight up. If I pass on a pitch I don’t want to feel like I’ve hurt your feelings.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?

Hands down: when I’m stalked. I love a good follow-up email but if you start leaving messages on my work phone and my cell phone, that’s a quick buzz kill. 

My pet peeve
Please, oh please, put the email all in one font. When I get an email and everything is different sizes, I know you’ve just cut and pasted and pressed send. I don’t need to feel special, but paying attention to a small detail like that goes a long way.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?

Ninety-nine per cent of the time, the publicists I work with are amazing. You guys are talented, innovative and creative. So keep up the good work.

Meet Our Client: Katie Boland

Kate Boland was born in Toronto, and you may have heard of her – she starred in Daydream Nation, which premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, to critical acclaim. She’ll appear in the upcoming film Die (2011). Boland has previous roles in Atom Egoyan’s Adoration, as well as numerous other roles.

She has been nominated four times for a Young Actor’s Award, and won Best Leading Actress for Salem Witch Trials in 2004.
When she’s not acting up a storm, you can find her writing for such outlets as blogTO.

What do you do?
I am an actress, and when I’m bored, I’m a writer/student/filmmaker/overall lover of life!

How long have you worked with rock-it promotions?
I first met Deb on a photo shoot six years ago, and I was taken by her professionalism and grace. I love her so much, and I am so lucky that we’ve floated in and out of each others lives for more than half a decade!!

What do you love most about your job?
I think my defining characteristic as a human being is my curiosity. The world and people in it have always really fascinated me. What I love about being an actress is that I get to live inside other people, to adopt the way other people think, to find answers for all my questions. I love that I get to study people and relationships, while being creative. I also really love the wonderful people I get to meet on an almost daily basis. People in the film industry, actors, writers, filmmakers, are generally so passionate, fascinating, interesting and complicated. I’ve met the most exciting people and I feel I have a charmed life.

What do you like the least about your profession/industry?
Waiting for people to hire me! The waiting is really hard for me because I like to keep busy. I guess ultimately it’s the uncertainty. There are no guarantees that I will ever work again. AHHH!!!

What’s your next big goal?
Well, ultimately it’s to get another job, haha! But I really want to be on an American cable show, like Mad Men. I’d like to get my books published. I also want to find a Canadian novel to adapt into a screenplay. Do a play in New York. Laugh more! Have better hair!

Why is PR important to you (and what you do professionally)?
I think PR is hugely important to any actor’s career. Canada has no star system, so it’s up to the actor to try to create some kind of public awareness. Personally, I wouldn’t have my green card if it wasn’t for rock-it promotions. The American government needs to see press to think you’re worthy of working in their country.

Without publicity, I wouldn’t have been able to expand my career into America and I wouldn’t have the fantastic opportunities I’ve been afforded. Its all thanks to publicity. I also noticed that after working with rock-it, people seemed to be more aware of who I was and what I was doing. Also, it makes the day-to-day behind-the-scenes stuff WAY easier and more fun. I wouldn’t be able to keep everything together, to remember everything I had to do, without rock-it.

Any other thoughts you want to share about your public relations experience?

I think Emily Hampshire said it best, “I’d rather be a prostitute than be without you pimps.” I LOVE HER. Honestly, working with rock-it is one of the best parts of my professional life. I don’t know what I would do without you guys.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website:  She Does The City
Designer: Cabaret on Queen West.
Store: see above.
Book: A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
Snack: Tea! And these weird rice/seed crackers. So delish.
Season: Summer becoming fall.
Sexy: Swagga.
Inspiration: Kate Winslet, my family.
Drink: Tim Hortons, 3/4 coffee, 1/4 French vanilla, EXTRA LARGE.
Motto in two words: Keep moving.
Idea of perfect happiness: Working on something really exciting with really inspired people.
Indulgence: Clothes… so bad.
Greatest achievement: That I keep moving.