We’re Not Just Pretty: Andrea Grau

In the three short years since Andrea Grau founded Touchwood PR, she has
secured clients such as Telefilm CanadaAlliance FilmsEntertainment OnePathé
Alley Films
, Rhombus
VVS Films,
and several other independent Canadian and international producers and
filmmakers. Touchwood PR works in all areas of film and television:
distribution, production, festivals and events.

Before launching Touchwood, Grau ran the Toronto
International Film Festival communications department for eight seasons. In
this role, Grau developed and executed media strategies to position TIFF as a
leader in the industry, conducted in-depth media training for executives and
staff, and acted as ambassador for all programmed films. Additionally, she has
organized hundreds of media events including press conferences, cocktail
receptions, speaking engagements and seminars.

Prior to TIFF, Grau worked for Odeon Films, part of Alliance
Atlantis (now Alliance Films), as manager of publicity for seven years. In this
role, Grau oversaw the publicity component of all 60+ theatrical releases per

How long have you been in your current position? 
I started Touchwood PR three years ago but have been working in film publicity for 17 years.

How does your company leverage PR?

On film projects, we like to approach PR as creatively as possible. Rather than standard press releases, straight pitches and reviews, we dissect each project and pull out ideas and themes that can be pitched not just in the film section, but in music, style, life and news sections.  By approaching each project in a unique way, we are often able to garner much more interest from the press and public and give the film more wings. The first thing I ask myself when I take on a film is – ‘why and how is this film relevant right now?’ and that question generates a lot of great ideas.

You also need to know who you
are pitching and why. This requires research in a way that you can’t Google:
face-to-face interaction. Spending time lunching, talking and drinking with
journalists is not just fun, but it is the only way to truly understand what
matters to them. It is called ‘media RELATIONS’ after all. And making that
effort is half the work and the best part of the job.

From a crisis communications
perspective of the work we do, the best thing we do is react swiftly and
honestly. The whole idea of ‘messages’ is one that needs clarification. People
think PR is all spin. I disagree. All messages, no matter how well crafted,
need to come from a place of honesty. Otherwise, it’s just someone paying lip
service. And that is not good for any spokesperson or brand. We help executives
and filmmakers to be comfortable with what they are trying to express. A
well-thought out answer that you truly believe in can never come back to haunt

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?

A PR degree is not that important to me. PR skills like writing and pitching can be learned on the job, but you can’t make a shy person into an extrovert. I myself didn’t study PR; I studied film. I just have natural people skills and an innate ability to create strong relationships that are based on respect and honesty.

Passion for the arts is key.
If you are working long hours and don’t believe in what you are doing, no paycheck
will make it less painful. A good/calm/funny personality is very important.
Someone who understands teamwork and is not above doing menial tasks in order
to get the job done. In our office, we all lick envelopes and we have fun doing
it! Also, in my eyes nothing is less
efficient than becoming aggressive and rude when the work gets stressful. I
have never encountered a problem (and I have encountered many) that could not
be fixed with common sense and a cool head. A well-timed smile also helps to
diffuse a sticky situation.

gave you your first big career break?

Producer (and now friend and
client) Sandra Cunningham. I had moved from Montreal to Toronto to intern at
TIFF in ’95 and she was programming for Perspective Canada at the time. I was
supposed to be in Toronto for 10 weeks and because she saw something in me,
here I am 17 years later. She made some great connections for me. Because of
her referral I ended up working for some amazing people who have been very good
to me along the way.

What’s your biggest
piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?

Tough and kind need not be
exclusive of one another. You can be both and often simultaneously. Treat
people with respect. One, it makes life more pleasant and two, you never know
where your intern will be 10 years from now. You might work for her/him one
day. And people might not remember what you said or did to them, but they will
always remember how you made them feel.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that on most days my
work feels like my play. I love that the people
 I work with are as passionate about what they
do as I am. I love that we laugh. A lot. This feeling translates into the
quality of work we produce and how we approach not just work, but our personal
lives as well. I love that I get to work not just with the North American film
industry but also on an international scope. Film knows no boundaries, why
should I?
 I love being entrusted with
something someone has worked on intensely for years and bringing that to the
attention of the media and public. There is no greater joy than a front page,
above the fold article on a filmmaker no one has ever heard of before.

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

Social worker or psychologist.
Not too far off from what I do already. I am an information junkie and I love
connecting dots and fully understanding where people are coming from.

A little more from the fourth floor:

– I watch a movie almost every day.

I have three kids ranging
from four to 11 years. If it’s clean, pressed and hides my jiggly bits, I am happy. Once
I have paid for my kids’ educations, I will buy myself a kick-ass Chanel

Any stationary
store. I have a serious addiction to notebooks and pens. I collect them
whenever I travel.

Law Of Attraction.

Raw almonds.


A snowfall in
Paris while walking in the Montmartre cemetery, surrounded by poets and
filmmakers who have inspired millions.

June Caldwell. For a long time I had her
picture on my fridge to remind me of the kind of old woman I wanted to grow


Red wine in the
winter. Gin and tonic in the summer.

Motto in two words
Be kind.

Idea of perfect happiness
My feet in the
sand, staring out at the ocean, regardless of season; watching movies with my
kids cuddled under the blankets on a rainy day.

Chocolate covered

Celebrity crush
Guillaume Canet. Bradley Cooper speaking French is a close second.

Favourite tweeter to follow
– she’s an American film/fashion journalist living in Paris and she’s the
perfect mix of quirky and knowledgeable.

We’re Not Just Pretty: Deb McCain

Deb has over 15 years of experience in public relations and communications.  After completing her Master’s degree at the London School of Economics, she worked as a communications advisor to cabinet ministers in the Ontario Government before rounding out her communications experience across a number of sectors with Hill & Knowlton and GCI Group in Toronto and Hill & Knowlton, New York. Deb worked in-house for a media agency during the dotcom boom, and ultimately returned to Toronto to set up her own shop, launching Deb McCain Communications in 2004.

Since starting DMC, Deb has worked with many HGTV personalities from Sarah Richardson and Tommy Smythe to Peter Fallico, Suzanne Dimma and the original Designer Guys, Steven & Chris.  She was involved with the creation of
Inside Entertainment magazine and FQ Magazine (with editor Jeanne Beker) and has worked extensively with Canadian fashion brands Ron White, Smythe jackets and Dealuxe. Deb has substantial experience in Canadian television across a range of production companies and networks including CBC, CTV, W Network, HGTV, Slice, Discovery and TVO.

DMC works with a number of charitable initiatives throughout the year including CAMH (Unmasked Fundraiser 2008-2011), The Ron White Foundation (White Knight Galas 2009-2011), The Writer’s Trust (Gala Dinner 2010), and Casey House (Snowball 2012). Outside of the office, Deb stays busy on the home front with a husband and two young girls.

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

How does your company leverage PR (i.e. to generate press, to build reputation, to manage crisis communications, etc)?
We use media to extend our client’s brands. We look for opportunities to layer stories and create multiple points of contact. We know the right people to get it done.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member (PR degree, internships, etc.)?
Strong knowledge in the sector and loads of initiative.

Who gave you your first big career break?
Mike Coates, CEO of Hill & Knowlton Canada. He let me talk him into transferring me to the New York office. The rest is history. 

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Know your journalists and what they’re writing about. Read as much as you can and stay current. Some of the best pitches have a hook that ties in with this week’s news.

What do you love most about your job?
The thrill of the kill.  There’s nothing like opening  three newspapers on a Saturday morning and seeing our stuff in ALL of them.

If you weren’t doing PR, what would you do?
I’m a media junkie so I don’t know. Maybe work in TV? Or magazines? I should definitely NOT own a bar.

A little more from the fourth floor:

TorontoLife.com, Twitter, Dealuxe.ca, LaineyGossip.

Smythe – I’m biased, but I’ve loved their stuff since day one and probably have one of the largest existing collections outside of the designers themselves (and Sarah Richardson).

Again, biased…Ron White Shoes. But, c’mon, where else can you go and get a foot massage and luxury water (chilled or room temp) and get to try on things for hours??

Naked by David Sedaris and Catcher in the Rye both have a perm spot on my nightstand. Guiltily half-read at the moment is My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler.

Rainforest crisps with any and all cheeses.

Barry White.

My daughters Davis and Daphne.

Plenty of white wine.

Motto in two words:
Under promise/over deliver (take your pick but they are best together).

Idea of perfect happiness:
The sweetspot of the weekend – Friday night 7 to 11 p.m.


Celebrity crush:
Owen Wilson, hands down.

Favourite tweeter to follow: 
@j_knoxy, @debgee, @MissMarlowG, @shinangovani.

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.

We’re Not Just Pretty: Ashley Ballantyne

You might remember that Ashley Ballantyne used to work on the fourth floor with us, but was offered her dream job at Canadian Stage and hopped over there. We miss her, but it did give us the opportunity to interview her for our We’re Not Just Pretty feature.

Ashley recently joined the team at Canadian Stage, one of the country’s largest non-profit theatre companies, as associate director of communications. Ashley manages publicity for their annual season of contemporary theatre and public relations for the company as a whole.

With a theatre degree under her belt, Ashley left her homeland of Nova Scotia to study corporate communications at Seneca College, then got her first gig at a mid-sized Toronto PR agency, specializing in edible consumer products (mostly chocolate). In her spare time, she volunteers as a publicist for local theatre groups and joined the board of directors for the Toronto Fringe Festival.

After a stint with the lovely ladies of rock-it promotions, she was able to combine her passion for the theatre (and flair for the dramatic) with her love of communications. 

How long have you been in your current position? 
Four months! I am mid-way through my first season with Canadian Stage.

How does your company leverage PR?

PR is about sharing stories, and as a theatre company, it’s our job to tell stories – both on stage and off. We do this through a mix of media relations, social media and marketing communications. 

We’re very lucky to work with incredibly talented artists and theatre companies from Toronto and across Canada on each of our productions. So when it comes to media relations, we have a great list of stories to share about the work being presented or created and the varied careers of the cast and company.   

We use social media as an amazing way to get audience feedback, answer questions, share behind-the-scenes details about our shows and connect with the rest of Toronto’s vibrant artistic community. 

Our PR efforts are directly linked to our marketing and communications strategy – building awareness about a show through advance stories and reviews, creating collateral material like newsletters, programs and e-blasts, creating buzz by sharing media review quotes and audience feedback through online/print ads, and creating and sharing photos, videos and more.

Finally, word-of-mouth is vital to the success of each show. We work hard to build our brand in everything we do. In addition to traditional PR, we’ve created a series of programs that reach different audiences, from artist growth and development, to education and youth outreach to donor events like backstage tours and theatre trips.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
Experience is important. A PR degree or an internship are great ways to learn more about the industry, meet and learn from the pros and figure out what kind of PR you want to do. Being smart and savvy goes a long way (and sometimes, so does a little sass). That being said, energy and attitude are most important for me – if you love what you’re doing, and you want to be there doing it, then you’ll do it well, and it will show. 

Who gave you your first big career break?
Well, I recently found out that Canadian Stage employees are also allowed to audition once a year for our productions – hoping the biggest break is yet to come… 


I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked with some incredible folks, who’ve all helped shape my career. Dan Tisch (president) and Alison George (vice-president) at Argyle Communications were my building blocks – teaching me everything from the basics to the details and the drive you need to thrive in agency life. 

And Debra Goldblatt (who should write a book on all the brilliant things she knows) really opened the door for me when it came to connecting my communications career with my love of theatre during my time with the rock-it team.  

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Read the paper/magazine/website or watch/listen to the newscast/show you’re pitching.
Double check the details (twice) before you hit send.
Find a mentor or mentee to learn from/with by listening, observing and sharing in their successes and challenges. 

What do you love most about your job?
Tough one – this will be a toss-up: I love working with people, I love seeing a story about a Canadian Stage show in print and I LOVE that it’s my job to go see plays. 

If you weren’t doing PR, what would you do?
Please refer to question four (career break).  😉 

A little more from the fourth floor:
WebsiteSweetspot.ca, shedoesthecity.com, dailypuppy.com, TorontoLife.com and about a zillion more.
Designer: Valerie Dumaine.
Store: Charlie Boutique on Queen West.
Book: The entire Harry Potter Series.
Snack: Nachos & guac, chocolate chip cookies.
Sexy: Singing in the shower.
Inspiration: My family.
Drink: An ice cold pint of Keith’s OR a classic cosmo.
Motto in two words: Thumbs up.
Idea of perfect happiness: Relaxing on the beach in Nova Scotia (cocktail in hand, toes in ocean).
Indulgence: Mani-pedis.
Celebrity crush(es): Aaron Tveit, Ewan McGregor: Broadway babes who can sing, dance and act.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @2amt and the #2amt hashtag  and, biased, but: @canadianstage!

**Want to win tickets to an upcoming Canadian Stage production?**
Tweet us @rockitpromo and tell us where today’s featured PR pro works. 

One lucky winner will receive two tickets to see Saint Carmen of The Main, a tale of hustlers, hookers and hired killers, from Canada’s best known playwright, Michel Tremblay. The play also features killer costumes, including red leather costumes with eight-inch platforms – on men and women.

Think this video.

Congratulations to @ for correctly answering and winning the tickets! Stay tuned for upcoming giveaways.

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

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

We’re Not Just Pretty: Marissa Headley

I like long walks on the beach, candlelit dinners and dancing under the moonlight. Oops – wrong profile. Okay, here we go. Just a bit about me…

I am a Torontonian who loves living in Toronto but also thrives on seeing other parts of the world. I like to travel because it opens my eyes to new things, new ways of thinking and provides a source of inspiration.

In the past, I was interested in fashion design and art, but at the same time showed proficiency in science and math. I’ve fought a lifelong battle between left and right brain thinking.

Most people don’t know that I graduated from Ryerson University with a degree in Commerce and IT. After working in the IT field for three years, I realized that I needed to exercise my creative side and was fortunate enough to transition to marketing and PR.

This is one of the best decisions I have ever made. This industry allowed me to create harmony between my creative and analytical sides, which together can be a very powerful force in the workplace. I now work in the beauty category at Marc Anthony Hair Care as the Manager of Marketing and PR and it is an absolute delight.

Twitter: @MarcAnthonyHC

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

How does your company leverage PR? 
Our biggest point of leverage is our reputation as the go-to salon for celebrity styling. Marc Anthony and his team of stylists are great hair experts for lifestyle stories, beauty features and makeovers. Our high-calibre styling talent, product line and Toronto salons give the media an easy one-stop shop for hair advice, celebrity stories, celebrity, trends and products.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
In addition to outstanding social skills, I never underestimate the ability to be organized, to pay attention to detail (almost to the point of being obsessive) and a willingness to learn.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
My boss, the Senior Director of Global Marketing & PR. She is class all the way. She shows the people who work for her the utmost respect, which goes a long way when it’s crunch time.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?
These shows have definitely created more awareness about the industry, and I’m sure a lot of young people are becoming more interested in the field. However, as with most TV shows, they are only able to touch on the “glamorous” part of the profession. I doubt we’d ever see Samantha Jones and her team packing up press kits, updating press databases, sourcing materials or negotiating with agencies.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Love what you do and do it with passion. The best ideas come from those who are emotionally invested in what they do.

What do you love most about your job?
I love that no day is every the same. I also love the fast pace – the days when you think you won’t get everything complete but somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website: style.com, rachelzoe.com
Designer: Michael Kors, Tory Birch.
Store: Winners.
Book: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. 
Snack: Tostitos and hummus.
Season: Spring.
Sexy: Big hair.
Inspiration: All of the women in my family.
Drink: Coffee or anything hot.
Motto in two words: Don’t worry.
Idea of perfect happiness: A million-dollar shopping spree on accessories!
Indulgence: Accessories and anything shiny.
Celebrity crush: Leo.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @miss_marilisa

We’re Not Just Pretty: Emily Scarlett

After graduating from the University of Western Ontario with an honours’ degree in Media, Information and Technoculture, Emily moved to New York to pursue her dreams of studying and ultimately working in the fashion industry. There, she attended Parsons School of Design in the Fashion Marketing, Merchandising and Public Relations program. She interned at Marchesa, worked in show production at fashion week, and soon found herself interning, then working, as an editorial assistant to Glenda Bailey, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar.

In 2007, Emily moved back to Toronto and took on a position with H&M in the marketing and public relations department. In a little less than a year, she made the transition to public relations manager and spokesperson for the company. Most recently, Emily got the opportunity to travel to France and work as the PR manager for H&M France and Canada, to help open France’s flagship store on the Champs-Elysées.

Twitter: @hmcanada

How long have you been in your current position?  

Just over two years.

How does your company leverage PR? 
H&M is a fast-paced company where no two days are ever the same. We are an old brand globally (established in 1947), but a new brand locally here in Canada (only six years). So, we have a lot of work to do with letting Canadians know who we are and what we have to offer – fashion and quality at the best price.

We use all of the traditional PR tools, but really pride ourselves in our great designer collaborations, corporate social responsibility efforts, and our great events. We are really starting to work a lot with new media like iPhone apps, Twitter and Facebook, which is a whole new way of interacting with customers. It really opens up the dialogue between customer and retailer, and is changing the face of public relations and how we get the word out there.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
For me, it is really about knowledge, confidence, motivation and experience. The world is changing so quickly, and in our line of work, it is crucial to immerse yourself with as much information as possible. I think that being open to information, self-confidence and motivation can get you so far, not only in this industry, but in life. Practical experience is another great asset. Volunteer, intern, see, do – just get out there and get some experience; you never know who you will meet and where it might lead.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
That is a tough question! There are so many people that I admire in the industry. Most recently though, I got the chance to meet Karla Otto, who is a PR guru and owner of her own agencies. She was so incredible, because she has so much going on in so many different countries, but was so cool, calm and collected. She has a great understanding of the industry, fashion and events, and I really admire her drive and confidence.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?
Working in PR, watching these shows is like a fun vacation from what the real job is actually like. I think that these shows glamourize a business that is a lot harder than they make it look. I love my job and it is a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of work. That part of it doesn’t really come across on the screen and through the fabulous plot lines of sipping champagne and going to parties. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t love watching them!

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Stay up to date! It is so crucial to stay on the pulse of what is new, fresh and relevant.

What do you love most about your job?
I love that no two days are ever the same. I love working in a fast-paced and challenging environment where I am exposed to many areas of the retail business and get to learn so much. And of course the opportunities that exist to go work in other countries. It is amazing to be a part of the great global community that H&M has built.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Website: gawker.com, lookbook.nu, facehunter.blogspot.com, torontolife.com, CP24 and so, so, so many more.
Designer: Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent, Isabel Marant and, for shoes, Miu Miu.
Store: H&M of course! For fun things that make me feel like a kid again – Magic Pony on Queen West; for the home, Crate and Barrel.
Book: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is my all-time favourite, followed by Fall on Your Knees by Anne Marie Macdonald, an amazing Canadian author.
Snack: Anything sweet – I live for sugar.
Season: Summer all the way! I am a cottage girl to the core.
Sexy: White T-shirt and jeans. So simple, yet so cool.
Inspiration: My mother.
Drink: Morning = caffeine anything, all day = water with lemon, evening =  a good white wine or, if I am feeling fancy, a gin and tonic.
Motto in two words: No Regrets.
Idea of perfect happiness: A great summer day on the dock at the cottage with family, friends and unlimited lemonade.
Indulgence: TV shows for teenagers, designer shoes and bags.
Celebrity crush: Hello, Brad Pitt – I have been faithful since I was 12.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @hmcanada (obviously), @shinangovani (great for staying in the know), @lisatant (great fashion insights), @conanobrien (so funny).

We’re Not Just Pretty: Elaine Quan

Elaine Quan has worked in public relations for more than 15 years. After graduating from the University of Toronto, her career started in professional sports with the Toronto Raptors Basketball Club in 1994, which led her to position at a boutique PR agency, The Publicity Group, specializing in entertainment.  Later, in 2000, Elaine’s fashion PR path began with Hugo Boss Canada, before she moved on to Winners/Homesense. She happily landed with Joe Fresh Style and PC Home in 2007. She’s also had the great opportunity to work at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.  

Outside of work, she enjoys trying new restaurants and cooking in her own kitchen, good music, cute boys and driving fast.
Joe Fresh Style
Twitter: @JoeFreshStyle

How long have you been in your current position?
I have been with Joe Fresh Style and PC Home for almost four years.

How does your company leverage PR?
Joe Fresh Style is a new and unique brand with a dynamic leader in Joe Mimran. As a brand, we are passionate about bringing amazing, stylish apparel to the masses with great value. We use all of the traditional PR tools (i.e.: press releases, fashion shows, media previews) to bring awareness to our brand and products.  

We strive to think outside the box and create chic events that continue to wow our supporters, while staying true to our brand identity. Social media is becoming an increasingly important tool for us, and we are looking at innovative ways to engage media and consumers through this medium.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
Passion, hustle and adaptability. Passion and hustle go hand-in-hand. If you have a passion for something, most people will do anything they can to stay in that field and work hard in it, because they live and breathe it. I think many day-to-day job skills can be taught, but you can’t teach someone to be passionate about something. 

Adaptability is also very important. As most PR professionals know, our jobs can be quite unpredictable, and we need to know how to handle last minute changes and/or a crisis calmly and professionally. Thinking on your feet is an invaluable trait to have in this business.

Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?
I’ve had many mentors over the years, and the skill that they all possess, that I admire most, is their management style. They have been excellent people managers who trust their team, let them showcase their skills and provide guidance as needed, without being condescending or mean. 

Their ability to believe in what I can do over the years has definitely influenced how I manage my team. All of my mentors have been extremely generous in sharing their knowledge with me and providing unconditional support throughout my career.

What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?
PR has been glamourized in the media. Most people think that all PR professionals do is throw and attend parties and hang out with celebrities. What those shows don’t portray are the long hours and the tedious and sometimes messy tasks we have to manage. PR people are often the first ones there and the last to leave.  

That being said, it is still a fabulous job and I’m happy this profession is getting more exposure, so that people have a sense of what we do every day.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Be kind, professional and prepared for anything. It’s our job to make things happen and make it look effortless. Also, stay behind the scenes. It’s about the product, brand or client, not about you!

What do you love most about your job?
I love the challenge of working on something different everyday in a fast-paced environment with an amazing team of colleagues that make it fun. And who doesn’t love fashion?!

A little more from the fourth floor:
: YouTube.com, Funny or Die, Food Network and of course, Joe.ca.
Designer: Christian Louboutin, Brian Atwood, Michael Kors, Chanel.
Store: Neiman Marcus Last Call.
BookThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy.
Snack: Anything salty.
Season: Summer.
Sexy: Stiletto shoes.
Inspiration: My nieces and friends.
Drink: Iced tea on a sunny patio.
Motto in two words: Drive and determination.
Idea of perfect happiness: Great friends, great food and lots of laughs.
Indulgence: Expensive shoes and handbags.
Celebrity crush: George Clooney.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @shinangovani and @debgee – they keep me up-to-date on all the happenings in T.O. and elsewhere.

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.