PR Interview: Meet Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, President at rock-it-promotions

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Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski started her business out of her parents’ spare bedroom in January 2000 with a phone book, a fax machine, and a lot of determination. Since then, Debra’s lifestyle PR firm rock-it promotions has grown to seven-figures in revenue and a few dozen employees and experiences working one-on-one with A-list celebrities like Gerard Butler, Emily Blunt, Morgan Freeman, and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

The Toronto-based agency has worked with top fashion and lifestyle brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas, Mackage, Four Seasons, Toronto Fashion Week and Debra has been the invited PR expert on MuchMore Music, eTalk and Global News, and featured in the National Post, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and more. Recent new client additions include the Guess and Adidas accounts in Canada.

Additionally, rock-it has announced the launch of its social influencer division, Fourth Floor Management, which now represents eight influencers from around Canada: Alexander Liang, Justine Iaboni, Deanne Wilder, Gracie Carroll, Daniel Ocean, Chef Cory Vitiello and Jill Lansky.

Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, rock-it-promotions
Luis Mora for Elle Canada

Name: Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski
Company: rock-it promotions
Title: President
Education: BA in Creative Writing from Concordia University
Instagram: @rockitdeb
Twitter: @debgee
Instagram: @fourthfloormanagement
Twitter: @FourthFloorMgmt

How did you get started in PR?

I worked for a now defunct agency as an assistant. I left to spend time with my mom who was dying from cancer and decided I was better at being the boss than listening to one. I was very young and determined and had nothing to lose. Turned out to be a good decision. I started the company over 16 years ago and haven’t looked back once.

 What is your primary focus these days?

I do it all from creating strategies for clients, to pitching stories to the media, to mentoring my team.

What is the mood like in the office?

The mood depends on the day and the work we’re doing, but we are pretty relaxed and like to have fun. We also work really hard and can be serious and very quiet sometimes. We work in an open concept space and it’s not unusual for one of our team to have their dog visiting. I have special treats in my desk drawer to win all the dogs over.

We always have a ton going on! For example, we recently wrapped Toronto Fashion Week, a press day with Chef Daniel Boulud, and a book launch for Food, Sex and You.

What is a recent success story that makes you especially proud?

I’m proud of the team every day. Every day they produce great success for the client’s we work with and that is what makes client’s happy. And a happy client means a happy me. As long as I know we have really, truly given our all, then I feel good about the work we do.

What’s been your most memorable moment in your career thus far?

There have been so many, but the year I broke 1 million in revenue was a pretty memorable moment. I started in my parent’s spare bedroom without any money, no degree in PR or business experience. Through sheer work and determination, I grew this little business into a big business. That was pretty cool.

rock-it-promo, best heath magazine
Client Fresh in the Best Health Magazine September 2015 Issue

Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?

My job isn’t glamourous. It may look that way from the outside, but it is anything but. I’ve always said, if you see a publicist in heels, she ain’t working the way she should be.

How is rock-it structured?

We have various account teams in our office (five and growing). Each team has a Director, an Account Manager, Account Specialist, Account Coordinator and Publicity Volunteer. Every person has their own job description which helps a lot with structure. Some people have additional areas they specialize in, such as social media or design.

PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?

Grow a thick skin. Shake it off. Have warm bodies to come home to every day. I have three of them and they love me no matter what, every damn day.

My job isn’t glamourous. It may look that way from the outside, but it is anything but. I’ve always said, if you see a publicist in heels, she ain’t working the way she should be.

What are three must-have tools that are essential to your job?

  • A great calendar
  • A phone with two batteries
  • Solid relationships with people (which isn’t a tool, app or product, but it is essential).

I also really like the app Breathe which allows quick meditations wherever you are. James Cordon Car Karaoke videos are also essential to lighten up the bad days.

What do you wish more people understood about your job?

This isn’t a ‘9 to 5’ job. If that is what you want, then public relations is not the right career path for you.

Debra, rock-it-promo, etalk
  Debra on etalk

What’s the biggest challenge facing communicators right now?

There is a lot of competition right now from smaller agencies who win business because they are charging too little. It is bad for any industry to have professionals that undercut their value too much. You want to win because you are the best, not the cheapest.

PR trends are always changing – how do you keep up?

I read every day – papers, magazines and online. I record TV shows. I am on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. I’m constantly researching and networking. And 95% of the time, it doesn’t feel like work. I do it because I enjoy it.

What type of person thrives at rock-it-promotions?

Somebody who looks at the bigger picture and isn’t always looking out for themselves. I love people who offer to help others, make others smile and who genuinely get excited about the work they do. I love it when I hear somebody say ‘YES!’ when they secure a great feature for a client, or are glowing after running an amazing event. That shows me they are meant to be there.

What would you tell someone who wants to be you when they grow up?

You can have it all, just not all at the same time. And don’t forget to hold on tight, baby, because life is going to be fast.

Thanks Debra!

 

Crosby Noricks

Crosby Noricks

Known as the “fashion publicist’s most powerful accessory,” (San Diego Union-Tribune) and the “West Coast ‘It’ girl of fashion PR,” (YFS Magazine) Crosby Noricks put fashion public relations on the digital map when she launched PR Couture in 2006. She is the author of Ready to Launch: The PR Couture Guide to Breaking into Fashion PR, available on Amazon. A decade later, Crosby is a successful fashion marketing strategist who spends her time championing PR Couture's growth and mentoring fashion publicists through her signature online course PRISM. Learn more about opportunities to work directly with Crosby at her website crosbynoricks.com

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