Startup Publicist Q&A with Elliot Tomaeno, Founder of Astrsk PR


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Yes! So excited to bring you this interview with Elliot. Astrsk PR has worked with many lifestyle and fashion brands and startups, working with innovative companies (Frank & Oak, Tuft & Needle, Bow & Drape, GREATS Brand, Bib & Tuck, and Dagne Dover to not only get fashion/lifestyle coverage – but attention from tech and business reporters as well.

In 2013, Elliot was named as one of Business Insider’s best 50 PR people in the tech industry and on The Next Web as one of 50 people in the NYC tech scene you need to know.

Also, great news for job seekers: Astrsk is hiring at all levels and currently has an internship/entry-level position posted on PR Couture  here.

Tell us a little bit Astrsk. What makes it different from other agencies?

I founded Astrsk after working at PR agencies in SF, London, NYC and Paris — working with tech companies and startups from all over the world. My last job in NYC was at a PR firm called The Morris + King Company, where I was the head of consumer tech. I had an awesome team (ahem Elisabeth Rosario & Chi Zhao) and a beautiful office but wasn’t able to work with the kind of startups I wanted to due to retainers that the firm charged (many startups have a limited budget). I started Astrsk to work with consumer startups that couldn’t/didn’t want to pay that kind of retainer — offering clients the full-service agency approach but at a fraction of the cost. What else makes us different? We are all young (at nearly 29 I’m the oldest person here) and we tend to focus on bottom-line business results for our clients, even if “all press is good press” there are certain hits that affect the business more than others — we put our focus there.  We also don’t put a big emphasis on lofty reports or presentations — we think the focus should be on results.

Astrsk PR

How did you get started in the industry?

I did a PR internship in college at a liberal arts school in Switzerland called Franklin University, then another at Spin PR (in the events space) in SF after I graduated. I realized pretty quickly I wanted to get into tech and then transitioned to Ballou PR — a London/Paris based agency that did work with Facebook, Eventbrite, Groupon and a bunch of European startups expanding to the US. I learned a lot there and I think it’s where I discovered my love for consumer tech.

What kind of brand story catches your eye when evaluating potential clients? What makes an ideal client for you?

Brand stories are great, and to partner with a startup they definitely need to have a compelling one but I think the founders/executive team are the most important factor for us. We look for founders that exude passion for the space they are working in, founders whose energy is infectious. At the end of the day I think my whole team is in the business at least partly to be inspired by and collaborate with entrepreneurs that make us better, smarter and more hungy by association!

You’ve launched over 100 startups/tech products – how do you make it happen? What’s your motto?

We love working with both early stage companies and later stage companies. As a team we have all been working in the startup world for over 15 years and love launching new companies. Our motto: “the most important PR work is done before the first email to the press.”

Our motto: “the most important PR work is done before the first email to the press.”

What’s a recent success story you are especially proud of?

The recent press around our client GREATS Brand — with over 40 stories in the top fashion, tech and business publications such as WWD, Esquire, Complex, Details, etc!

Château Nordic: our client @frankandoak’s #NYFW presentation

Astrsk donates 10% of work pro-bono to help up and coming startups. Why is this important to you and how has it impacted your company culture?

We believe in helping startups that are making the world a better place and sometimes some of the best and most impactful startups don’t have a budget for PR. While we can’t help all of them we are always looking for our next pro-bono project. In regards to culture, I think this is just one part of what makes us awesome but an important one — it’s important to feel good about the companies you are pitching!

What is the biggest missed opportunity you see fashion tech startups making with their PR strategy?

The strategy part. Many fashion startups focus too much on product and not enough on strategy from the get-go. Having a solid marketing and PR strategy is something that is too-often an after thought for most startups!

Many fashion startups focus too much on product and not enough on strategy from the get-go.

What keeps you excited about working in this space?

The energy and the people! The founders we work with are some of the most motivated and creative people I have ever met!

What are 3 things that you rely on to execute your best work? (could be products/tools/people)

  • Twitter
  • Cision
  • Cocktails

Where is startup PR headed? How do you stay ahead of the curve?

I think a new company being called a startup is becoming the norm if you are young and doing things differently. I consider us a startup in many ways. As an industry I think ‘startup PR’ is going to continue to grow as more and more industries are pushed forward by new ways of thinking — often led by young people who never worked in that industry before. I think we will see more and more PR conventions thrown out the window — conventions that are more of a formality and processes that actually slow things down. I think staying ahead of the curve for PR people is all about being as agile and creative as the companies we represent.

Startups are here to stay and are going to affect almost every industry (including home, health, fashion, entertainment, etc). This is a really exciting time to work with startups!

Images via Astrsk Instagram

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