Sasha Brookner: Sharing narratives and creating platforms for artistic voices

Sasha Brookner
Photo credit: Djeneba Aduayom

Name: Sasha Brookner

Company: Helio Public Relations

What inspires you to show up at work every day?
Inspiration comes from helping others pursue their dreams. I am a storyteller, and to put together these stories I get to work with some of the most imaginative and artistic people in the world from musicians, photographers, choreographers, painters and writers. It’s not always stellar — sometimes you have those off days when you find a client hyper ventilating at a photo shoot because they wanted vintage clothes and the stylist brought retro (I still don’t know the difference). However, overall what I do is rewarding.

How did you determine your career path?
I actually landed in PR haphazardly, by mistake. I was at UCLA working on a degree in history so I was in my early 20s and I began some internships to obtain school credit in order to graduate on time. I was going thru the various facets of the entertainment industry like A&R. Publishing, promotions, etc. Honestly it wasn’t that overwhelmingly interesting to me and I never had any aspirations to help other people live out their dreams on the red carpet. But when I was hired for my first PR gig I realized I was working with writers and journalists who were creative people like me. I began to enjoy helping cool stories materialize, sharing a person’s narrative with the world. I realized I could have affected maybe a couple dozen students in a classroom teaching them about the Great Wall of China but the media attracted such a strong following where millions of people could be influenced and amended from even just one story. I also don’t think my lifestyle could have been supported on a teacher’s salary – the Department of Education really needs to step it up.

Describe goal setting methods you use and how you evaluate your success.
You know sometimes I actually try to be a little fluid on goals. George Lucas once said, “Part of the issue of achievement is to be able to set realistic goals, but that’s one of the hardest things to do because you don’t always know exactly where you’re going, and you shouldn’t.”

I can relate to that thought process because there have been times where I’ve analyzed a client and discussed with them having sensible expectations, but being realistic can quickly become relative — one time we worked with a vocalist literally selling CD’s out of the trunk of her car but we were getting her features in like Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue Hommes, which would never have been an original objective. Having a paradigm of each account is important but a publicist also needs to know that with enough creative lateral thinking you can stretch your limits.

Another goal is not just acquiring press just for press sake. Quality over quantity is a vital purpose. Ultimately I don’t think evaluating success is formulaic per se, it shifts with each account and their needs.

Who do you consider your peers in your field? Who do you look to for support and best practices?
Honestly I don’t talk to a lot of my publicists peers or heavily follow what they’re doing at their various companies. Perhaps in the beginning of my career trajectory there were people in the offices where I was working that might offer a tip or provide a contact but I’ve been doing this for 13 years and at this point I can almost just go through the motions with my eyes closed. However on the consumer end, I do consider many of my journalist friends to be peers and I interact with them regularly. I’ll often run ideas by them to get their vantage point from the opposite side of the spectrum, while getting their thoughts on music, art, books, fashion, etc.

Who is your mentor?

Funny enough, I actually never had a mentor, I just kind of figured it out as I went along, somewhat hit or miss. Mentorship is relative and although I support it for others I just never found it necessary throughout my career journey. If anything I was probably mentored moreso by my family than people in the industry. I came from a long line of entrepreneurs. My mother ran a small business her entire life in Northern California; my grandfather owned a flower business in Providence, R.I. They taught me basic fundamentals of being self-employed.

How do you evaluate success?
My success comes from the reaction and gratitude I receive from clients, the fact that we obtain  so many of our clientele via word of mouth referral. I always tell people you can’t judge the skills or qualifications of a publicist based on the ones that get Coldplay on the cover of Rolling Stone or Halle Berry on the cover of Essence. Magazines choose their own cover stories anyways, but I’m impressed and see more success with publicists who can take lesser known talent and secure them major looks because I know it manifested from diligent strategy.

I feel successful when I can do what I do without compromising my belief system, I’ve been able to harness the media in order to bring more alternative/grassroots artists to the forefront, who may not have had the resources, backing or budgets to obtain the type of prominence. I’ve found awakening in working projects like Not in Our Name, publicizing benefit concerts to bring awareness to global imperialism and petition our government to remove troops from the Middle East, or working with I.S.I.S which in conjunction with NASA is helping make science cool in the inner cities. Lastly, I think success is the ability to cultivate leisure for myself.

Name three books you’ve read that you suggest newcomers in your industry read.
48 Laws of Power by Robert Green – Although the book in it’s entirety is problematic to me i.e. learning how to screw people over, be a fake friend to climb the corporate ladder, etc. but there are a couple tips in there I think are applicable in profession 1) Mastering the art of timing and 2) Appealing to someone’s self interest when you need to ask them for something.

The World As I See It by Albert Einstein – his thoughts on culture, science, ethics, society but more importantly his affinity for imagination. Being imaginative and inventive, coming up w/ new techniques when you’re in the marketing world is essential.

Women who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Estes – This is less about being business savvy and more just to empower young female entrepreneurs. It’s by far one of my very favorites books — simply about embracing who we are in our wild women archetypes. It’s a man’s world so we have to learn to be comfortable with ourselves as women and detach from situations that aren’t healthy. Many times these situations prevent us from focusing on our career and own livelihood.

How do you use social media?
Embarrassingly enough, not very well. I have a twitter account but haven’t tweeted since 2010. I do use Facebook personally and occasionally post article clips of my clients that I’ve garnered clients in the midst of my political rants but for the most part our clients promote their work individually through their own social media sites which I help guide.

For more information, log on to www.heliopr.com.



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