Get to know Derek Ross, PR innovator who’s taking CIAA to next level

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Photo credit: The D2 Group

Derek Ross started working with the CIAA Tournament in 2006. He is the founder and CEO of the D2Group, a brand specialty firm managing and building the brands of artists, athletes and businesses. The firm currently serves as the lead PR and marketing agency for the CIAA Tournament that takes place annually in Charlotte, North Carolina. With the growing population of tournament lovers and partygoers that flood the Queen City’s streets, one can only imagine the complex planning that goes into making the CIAA a memorable experience. –shalmar brown mozee

What are some of the key principles of the D2Group?
Building brands from the inside out and providing a thorough level of brand building for our clients. A lot of people don’t think about the core of brand building or they forget about the core values of why they really started their company in the beginning. We revisit that foundation and make sure whatever we are doing it’s in line with the core vision.

What’s a typical workday like for you?
Every day is different. When I wake up in the morning the first thought is what am I going to encounter today. No day is the same. I usually wake up around 7-7:30 a.m. I don’t set an alarm; I usually try to get the rest I need. I start my day reading my devotional. I pray, and then I get my day started. Right now I’m focusing on CIAA. Every day I have to sort through emails on what we are doing from a social media, marketing perspective, and closing out events. We oversee all of the official events and at some point in time everything filters through us. Right now we are in the process of planning the 2017 tournament as well.

What’s your secret in balancing D2Group and all of your outside clients?
You have to have a great team. You can’t do it alone. There [are] only 24 hours in the day, so if you add 24 hours times a number of people, that’s how you increase your time. You can’t increase your own personal time. And I try to be intentional on setting aside time to work on my personal brand.

What’s one of the first questions you ask clients looking to build their brand?
Because what we do for your brand today sets the tone for what you want in the future. One of the first questions always is; what is your passion? If they have that answer right then, than that’s half the battle.

You have worked with Michelle Obama, Hill Harper, Yolanda Adams and so many more big names. Tell us about some of those experiences.
That’s the good part about working with a client like the CIAA because we get to engage with so many different brands and personalities. Hill Harper came one year to the CIAA Women’s Empowerment brunch. He was very humble. Yolanda Adams was very gracious. She came to the CIAA to do her morning show here for a few years. All the celebrities that we’ve worked with on the CIAA have been very supportive.

Name some of the talent we can expect to see at the CIAA this year.
I’m looking forward to working with Tank. He is coming, he also came last year. Lyfe Jennings, Vivian Green, Raheem Devaughn and Dwele. They will all be in the arena performing and doing a lot of activations. That’s the short list right now. There will be others coming in.

Describe the CIAA in five words for someone who’s never attended.
Thrilling, warm, community, legacy, and must-attend.

In five years, Derek sees himself taking the D2Group to new heights and continuing his partnership with the CIAA.

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