Toronto Influence: Omega Group

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When Massoud Abbasi looks at Toronto, he sees past what the world has labeled the city as, to its true potential. Massoud believes that Toronto can and will be on level with the world’s major cities such as London, New York City and Los Angeles.  He believes this with utmost conviction. This is why he founded Omega Group in July 2011. He believed that one of the key elements those cities had which Toronto was lacking was a cohesive nightlife and social scene where financiers, himself one, and entrepreneurs could mix with the musicians, actors and other top influencers in the city. This is precisely what Omega Group has been doing since then. Hosting celebratory and charitable events on a regular basis that bring together the city’s most ambitious and loyal group in some of the most unique and luxurious settings and ambiences the city has to offer. Massoud isn’t doing this alone either. He has a growing and dedicated and committed team of friends, volunteers, colleagues and Toronto enthusiasts who share his vision. Most recently, he enlisted the help of friend Fabian Garzon of Fabian Garzon Studios, a celebrated celebrity and brand photographer and up and coming film director. Having executed successful campaigns for the likes of Demi Moore and Ray Ban, Fabian is the latest element in the Omega Group empire and is taking the reigns in the group’s next audacious undertaking, a film about Toronto.

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A Film with Toronto Flair

Massoud and Fabian want to do more than just tell everyone how unique and influential Toronto is; they want to be able to show the world this using film. The goal is to create a uniquely beautiful and visual calling card for the city that showcases it from all angles: where the city came from, what it looks like now and what the city can and will be in the future. The project will feature many key individuals who have impacted Toronto. They include Jeffrey Steiner, CEO of New Franchise Media who is acting as the advisor for the project that Fabian will be directing and Massoud producing. The project is scheduled to be completed this summer and the hope is to premiere it at TIFF 2013.

With the film project in the works, Massoud and Fabian headed to The 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to network with Hollywood and raise awareness about Toronto and their film. Unlike Toronto (TIFF), Park City is a smaller, more condensed film festival making it easier to run into industry executives, influencers and celebrities alike. The duo built upon their relationships already formed at TIFF in the last several years where they were involved and were able to connect with key members of the film industry in LA and elsewhere.Being involved with several lounges and venues in Park City via Omega Group, they were also able to plug into the local events scene, bolstering their credentials both in Park City and in Toronto. Massoud credits the prominence of the Omega Group brand in Toronto to opening up doors at TIFF which has subsequently has lead to opportunities elsewhere to attend and be involved in exclusive screenings and private lounges such as took place at Sundance. In talking with Massoud, he told me about some of industry influencers and celebrities he and Fabian were able to rub shoulders with and chat to including Harvey Weinstein of The Weinsten Company, Brad Littlefield of Dream Cast Entertainment, Hal “Corky” Kessler, one of the most well known entertainment lawyers in Hollywood and several celebrities including James Franco, Julianne Moore, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Adrien Grenier and Demi Moore. James Franco was apparently the coolest, most down to earth of them all, though not the best looking one!

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The Future

Under the guidance of some prominent mentors and advisors, Omega Group is moving forward with their continued projects and events and quest of making Toronto a greater city. The group is already working on their next few events including one with the founders, Tyrone T-Rex Edwards and Brock Bryan of the successful all-things-Toronto brand 1loveTO at The Trump Hotel and Nico Bacigalupo of Converge Inc. at the Windsor Arms Hotel, in February and March respectively. Massoud and Fabian are also planning on attending the Cannes Film Festival in France in May where they hope to continue building their momentum in the film industry and of course promoting their beloved Toronto.

For an organization and movement only 18 months old, Omega Group has already proven itself and is well on track to transforming the city it so fervently loves and is passionate about. Massoud Abbasi is a man who recognizes the truth of the age old adage. It is not what you know, but who you know. Or as he likes to put it, if you build it, they will come. Judging by the growing stature of his brand and the ever increasing attendance at his soirees, he seems to know what he’s talking about!

#Toronto events – Chivas party with Aman #chivas1801 #vocab #vocabcommunications

CHIVAS

Thanks to La Brown Stylists for a yummy early b-day gift #birthday #treats #chocolate

PR in Hollywood

There were two things that caught my attention during Jennifer Lawrence’s Golden Globe acceptance speech: “I beat Meryl”— sacrilege!—and the fact that she thanked her PR company.

When was the last time that happened?

A few months ago, I was discussing Taylor Swift’s intensely thorough branding with an actor friend. I mentioned my admiration for her incredibly well-thought out package – ultra-approachable, yet admirable, girl-next-door. “What a clever girl!” I said to my friend. “You mean, what a great publicist,” she shot back.

I was barely days into my PR internship at that point, so I laughed and shrugged off the comment. But last night, Jennifer Lawrence’s thank you speech made me think, and put the entire office aTwitter (that’s my terrible attempt at PR/Social Media pun). Why don’t celebrities thank their PR firms more often?

There’s a very obvious reason for that; we operate behind the scenes. Anytime that anything happens in Hollywood, there’s a PR maven reaching out to her best media contacts with the first-mover’s advantage. I’ve found that the best PR project isn’t necessarily a tightly-controlled, media-trained client, but a publicist who can turn any event or crisis into additional brand goodwill.

These days, we humanize celebrities in a way we never did before – platforms like Twitter have pioneered an opportunity for celebrities to share their most mundane thoughts. Of course, this insight into celebrity life has been attempted before (as evidenced by They’re Just Like Us! columns), but so far, social media has been the forerunner of this potentially dangerous streak. Our clients, after all, are human – there’s no predicting what any human being may ultimately do. Even the most carefully prepped client can have an off-day filled with social gaffes and word vomit; things like that happen. The best publicists find a way to gracefully acknowledge the situation and make the world think they’re choosing to laugh about it. Though as much as we pride ourselves in operating silently, It’s nice to be acknowledged for our work.

Jennifer Lawrence beat Meryl? Well, in all fairness, she did (once). She’s been publicly portrayed as capricious enough to get away with saying such things. It’s also an amazing coup for such a young actor, so cherish it while you can, Jen. You’re good peeps.

Jenn Ng – @procrast1nato2

Los Angeles: The City of Angels & Gift Lounges

When I travelled to Los Angeles for the first half of this year I knew I was in for a once in a lifetime experience. As I sat in my friend’s L.A. apartment scrolling through internship opportunities (believe me, there are TONS) one stood out to me, the opportunity to intern at a celebrity gifting company in West Hollywood. The unique part about this particular gifting company is that it is completely private and by appointment only ensuring celebrities can come to the space when it fits their schedule and can be comfortable knowing that there won’t be press and sponsors pestering them the whole visit. I sent in my resume in the morning and by the afternoon I was setting up an interview for the next day.

After my successful interview I was invited to stay for the appointments that day to get a feel for the business and what my job as a VIP Host intern would entail. That afternoon I got a chance to meet Ryan Cabrera and Evan Ross. The atmosphere during their visit was really relaxed and the guys made it a really fun experience for everyone. Each month the suite has a different event (Oscars, Kids’ Choice, Grammys, etc) or theme (Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day) to support, coupled with a different charity. The charity chosen for the month gets to set up a display in the front of the suite and provides related items for celebrity visitors to autograph that are auctioned off at a later date. For example, the Fender Music Foundation had celebrities sign toy guitars and some cymbals.

Aside from the daily appointments in our offices, the gifting company also gets to on set to gift cast members. My onset visit to “Dancing With The Stars” this past spring was easily the highlight of my internship. We set up a suite in a across from the soundstage and had the cast (including the Dancers and Stars) cycle through on the eve of the season premiere. In particular, I hosted Gavin DeGraw, Jaleel White and eventual winner, Donald Driver as they walked through and picked out their gifts from sponsors. All three were lovely gentlemen and even tried (in vain) to teach me a couple of ballroom moves along the way.

Since our company has been visiting the set for the last couple of seasons, many of the dancers are quite familiar with our staff and happily welcomed us back. On show day we got to welcome past Star competitors into the suite for giftings before or after the live taping. This is when things got crazy with people going every direction, trying to get people into their seats or home without missing out on snapping a couple photos for social media and grabbing some key quotes, the lifeblood and marketing boost our clients were looking for when they sign up with us. This is also where I got the story of how I shook the hand of a man who has walked on the moon (Mr. Buzz Aldrin) and also where I ran straight into a member of my favourite boyband (Mr. Joey Fatone); once in a lifetime opportunities.

After each appointment I took all the photos and any product quotes and upload them to our site for our product clients. Simple tasks but they really make a big difference to marketers. It may seem crazy for some companies to spend so much to get their products into celebrity gift suites like the one I worked at but the reasons behind it are simple economics: spending the money to get your products into these suites will get them into the hands of celebrities, some of the biggest individual influencers out there. If celebrities like your product they will spread the word to their famous friends and also get photographed wearing it, using it or going to the store which will have their fans running to follow. So while it may seem silly that once a celebrity can afford all these products they end up getting them for free, it makes sound business sense for a company willing to make the initial investment to reap the ongoing revenue reward.

Overall my experience in Los Angeles was memorable and such an amazing learning opportunity. I have made so many lasting friendships and contacts as well as being able to meet talented people, some whom I have looked up to for years. I will cherish the memories I made on my first foray into L.A. living and am looking forward to the opportunity to go back (hopefully on a permanent basis).

Tarra – (@tlcm_16)

Social ROI: If Only We Had a Nickel

Over the course of my career at one of Canada’s top digital media companies, I’ve learned a massive amount. You see, I started out as a retail wench, waited tables, and even (unsuccessfully) got into acting. Now, working with a large portfolio of brands, and continuously engaging their consumer bases with exciting PR and marketing efforts is what gets me jumping out of bed excited each day.

The past decade has brought us so many advances and opportunities to achieve real return on our PR, marketing and advertising investments. Today, I want to shed a little light on the importance of social.

“What’s the ROI?”

A question a lot of industry professionals throw around when social is brought up. First off, for those who aren’t familiar, ROI is one of the copious amounts of corporate abbreviations meaning “Return On Investment”. There’s three ways (in my opinion) to look at the ROI of social, so lets break them down here:

1. Brand. Social has the ability to turn a brand into a friend. The benefit of using social as a way to communicate and develop relationships with advocates and fans alike is something that should be determined priceless. Never before have we had a more honest way to connect with our consumers, and really effectively listen to what they want/need/desire.

2. Impressions. I’m going to stick to Facebook and Twitter for now: Pinterest, Google+ and others to be elaborated on in upcoming posts.

In the twitter world, each tweet has an impression value. These values are calculated in a variety of different ways depending on the company, and what metrics matter to them. At the moment, there is not one standardized way of measuring the value of a tweet. Best practice with clients is to make sure you get a good understanding of their expectations, and use social measurement tools that will deliver them with the data they find valuable. I would recommend checking out http://hashtracking.org, and http://tweetreach.com as a couple free services.

Facebook is a somewhat simpler beast. Their analytics tools are fantastic, and you’re able to really dive into the data. Just make sure again that you find out what matters most to clients, and deliver that information. Also, keep in mind that vanity metrics like ‘virality’ are not what makes a campaign successful. In the interest of being transparent, very few campaigns go ‘viral’- and that should never be the MAIN goal. It’s important to communicate your content, and engage with the consumers and influencers that really matter to your client.

3. Dollars. This metric proves to be the most difficult, and (of course) the most desirable method of social tracking. Many companies are fixated on making money with social, yet no one has come up with a seamless way to make this possible. Sure, you can share trackable links on your networks – and hope that people convert into online purchasers: but is that an effective way to keep social networking social? This can sometimes be a challenging concept to convey to clients, and there’s nothing wrong with proving its validity through testing. Social definitely has potential to increase sales, but it’s arguable that social is effective in sales growth in the same way word of mouth is, and always has been. And let’s be honest: have we really ever been able to track the oldest and most effective form of marketing? Well, that’s another debate.

In the PR world, we constantly have to be on top of the trends and ahead of the game. The face of ROI in social will be ever changing: much like the networks themselves. Using these 3 areas as a barometer will help you identify just how much you’ve been able to deliver to your clients, and where you can help them grow.

Until next time,

@coryjstewart

Spotlight on Nadia Bashir

imageCommitted, beautiful inside and out, multit-asker and overall team player, our Nadia Bashir from VOCAB Communications is a blooming PR professional in the works.

When I first interviewed Nadia for a intern position at VOCAB, I could tell right from her first sentence explaining past education experience, (she had me at Hello. Hahaha) I know she was going to fit into VOCAB like an old shoe. After our 30-minute interview, I asked Nadia to attend one of VOCAB Communications client events to demonstrate what type of work we do a VOCAB.

That was a test!

I do this with most of my inspiring interns that want to work at VOCAB Communications. I ask them to attend a VOCAB event to see how bad they want it. I need to see the fire, the urge, the feeling that they would do anything for a chance to learn about the profession.

Nadia passed the test with flying colours!

I remember the day clear as yesterday. Nadia showed up after a long day of working at a pervious job and was all smiles. At that point in time when Nadia came over to say hi, I was running around talking to sponsors and getting ready to wrap things up. Now instead of Nadia just looking around and becoming a wallflower, she started up a conversation with the people around her, one of those people being Tony from Gafas Optical Shop.

Ding, Ding! Second test past! PR people are not wallflowers! We make the best out of any situation, generally that means by connecting with others.

Nadia stayed until the end of the night and then asked me if I needed help cleaning up.

Ding, Ding! Third test past! “Full hands in and full hands out” – there is always something that needs to be done at an event.

The following day I sent Nadia an email saying I would love to have her part of the VOCAB Communications team. That was over a year ago now. Since that day Nadia has grown leaps and bounds! No longer being an intern at VOCAB Communications, Nadia is now a coordinator and one of my favorite people to work with (pssst…just don’t tell her that! Heheh).

xo

@MissVOCAB