26,Director of event marketing and PR, Cornerstone Promotion and The Fader
Marisa Brickman, 26, is frank about her first impressions of public relations.
"It didn't seem that interesting," she says.
Brickman, director of event marketing and PR for Cornerstone Promotion and pop culture magazine, The Fader, majored in journalism and political science at UNC and says the more traditional-leaning lessons she received in college didn't quite prepare her for the path that led her to Cornerstone.
"They teach you crisis management because the teachers were from pharmaceutical and Fortune 500 companies," Brickman says, adding that she had to learn as she went along in the real world.
She expressed dismay that PR and marketing, situated in the journalism and business schools respectively, were so separated.
"I'm more interested in working with the non-traditional ways as opposed to the straight-up way of getting clips in the press," Brickman says.
Brickman recalls a college assignment where she had to create a promotional event for a museum. She chose New York-based art museum PS1 as her venue and throwing parties in the museum's courtyard as her event, to which, her professor said, "I don't know if that seems practical."
The museum's impractical summer courtyard party, "Warm Up," has been held every year since 1998, although Brickman is not affiliated with the event. After graduating from school, she moved to the city and ended up taking a high-paying, dot-com job that was characterized by that industry's paltry average shelf life.
When it ended, she met a journalist at an alumni function who set her up in various meetings. Brickman went on to work for Harrison & Shriftman in high fashion PR.
After a stint of self-employment handling marketing initiatives for Rheingold and Zoo York, among others, she landed a job at Cornerstone, where her job continues to evade the traditional paradigm. Brickman handles event coordination and publicity for the agency's magazine, The Fader, and most of the firm's product seeding campaigns, which entails promotional work for clothing and alcohol brands like Converse, Levi's and Red Stripe.
"She's extremely professional; she's never star struck, even though she's a fan," says Cornerstone Promotion co-founder Jon Cohen. "She builds real relationships."
Brickman marries the companies' products with celebrities and up-and-coming rock bands, and also has to run events for an independent music-focused magazine owned by a corporate entity, both of which require large amounts of finesse. Though, when it comes to product seeding, she admits she rarely encounters protests.
"Maybe 2% of the bands have had negative feelings about corporate America," Brickman says.
Cornerstone has an urban radio promotion department, the Cornerstone 1200 Squad, that would have been an excellent fit at a recent The Fader event. But Brickman is adamant about keeping those lines from blurring and the magazine and company remain separate. In a world where potential clients have such opportunity to be irrevocably misinformed about the demographic they are targeting, Brickman needs to be - and is - refreshingly honest.
Brickman recounts, when 23 and in charge of a $150,000 skateboarding tour for Sprite at Harrison & Shriftman, it ran out of money and a skating magazine she allowed to tag along produced an anti-corporate article as its coverage.
This earnestness is necessary when attempting "cool" initiatives like product seeding, because it fails if it's overtly corporate-driven and out of step with the ideals of the culture.
"Cool initiatives fail when it's the CEO on the stage [at a concert]," she explains. Brickman's dual competency of music knowledge and corporate instincts gives her the ability to find the right opportunities for Cornerstone's clients. "She can lock our bigger-brand clients into the right situation and make sure their product is presented the right way," Cohen says.
At Cornerstone, where the average age of employees is 25 and everyone seems to have his or her creative side project, like a fashion line or in Brickman's case, as editor of her own music magazine 'Sup, the environment could be combative. But she insists that her job is easier when everyone is entrenched in a creative scene. "If you're still forming relationship [in the industry], it's less difficult to stay on-top of trends."
Cohen says the company specifically strives for that environment.
"We're not a bunch of executives in suits, telling people what's cool, Cohen says. "We're smart enough to employ people who live, eat, and breathe that lifestyle."
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