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Sasha Brookner: “The ideal networker is someone who either genuinely becomes a person’s friend”

The ideal networker is someone who either genuinely becomes a person’s friend OR appeals to another person’s self-interest. I could say be charismatic, a good talker, salesman, etc. but really finding out what the other person needs and if you can provide it you have a much better chance of receiving and continuing that relationship. […]

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The ideal networker is someone who either genuinely becomes a person’s friend OR appeals to another person’s self-interest. I could say be charismatic, a good talker, salesman, etc. but really finding out what the other person needs and if you can provide it you have a much better chance of receiving and continuing that relationship. Also, Christmas gifts help.


As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry I had the pleasure of interviewing Sasha Brookner.

Helio Public Relations creates such a powerful synergy with the eclectic artists they serve, that the boutique PR firm has garnered a formidable industry buzz all its own. In less than a decade, HPR has catapulted its unconventional brand of exposing a diverse spectrum of clientele to mainstream, alternative, and urban media outlets to the center of the entertainment industry. Their star-studded roster of talented musicians, painters, choreographers, jewelry makers, fashion designers, thespians, producers, graphic designers, and spoken word artists, has swiftly gained significant strides in the industry, and that is a clear reflection of the innovative and holistic guidance of HPR.

Whether they are securing feature stories for their artists in high profile magazines, including them within advertisement campaigns, booking appearances on highly rated television shows, or keeping high volume internet sites updated on their activities, Helio Public Relations is continuously implementing cutting-edge strategies to expose unique talent to the world. They assemble some of the most talented writers, photographers, and stylists to emphasize their client’s work while maintaining a laser-sharp focus on providing exceptional service. HPR is cognizant of the power of product placement and assiduously delivers success-oriented results that get their clients noticed.


Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was studying History at UCLA and while I was there I was devoid of college credits so I began interning at various spots to obtain those credits with the sole goal of just graduating in time. I interned at LaFace, BMG, House of Blues, and just haphazardly fell into PR. I was just good at it. Back then we didn’t have e-mail options so you would just have to cold call editors but they all really liked me and after I graduated I was getting offers at PR Firms from publicists who worked with me while I was an intern. In the early days, I was just doing music marketing working with artists like Sisqo, TLC, and Usher. Eventually, I created my own path, my own company, and branched out to various other genres.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

I had was a young guy from the suburbs who wanted to be a rapper really bad, but he wasn’t that good at it. His father was like the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company and told me he wanted to “buy” his son a rap career. I was like cool I’m a social scientist this could be an interesting experiment. So I got his son the hottest producers, stylists, photographers, writers, video producers, Spotify promoters, etc. literally spent close to 500k and he still didn’t go anywhere. It showed that no matter how much money a client has if the artistry isn’t there it doesn’t matter how much incredible marketing they achieve. PR is just one component of success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Back in the late ’90s and early 2000’s we didn’t have e-mail options to reach out to editors and producers. We literally had to cold call them and pitch stories. I think some editors were really lonely and in exchange for giving clients coverage, they thought they could then talk to me for an hour on the phone. There were times I literally just left them on speakerphone while they vented about their personal problems. I learned that sometimes forming personal relationships in the midst of business will drain you of your time.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We work with South African vocalist Lira who I love so much. She’s one of the top-selling artists on the continent and South African music is so inspiring and I love the culture. We get to work with many African publications and the styling/creative designs for their photoshoots are really dope. We also have ventured into the tech industry and work with PopCom which is run by a black woman making significant strides in an arena mainly comprised of white men. The company creates these futuristic kiosk vending machines which are the wave of contact-less retail.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1. Sometimes you don’t have to tell the Emperor that he isn’t wearing any clothes. Back in the ’90s, I was working with this R&B group Vega on LaFace Records. I had booked them on Soul Train and they showed up wearing these gimmicky space suits. I immediately and without thinking said, “oh my god you guys look like aliens”. Nobody laughed.

2. If your client is a musical artist and invites you to the studio, know you will be very bored and have to sit there nodding your head to 100 beats for like 5 hours. Working with several producers I had the misfortune of having to participate in this activity.

3. Make sure you know who the make-up, hair, and wardrobe stylist is before you get on set. In the early days, I didn’t always check portfolios prior to photoshoots and once had a stylist bring an entire Goth wardrobe to a shoot which was supposed to be Hip Hop. The artist had to end up wearing a lot of their own clothes.

4. Music Video sets will be crazy. We had this one shoot at an old Victorian house made to look haunted and we told the producers to bring some small snakes to add to the aesthetic and ended up with an 18 ft python named Goldie. I was terrified out of my mind, but she ended up being friendly.

5. Get your money upfront. Too many stories to even begin on this subject.

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

The ideal networker is someone who either genuinely becomes a person’s friend OR appeals to another person’s self-interest. I could say be charismatic, a good talker, salesman, etc. but really finding out what the other person needs and if you can provide it you have a much better chance of receiving and continuing that relationship. Also, Christmas gifts help.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

For success, you have to identify your target audience for a client, tailor PR campaigns specifically to their craft or brand so if you’re working with an executive in Technology maybe you’re not reaching out to Music editors to try to talk to them about Cybersecurity and Conversion Rate Optimization. Definitely use social media platforms particularly Instagram, as Facebook and Twitter are becoming a little obsolete. Traditional PR may be coming to the end of it’s days so it’s important to stay on the cusp of where the people are spending their time and absorbing their news.

Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?

I read a lot, but nothing PR/Marketing related as I think once a book is published on that subject it’s probably already dated. I just finished re-reading one of my favorite book Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age by A.C Grayling and really it’s about finding mental peace in the midst of chaos and that’s important in a fast-paced industry like Hollywood.

Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Vote, Protest, Disrupt, and make your ancestors proud. Combine a mixture of Deontology and Utilitarianism in your personal life and lead by example, not rhetoric

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