We are back for Season 2 of our series This Is How I Get It DONE, where we take a moment to interview members of the PR In Canada & Profectio community members to find out more about the person behind the desk, how they got their start, their current role (and everything in between). For our final episode of Season 2 we talked to Deborah Weinstein, President & Co-Founder of Strategic Objectives.
What is your current gig?
I am truly blessed as partner and co-founder, of Strategic Objectives to collaborate with my sister Judy Lewis and our awesome team of 30 plus PR pros to create innovative, results-driven, 360° integrated marketing programs for the big name clients and emerging brands we represent including KIA, Benjamin Moore, Groupe Marcelle, BIC, Jardin de Ville, Cashmere, Hankook and many more.
One Word to Describe your Work Style:
Infoholic: I have always believed that knowledge is strength, and this has powered my entire career, starting from my early days as a producer with Radio Canada International (Canada’s voice to the world), and continuing on throughout my life as a brand builder at Strategic Objectives. To be a trend spotter, and trend setter—both essential in my news-making line of work—you must be tuned-in to news, current affairs, and cultural events at “high frequency!” This means knowing news (both hard and soft news), as it’s breaking, which allows you to anticipate challenges and opportunities and to turn them to your advantage in a timely way. Nowadays, thanks to the Internet it’s free and easy to discover all of the latest and greatest trends, tips and tricks that are relevant, credible and engaging for your target audience—if you simply take the time to find, test, and try them.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today:
I was lucky enough to grow up bi-lingual in Montreal and to win the ACTRA Award for Nightcap (a daily CBC Radio Network show on the arts, including a serialized book at bedtime), in my first producer job. From there it was on to CBC TV news, current affairs and entertainment reporting, and ultimately to producing Thrill of a Lifetime, North America’s first reality TV show with my sister, now business partner Judy Lewis, at CTV. A huge hit—where Canadians told us their dreams and we made them happen for all to see on national TV—producing the show on a tiny budget taught us how to promote the show and make news that would grow ratings with local and national media wherever and whenever we were taping. We also learned how to convince brands and organizations that there was value in giving us everything from hotels and travel to complete weddings, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and celebrity appearances—including Hugh Hefner (long story), The Dukes of Hazzard, Wayne Gretzky, The Goodyear Blimp, and the RCMP Musical Ride—for FREE, in exchange for copious, positive, branded, editorial coverage on network TV.Our considerable experience being on the receiving end of bad PR while working in the media informed our opinion that brands needed help effectively positioning themselves and telling their stories. And when both Flare Magazine and Frank Stronach of Magna International co-incidentally and concurrently asked us to create PR news for them … how could we resist?! We had customers! It was therefore without hesitation that we hopped the fence from journalism and planted the seeds for what Strategic Objectives has become today.What made you start your own company Judy and I, throughout our broadcast careers at CBC, CTV and Global had been subject to too many poor PR pitches. We knew we could help brands tell better, more credible, relevant stories that would resonate with the media and their diverse consumer and stakeholder audiences. We started Strategic Objectives with a mission to fill a need in the marketplace for honest, newsworthy, reprintable verbatim brand journalism. We were also powered by a strong desire to be our own boss, and motivated to set new high standards for the honest and ethical practice of PR in Canada. Through the years our business has progressed to include everything from 360° strategy and crisis/issues management, to CSR, social and influencer marketing, experiential activations, and PPC campaigns. It will continue to evolve as new needs and avenues to reach target audiences emerge. We started your agency in July 1983.
When did you know you had a viable business?
We started our agency because we had customers, before we even had a company name. Our first clients called us The Sisters, but we wanted our concept to be BIGGER than the self-named PR agency model that was popular at the time. At Thrill of a Lifetime we did a lot of work with the military which led us to understand that achieving strategic objectives for our clients was exactly, and precisely what we were meant to do—hence the name. We made $30,000 combined in our first year. It was a fraction of what we’d earned previously working in the media, but we loved our new-found independence and power to create. There was no looking back.
What is a typical work day like?
The only thing typical about my work day is that I get up early and tune in to CNN for my morning dose of aggravation, while trolling Twitter for fast-breaking news, fashion, travel, beauty, economic and lifestyle trends that will affect our business and the brands we represent. Please tweet me @debweinstein. Since I’m ex-CBC, and a news junkie, my radio stays tuned to CBC Radio One all day long. My management responsibilities include the smooth running of the agency in partnership with our Executive and Senior Management teams, and all those business essentials such as finance, and HR.I attend weekly update meetings with our Senior Team to track progress, issues and opportunities, and participate in frequent account strategy brainstorms as the need presents. My media and influencer contacts are deep and built over many years. I am proud to still be a trusted source for what’s new and exciting.Writing is one of my key strengths and I love to spend time mentoring our young talent, editing and polishing things up. I also greatly enjoy client briefing and strategy meetings, and interfacing on a senior level. Knowing what’s up with the agency on a macro level helps me help our team manage better and more effectively. I am honoured to represent our agency at various speaking engagements and events; and to sit on the Advisory Boards for the new George Brown College School of Design, and the Seneca College Advertising program.How do you balance family – work? I am a single mom and raised my daughter, with the help of my close-knit family, to be a strong, intelligent, independent woman, who I’m very proud to say has a great job, that she loves, in PR. I never expected or desired a separation between my work and family life. I am passionate about both, and love conquers all.
9-5 is a LONG gone, what is one shortcut or life hack that works for you?
I take “me time” to reflect, recharge and rejuvenate my creative spark whenever possible. I practice Pilates three times a week and use meditation to alleviate stress. I love losing myself in a good book, movie, or TV show to take my mind off the everyday; travelling to new and exotic places; exploring museums, galleries and foreign cultures; and enjoying fine food and wine with friends and family.