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Audrey Hyams Romoff, OverCat Communications

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Audrey Hyams Romoff and her company, OverCat Communications, represent an impressive list of clients in a wide variety of sectors. The public relations and event planning company plans events for health, beauty, lifestyle, retail, and entertainment industry clients.

How does OverCat combine event planning and PR?

People come to us to plan events that generate PR. We didn't begin as an event planning company; we began as a PR company that realized very quickly that events are a great way to generate PR. It became easier to go with our own team and do our own event planning than to outsource everything.

How do you attract media to your events?

We have to make sure that there is a hook, that there is something newsworthy [so the media will attend]. There needs to be someone for them to speak to—a celebrity, an authority—and there needs to be information that they can take away and say, "Here is something that will be of interest to my readers." In my world, we have to throw a great party, but we also have to get great results. Otherwise we fail at what we do.

What types of events are the most successful?

Currently, events are celebrity-driven. It was sort of happening slowly over the last 10 years and now it has completely taken over. You can have a successful event without a celebrity attached to it, but having a celebrity attached is absolutely the quickest way to ensure media coverage, to ensure that people want to attend. It is part of that whole aspiration thing.

How do you get celebrities to attend events?

If you are talking about local Canadian talent, then a charitable tie-in is the best way. Finding out what they are interested in, what is important to them, and whom they are associated with is one way of doing it, but the tie-in has to work. You have to decide what is important to your company—is the charity a good fit? You have to decide if it is important and consistent with the organization's ideals and goals.

Who designs your events?

First, any event concept is defined by the budget, and you need a [big] budget to do something fabulous. On a consistent basis, we work with Nicolas Pinney of Nicholas Pinney Designs, Peter Somers of Contemporary Furniture Rentals, or Rick Webster of Design by Rick. They are three people who understand what it is that we do and can deliver that vision flawlessly. We have to make sure that the event looks good, but we also have to make sure it is branded. They are completely brilliant.

How do you brand an event?

Many people think branding means producing signage in your corporate colours. That is not what it means. It is really about doing something different; it is taking the brand and pulling out the different elements that make the brand what it is. There are lots of things you can do with colour to reinforce a brand, without hitting your guests over the head with the logo and the brand name.

Give us an example of a theme you created for a specific PR event.

We had just begun working with Coty, specifically the relaunch of Rimmel Cosmetics London, which had been introduced in Canada the year before. We took over the York Event theatre space; this was just after it opened—you always want to find a place that is original. The event was about creating a cool London vibe, because that is what Rimmel London is all about. We created a nightclub—we had things like a London underground DJ, and the waiters were wearing Union Jack T-shirts. Since graffiti was part of the visual of Rimmel's campaign with Kate Moss, we had graffiti artists creating images on a canvas that hung from the second floor. We had things like chocolate mascara and chocolate contacts, and everything was done in red, white, and blue, like the drinks, to reinforce the imagery. We put graffiti on the venue's white sofas, so that when you came in you were getting the image but not being hit over the head with Rimmel London. Kate Moss's face was everywhere.

What is the most memorable event experience you have had?

A few years ago we did a party for 600 people for Isabella Rossellini's new perfume line, Manifesto. We did it on a vacant floor of one of the towers at the Eaton Centre. We created this fabulous environment, and had this unbelievable celebrity who had the most amazing media turnout I have ever seen. It was neat turning a nontraditional space into something fab. At the end of the night, guests took home white Christmas stockings that we hung on the walls with fragrances inside.

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Peter Somers told me to be realistic with clients. Everyone wants something fabulous, but some people don't know what fabulous costs. You have to be realistic; you cannot over promise and under-deliver.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I am a pop culture vulture; I like to know what people are doing all over the world and taking little pieces of those things and incorporating them into my events. It is keeping your eyes open, seeing what others do that is successful, and what they do that is not successful, and learning from them both.

What is the best lesson you have learned?

Timing is everything.

— Robyn Small

Posted 01.27.05
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