It’s hard to imagine anyone in the industry who hasn’t crossed paths with Alexandra Lasky at some point. Having worked with seemingly everyone over the years, the LA based event planner and publicist is now the owner and founder of The Influence, a full service firm offering services in PR, events, and influencer marketing and partnerships. How did Lasky get there? We sat down with her to find out.
What brought you to Los Angeles in the first place?
I moved to LA almost 11 years ago full-time, but I had been coming out here for years doing events for the previous two agencies I worked for, as well as for leisure. From the moment I first visited LA during college, I have always loved everything about it. At the time of relocation, I was working at Shadow PR, and moved West to officially open their LA office. There were so many event needs for us in LA so it was a natural transition for me to make the move and spearhead their West Coast expansion. Living in LA was always something I wanted since I first visited here, so it was really just a matter of time. I cannot believe it has over a decade since I moved from New York.
What was your first internship back in New York?
Juicy Couture. I interned in their New York showroom while they were still an independent brand. There was no inter office email system yet and no smart phones. We would literally hand write and fax orders to different stores and retailers around the country and back and forth with the owners in LA.
I was privileged to get the opportunity to work with the brand for a few trade shows at the piers in New York, which enabled me to meet with all the buyers from top retailers like Nordstrom and Saks. Their PR agency at the time, Harrison Shriftman, would come by sometimes to pull clothing for photo shoots and editor requests, which was my first impression of what that whole world consisted of. It was also the peak of Juicy as a brand. I won’t date myself, but everyone from Paris [Hilton] to Britney to JLO, talent I have now all worked with in many other capacities, were rocking the matching velour sweatsuits on the regular.
What was it like working for a brand when it was peaking?
It was an exciting time to work for such a popular brand. All of my friends at the time were super jealous and would constantly ask if I could get them free clothes. While interning there we hosted a sample sale of past season showroom items, and they all rushed after work to come snag pieces. It was also exciting knowing all these big celebrities at the time were rocking the brand that I was interning for. To be able to learn first hand how a brand of that nature operates, what yields success, what buyers look for, was invaluable.
The excitement at the trade shows was interesting because I learned both about the complimentary and competitor brands that made up their specific retail space and I began to build my Rolodex. It gave me a good foundation while I was still in school. I was majoring in advertising with a sub major in Apparel Marketing and Communications, in the Isenberg Business School at UMass Amherst. After I graduated, I went back for just a brief stint at Juicy because they had offered me a job full time, and I saw it as a great opportunity to continue that learning experience. Ironically, I currently do work with ABG (Authentic Brands Group) on many fashion brand projects, and they now own the Juicy brand. Everything always has a way of coming full circle.
What was your next move?
Juicy was a very small office team at the time. They had a showroom and were mainly sales focused. Once I was working there full-time on the team, sales just wasn’t the avenue I wanted to pursue, even though I loved the New York team and the brand. After a month or so, I moved on to a boutique fashion and lifestyle PR agency called Fineberg Publicity. I had initially interviewed at ad agencies because that’s what my degree was in and that is what I planned to do my entire life since first grade or so, having been inspired by Angela Bower from Who’s the Boss?. The ad agency interviews were just not what I had envisioned, both environment wise, salary wise and position wise. A headhunter I was connected with instead referred me to PR agencies. After just one day of interviews at three different PR firms, I was offered the job at Fineberg Publicity to work directly under the president, Erica Fineberg, which I happily accepted. She actually reminded me of Judith Light’s character Angela Bower, so I knew it was a great fit.
Cut to a few years ago, and in either a pure manifestation of fate, or another ironic career moment which I seem to encounter a lot of, I finally first crossed paths with Judith Light at the 2017 Golden Globes as I was working on the red carpet. I introduced myself and told her how her role as Angela Bower had inspired my career, how I owned my own agency, etc. It was such a great ‘full circle’ moment for me. She was so lovely and genuinely happy to hear what I was telling her. She said that women have actually come up to her all over the country since the days of Who’s The Boss? to tell her they have inspired by her and how it encouraged them to start their own business or go into the advertising field, and how great it made her feel and warmed her heart.
We discussed how at the time of Who’s The Boss, she was basically the first female founding business woman on a popular prime time TV sitcom of the ’80s and how amazing it was for her to be able to play that role. There really were not any females who had their career as such a main focal point of a story line like that outside say Mary Tyler Moore, and then Murphy Brown, but even then, it was not their own companies. Especially not in advertising and marketing, which is such an exciting field to depict on television.
What did you work on with Fineberg Publicity?
I immediately started working on a project we were doing with the High School of Fashion Industries. I was pulled into a project which was honoring a fresh face on the scene, Zac Posen, and we secured his dear friend and muse, the lovely Claire Danes, to honor him. That was definitely incredible to experience at the beginning of my career. Following the event with Zac, we also did a project with John Varvatos. The main client I worked on was Jockey underwear. One task of mine was to handle the model go-see’s at our offices. I would coordinate the appointments based off their comp cards and work closely with the bookers to do so, which basically put me in a powerful role right away as the bookers all wanted to be in my good graces. Everyone was super friendly, and I was able to develop a lot of great relationships. It was very Sex in the City and I started getting invited to all the model agency parties.
Upon the model visits at our office, I would take polaroid pictures of the models, male and female, as they came in to audition for Jockey press previews, campaign shoots, and any brand needs. I would keep it all organized in Polaroid books and sort them based on who were the best matches for the brand aesthetic. I would FedEx the books once my boss approved them to the executives in the Midwest, because in those days, there was no emailing of digital images. We planned all the presentations for each season and each collection out on storyboards. I loved it. It got me thrown right into the mix of the fashion and lifestyle world. I was at Fineberg Publicity for two years working for the president alongside a team of about five people before I left and went to Siren PR, an agency based that was focused on fashion, beauty and lifestyle, but slightly larger with a team of around 25.
How was that?
Siren was another great experience. It was a perfect transition as I was really desiring to work at a faster paced agency, be involved in New York Fashion Week, and work on a wider array of clients. I immediately started working with different retail brands and an assortment of on-trend beauty brands. We worked on Project Runway with our client TREsemmé, which was an awesome partnership to be a part of, we handled Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty line, launched Steve Madden’s apparel collection, Burberry Fragrances, Kerastase haircare and more. My first event with the agency was at 60 Thompson with Moby and I handled VIP arrivals. It was exactly what I was looking for. I also was thrust into handling the PR for Lotus Nightclub in Meatpacking, one of the hottest venues in New York at the time.
I immediately took a liking to the hospitality side of PR, and excelled at it. And I used that platform to partner with fashion brands and other entities of mutual benefit to both. At NYFW, we produced a variety of shows each season, such as Nicole Miller and Toni Maticevski, handling backstage and front of house at the Bryant Park tents. I also coordinated to have Lotus be the mainstay bar partner in the main IMG tent for the week, which was perfect branding for them, and which enabled me full access to all shows. I also remember how excited I was to walk up the steps each day of NYFW at Bryant Park and enter the tent, and be handed the new copy of The Daily Front Row, and flip through the pages to see if our show coverage and bar presence made the cut. That was a special time in the New York fashion world.
How did you start coming to LA?
I slowly started coming out to LA as well on the regular integrating our brands into different events. This was also at the prime phase of the rise of gifting suites, so we were able to really gain momentum with several clients by participating in some incredible talent heavy events, before social media swept in and changed that environment. I remember arranging Zac Efron to pose with a candle backstage at the Young Hollywood Awards, then placing the photo in the weeklies, which then caused the candle to sell out.
What do you think the biggest difference is between the LA and New York in terms of events?
Overall an event concept still is created for a specific purpose and message the brand wants to convey, but there are way more events in LA just for the sake of events and networking, plus in this celebrity culture, with the majority of actors based in LA, it is inevitable that there will be more events here. I also think brands and people are just in general more excited about events in LA on a regular basis, while in New York its more specific. I was used to working events in New York where they would not start until say 10 or 11PM, and go until 2 or 4AM. In LA it is way more engulfed into your daily lifestyle and the hours are earlier for the most part. Events rarely ever start past 9PM, the majority start at 6 or 7PM. This past weekend I attended The Governors Awards, The Academy’s annual honorary Oscars gala, and the arrival time was 4:30PM for example. By 10PM, I was home in bed. That would never happen in New York. There are also so many more people here living an entrepreneurial/start up lifestyle and trying to launch brands, at least it seems that way. People understand that you have to do events to gain buzz.
The weather is also a major factor. People just want to be out and about, and there is no hibernation season. There are also endless opportunities for exciting partnerships here, as people just seem more willing and hungry to help each other and elevate each other, at least from my experience. In New York, my hometown, I obviously did tons of events and product launches, but it just felt more time consuming and corporate then in LA. People in New York also plan their schedules out more in advance and therefore you need to allow more time to plan an event, plus weather can significantly affect an event. When it rains or snows in New York, no one is showing up. In LA, I will literally throw together a whole event in a week here and it will be really successful. If you have the right components, you will still in a week’s time get influencers to come, the media to attend, social media buzz, and achieve the desired results. At my agency we pride ourself in our relationships, and essentially, if you know how to put on an event, then you know how to put on an event. And if you love to throw events, which I do, and my team does, then the passion yields the results.
What made you decide to go out on your own?
I had been with Shadow for about nine years at the time. I was truly very happy there and I loved them, the agency and my position, like family. I was with them for so long, and joined as their fifth employee, so I really felt huge pride in the growth of the agency and all the endeavors. Even though people had been telling me for several years I should go on my own, I always just accepted the compliment and brushed it off, however, when I was approached by my business partner Chad Weinman, a successful tech and e-commerce entrepreneur, whom I know through mutual close friends of ours, Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg, to start my own company, when a financial plan and proposition is sitting in front of me, it was something I could not turn away from. Within the one month leading up to that moment, five different major industry friends told me, “You should have your own company.” The exact same line.
I told all of them, “Aww thank you. I’m happy, I’m vice president. I am content where I am.” And they each then said back to me, “No. For Real. You need your own company.” Then I was presented to start a company. Eventually all of those people became clients of mine. I could not fight the signs the universe was sending to me, nor fight the timing, as everything happens for a reason, which I truly have always believed. I always knew I could handle it, that element I did not ever doubt, but it wasn’t something that I was even thinking about or actively pursuing at the time. But, when someone is willing to invest in you, you just can’t say no. I went home after that dinner and I could not stop thinking about this opportunity. After deciding to go for it, and with the blessing of those I trusted, I spoke to my bosses at the time to explain my departure, which was definitely not easy for me to approach, but I left fully on good terms and was grateful for everything I learned in my time there. I stayed a month to transition properly and wrap up projects, and then I launched The Influence.
The day that I announced my new endeavor, The Wrap did a story my move to launch an agency, which was syndicated on sites like Yahoo! and PR Net, among others. That was pretty incredible. I literally had three clients sign on within a few days. Word of mouth organically just spread amongst industry peers, contacts and through social media that I left and started my own company. I have always been very passionate about people starting new businesses, new brands, the startup life… indie filmmakers, charities, and different projects that may not have huge budgets but have huge beliefs. I saw this as an opportunity to work with many of these people and brands, and also put deals together for them. I have been very involved over the last ten years in talent and branding deals. That was something that I was doing more and more of full time for the last few years before departing on my own, and is a passion.
I love pairing the right influencers and talent together with brands to form more amazing partnerships and I love negotiating and laying out the brand deal elements. My mother always told me growing up I should be a lawyer for my determination and negotiation skills, and in a way, this definitely falls under that umbrella. By starting my own agency, this gave me the opportunity to focus on one off deals on the regular, which I couldn’t do in the position I was at. No matter how small or large the deal, it impacts and influences consumers, society, culture… and that is something I love being in the mix of.
What do you think you bring to the table? What is your specialty?
There are so many amazing publicists, event planners, talent wranglers, etc but we offer a hybrid model offering all of the above. We get hired for our event services, PR services, talent booking services, branding services, social media consulting services, influencer partnership services; just all of it. I see the full picture of everything that needs to happen and I am able to facilitate it from start to finish. I, along with my team, have know-how across fashion, beauty, hospitality, film, non-profit, beauty and wellness.
We are able to take on different clients across the board and find ways to integrate them together to the benefit of each other, which is something else that excites me. We are also able to secure different successes for different types of brands. I also work 24/7. I am probably one of the most dedicated to the workspace people you will ever meet. I can’t let an email go unread. I can’t not answer a text. It’s a blessing and a curse. Some days I want to just turn off, have a nice day without worrying about the emails coming in, but it is definitely hard, and multi tasking is just in my DNA. My job is to service clients so I’m not going to not handle what needs to happen.
Who are some of your clients?
Clients range for the most part across hospitality, fashion, beauty, lifestyle, film, entertainment, f&b, and non profit. We work with nightlife venues and restaurants such as global hospitality brand sbe on Hyde Sunset, Hyde Staples Center, Doheny Room, Nightingale, Katsuya, Cleo, Umami Burger and Mondrian LA, plus innovating new independent brands like DragonFly Coffee Roasters, Pizza Girl, DAHlicious Organic and Candy Pop, Rohan Talwar’s IB Hospitality with restaurants Norah and Margot rooftop, and James Beard’ Smart Catch restaurant Lionfish, among many other amazing spots. We are honored to work with fashion, lifestyle and beauty brands, ranging from small startups to mass retailers.
Our agency has played pivotal roles on projects and campaigns with Burberry, Forever 21, Nautica, Reef, Cover Girl, Wild Spirit Fragrances, Bed Head, YSL Beauty, Kiehl’s, Lucky Brand, Spyder, Aeropostale, FabFitFun, CFDA Fashion Trust, Rocket Dog, Prey Swim, Joico and more. We’ve been involved with activations at top film, culture and music festivals like Cannes, Sundance, Miami Swim Week, Coachella, Comic-Con, NYFW, Art Basel, Mammoth Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, the Golden Globes, the Oscars, and the Emmys. We support nonprofits such as Race To Erase MS, Together1Heart, and Rhonda’s Kiss, and spearhead influencer campaigns and celebrity activations on a daily basis.
What do you think you’re best at?
That is a hard question to answer, as I take pride in my work and feel I am skilled across so many avenues, but I will say one of my best qualities is following through on something from start to finish and finding creative ways and solutions to achieve a desired result. If something is not working a certain way, we find a new way to do it. It’s about being creative and thinking outside the box. Getting whatever you need to get done and often taking a moment to regroup and look at the bigger picture, assess the situation and figure out the best way to go about it. On the influencer side of things, whenever I begin a new brand project, I always get a few names in my head that I immediately see as a fit for the brand to match their projected goals.
98 percent of the time the client agrees with the idea. I then focus on securing those target names. I see instant alignments and then become determined to make it happen. It’s always very exciting when we can make the first choice for a brand happen and yield a successful partnership. Stars aligning is always a plus. Realistically, it is not always possible due to schedules and other factors, but you keep at it until you find another perfect match. You have to know where to be flexible when negotiating and where to draw the line of required needs, which is another great skill I feel I possess.
Obviously influencers are a big part of the business.
It is an overarching element to our business and yes, a huge part. Our company is essentially split into three facets; influencer and celebrity brand partnerships/engagements, PR services, and events. However, I would say 50 percent of our business pertains to influencers. Influencer brand deals, social media campaigns, influencer attendance to events, influencer seeding, influencer dining, etc. Our event work is either project basis events or proprietary events for our brands and venues.
For example, this past weekend we helped organize a celebrity’s Halloween party at our client venue, LA hotspot Hyde Sunset, which resulted in an incredible mix of influencer attendees, post press coverage, social media coverage, for an overall positive experience and success story for all involved. Last year we handled the launch campaign for Rocket Dog’s Cali Girl Collection. I arranged for stylist Chloe Bartoli to collaborate and design the collection for the brand in an official capacity. We worked together through the whole process with the design team. It was a year long project we worked on from concept to creation, and completed the collection launch with a grand scale celebrity and influencer event. We had a hand in all elements of the process; the influencer designer component, the event planning component, the PR campaign component and the celebrity seeding component.
How do you want to see your company grow?
A lot is happening on the regular. We always have new clients starting and are constantly being engaged into exciting new projects. Spring and Summer involved a lot of traveling for me for activations all over the country. I am constantly in Vegas, New York, Miami, etc. It keeps me busy, to say the least. As far as the agency’s growth path, I think it is key to continue expanding the right way and strategically. Continuing to find key players I can trust and take more off my plate is also key, so I can spend time on brand deals, big picture client strategies, overseeing events and PR campaigns. It is important to launch divisions strategically, with proper internal support and a streamline of services.
Regardless of growth, I want to make sure we continue to secure successful PR results and influencer deliverables for our clients. It is also always exciting when clients open new venues, launch new brands, premiere new films, and we are on hand to help with these expansions, launches, etc. Being a part of the process with clients, as a partner, where our ideas are incorporated from the beginning as a collaborative effort, is always incredible. We also love to support charities, as the growth of a charity leads to more success for their cause, and therefore more people being helped by their platform. It’s so nice to be able to play a small part in the growth of people and entities that are doing so much good.
Are you happy doing what you’re doing?
I love it. I love being my own boss and getting to dictate the projects we take on as an agency, decide where I travel to, the clients I work on, the events we create and support. I am very grateful everyday and it’s very rewarding! And I must be doing something right, as I am being interviewed by my favorite publication!
You can follow The Influence on Insta at @TheInfluence and @alilasky