When I recently linked up with Ron Berkowitz, President & Founder of Berk Communications, he had to apologize. He was very busy dealing with clients like rapper Meek Mill and preparations for the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft. Such is the life for a sports and entertainment publicist.
Berkowitz created his company in 1999 with 1 employee and 1 desk, and aimed to turn his firm into 1 of the preeminent sports, entertainment and luxury lifestyle PR agencies. From the outside, he appears to be accomplishing that goal with clients that include Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Durant, Jay Z, D'USSE, Disney Channel and Tao.
I finally did grab a few minutes of Berkowitz's time and asked him some questions about the mysterious world of sports and entertainment publicity.
What do you think is the most important attribute for someone to possess who wants to make a name for him or herself in the PR world?
Confidence and the ability to make connections.
I started Berk Communications in 1999 after working for the New York Yankees PR staff in 1996 and Fox Television. In hindsight, when I went off on my own, I was taking a huge leap of faith - but I had confidence in my ability that allowed me to bet on myself. That's where the connections came in - I spoke to everyone, built my network, and worked my ass off. This not only built up my client portfolio but got me in the room with some impressive names, from A-Rod to Jay-Z.
What prepared you to go from working on publicity and media relations to running your own business, and what have been your biggest challenges?
Something I learned early at the University of Miami was creating relationships and building contacts. In the early 90s think about the power of that football team. So being a broadcaster for WVUM and covering the games allowed me to build incredible relationships which to this day still help me and prepared me to for the future challenges of building a business.
Using that network was a big help. I've always been fortunate to work alongside some great people, but also represent some high-quality brands. We're often known for our work with professional athletes and sports, but we also represent Michelin star restaurants, tourism bureaus such as Israel and business men and businesses like Michael Rubin and Fanatics.
How were you able to form valuable relationships such as your connection with Roc Nation and how do you describe the value of those relationships to the growth of your business?
I thought the backbone of every client relationship starts and ends with trust and the ability to deliver. From the moment we begin working with a client, we aim to produce immediate results.
Relationships with a company like Roc Nation or any of our clients is based on the work we do of course but also our clients are family and that is how we treat them. When I first met with Jay Z and Desiree Perez they both said to me, "If you do right by us you will be with us along time." I took that to heart. I knew then in 2002 that's how clients needed to be treated as well. These types of relationships are priceless. I wouldn't trade them for anything.
What are your goals with regard to expansion for the future and are there any specific projects you're currently working on that really excite you?
Our goal is to keep growing and building on what we have. We have an incredible travel practice, a great hospitality and lifestyle division and of course our sports and entertainment practice which personally I built and am so proud of the work we have done in that field. Helping these athletes build their brands and of course in times of crisis for them has been extremely satisfying.
What's it like working with a rapper like Meek Mill?
Handling crisis communications for Meek Mill has been an incredible experience. Meek has been unjustly incarcerated and subjected to excessive probation restrictions which have been heavily detailed in the media over the past few years.
It's been an eye-opening experience for me and my colleague Didier Morais, but that's why we are committed to highlighting Meek's case in the media and emphasizing the need for criminal justice reform. For us this has turned into something bigger then a Meek Mill issue; this an issue with our criminal justice system and hopefully Meek's case is shedding light on the change that needs to happen.