Steven Le Vine is the President of Los Angeles-based grapevine pr + consulting, a full-service entertainment & lifestyle PR agency launched in 2006.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My background is in Public Relations and Journalism. That is what I studied in college after identifying a natural passion for promoting the things I loved and sharing stories with those around me. I also spent a few years as a writer, reviewing albums from artists such as Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, Rufus Wainwright, and Green Day, and conducting interviews with local musicians and restaurant owners for various magazines.
I also served as co-founder and co-chair of my hometown municipality’s first-ever Community Information Committee, acting as the communications liaison between the local government and the surrounding media to bring relevant news about town goings-on to those in the community.
For the last 14 years, I have served as president of grapevine pr + consulting, the lifestyle and entertainment PR agency I founded, based in Los Angeles, with offices in Austin and Nashville, focused on serving clients across myriad spaces – from arts and entertainment to fashion & beauty, luxury lifestyle, health & wellness, hospitality & travel, consumer retail, tech and manufacturing, B2B, non-profits and a plethora of other distinct and wide-ranging verticals.
In 2007, we also became one of the first PR firms catering to LGBTQ+ clients and media, with a special division continuing to focus on that market.
Some of our more well-known clients have or currently include actor and philanthropist William Shatner, Grammy Award-winning recording artist Lisa Loeb, actor and HIV/AIDS activist Daniel Pintauro (ABC’s Who’s The Boss?), acclaimed actor, host and filmmaker Yuval David (ABC’s ‘What Would You Do?’ ‘Madam Secretary’), multi-platinum alt-rock darling Heather Nova, rock/metal musician and longtime Madonna guitarist Monte Pittman, iconic American couturier Ralph Rucci, Caesars Entertainment, P.F. Chang’s and more.
2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
What makes what I do so exciting and dynamic is that every single day is never at all like the next. One day might find me at the computer from early in the morning until very late at night, sending out client pitches to hundreds of outlets, writing press releases and other copy, speaking on the phone with reporters, and doing general outreach or follow-ups on behalf of clients.
The next day could find me traveling from one broadcast studio to the next for a full day of client TV and radio appearances, going over talking points, making sure the producers and client have everything they need to make for a successful press appearance.
Another day could be going over strategy, liaising with a media coach, or escorting a client down the red carpet for an event, or could have me speaking on a panel, or managing a launch event, or simply enjoying cocktails with a client at a nice restaurant.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Absolutely. Unless there is a specific event, press engagement or in-person meeting I must attend in a precise location, I can really do what I do from anywhere on the globe.
Clients always come first, so whether I am overseas in an entirely different time-zone, in-flight across the country, or visiting another city or office, if I have my laptop, my cellphone and wifi access, I can do what I do from anywhere at any time, and I do.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?
I use programs and apps like Wunderlist, Slack, Dropbox and G Suite Business to track and manage all tasks on behalf of clients, streamline communication, and keep information organized and in one place where both clients as well as myself and those working alongside me can access and edit documents and assets at any time.
I also leverage the power of Cision’s Media Database to locate, identify and target all relevant contacts within the media, while doing outreach on behalf of clients.
5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
There’s the adage that says that if you do what you love, it’s never work. I’m grateful to have found both a calling that is a natural fit, and the ability to carve out a space within the industry that allows me to be at the helm for my own and my clients’ brands, and I am incredibly grateful for that.
Work and life basically blend, repeatedly undulating among each other, to where they are basically indistinguishable. My life is my work, and my work is my life.
There are times however when these two threads do separate a bit, and in order to keep them balanced, I do things such as practice meditation – soundbaths and aromatherapy, especially; go for massages; spend time with family and friends; try new foods, go on walks with music, travel, and try new things, whether that’s painting, taking flying lessons, cooking, making hot sauce, writing or journaling, and on and on.
Whatever it is that gets me out of my head and stale routines, so that I can clean the slate and allow new ideas and perspectives to flow.
6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
What I have found over the last couple of years., especially, is the importance of allowing myself to enjoy the journey for what it is and where I am at a given time, and rather than constantly striving for more or for ‘bigger,’ whatever that may mean, focusing on striving for different instead.
My most memorable and most enjoyable experiences in my career and business so far haven’t been when things were busier or when business has been more financially lucrative, but rather have been when I’ve done things that at one time were new and different, or just special and personally and professionally fulfilling, such as:
- rolling out and managing a successful press campaign for a client
- getting to see clients excited or even in tears of gratitude because of a specific press procurement that makes them feel ‘seen’ for the good they’re doing or their inimitable talents and hard work
- traveling overseas and getting to work with children and adults in Africa
- being part of helping to grow a client’s brand from the ground up
- strategizing and rolling out a new album release
- going on a major world tour
- helping to launch a nightclub in Las Vegas or a restaurant in New York, or
- simply building long-lasting friendships and collaborating with those I have admired for years or have met along the way.
These are just some of the experiences over the years that have stuck with me – and have osmotically penetrated from the ‘professional’ side through to the ‘personal’ side – and put a smile of gratitude and even sent a chill up my spine, much more than cashing any check. It is why I do what I do.
If I can make a positive difference in someone’s career and life, especially someone whose own work and path impacted me and helped set me on my own journey, I am deeply fulfilled. That’s success for me.
7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
I have found that the books that have helped me improve are stories and lessons from those who have – against all odds and in spite of naysayers – carved a special path that has positively impacted the world in some way.
Some of my favorite books have been Richard Branson’s Business Stripped Bare, Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala and Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want. Other books that have impacted me positively have been Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Robert A. Glover’s No More Mr. Nice Guy, and Pedram Shojai’s The Urban Monk.
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I listen. If I only ‘hear’ and don’t actively listen intently and engage with a client, member of the media, or anyone with whom I’m interacting, I’m wasting their time as well as my own.
If you are truly listening, you can become privy to a lot of critical information that sits below the surface; much more than just what someone is telling you, you can find out what someone really cares about, what drives someone, and professionally, where to focus your efforts in a way that will mean something to them.
I have found that the most important thing is to show someone you genuinely care. Sincerity goes a very long way. Eye contact, listening actively, engaging enthusiastically or at least honestly, communicating frequently, and being open and collaborative.
I honestly feel that it’s the most important asset or value I personally bring to the table beyond just my PR and strategy skills and the media contacts I build, and what has allowed me to successfully remain serving in this space and capacity and grow over the last 14 years.
People want to know you’re listening to them, that you’re validating them, and most importantly that you see them, and in the case of a publicist such as myself, that I’m not just providing a transactional service, but in fact care about them professionally and personally, and want to see them succeed because I’m right there along with them on the journey.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
The definition of ‘work’ is any mental or physical activity done in order to achieve a result. We breathe, right? We engage in a physical activity every second of every day to achieve a result – that is, to live – without even realizing it. Life is merely existence, but another way of looking at it is that it’s a journey. It’s whatever you make of it – there is no value, per se, other than how you measure it.
Society – especially Western society – puts ‘work’ in a negative column – that it’s essentially a chore that must be carried out every day in order to have the opportunity to enjoy life. But if it’s a chore to you, stop right there because you’re already in the wrong place.
Work is part of life, and life is part of work. If you are unfulfilled in either – you need to make a major change, because they should ultimately be interchangeable.
Similarly, ‘success’ could be argued the same way. There is no real way of measuring success that is definite and universal, because it’s subjective.
For one person, success may be getting out of bed to brush their teeth in the morning, and for another it might be making two billion dollars a year, owning multiple yachts, private jets, and six homes. The person who is getting out of bed may be happier with their success than the individual who has successfully achieved attaining everything they want materialistically and still don’t feel fulfilled.
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