The Man Who Truly Does It All: Dennis Erokan

bio-dennis-erokanBy Jaclyn Biggers

When someone has Bill Graham as their mentor, you know they’re doing something right. This couldn’t be truer for Dennis Erokan, current CEO of the Placemaking Group, professor at SMC, and founder of Bay Area Music (BAM) Magazine. Erokan’s passion for local music, gift for making people famous, and knowledge in Public Relations has left a significant imprint on the music industry. And he’s far from done.

Erokan began his journey as a musician, and when it didn’t lead to a career, he looked into starting a magazine. Erokan knew that if he couldn’t play the music himself, he wanted to give the incredible and underrated local musicians the exposure they deserved.

Curious about what it took to get started, Erokan did a little research at his local library. In 1975, the cost of starting a magazine was a whopping $2 million. Erokan simply didn’t have the capital, so he had the innovative idea of starting a free print publication, and charging for advertisements. It worked.

BAM Magazine was flying off the shelves, and Erokan had quickly made a name for himself and his magazine nationwide. Bill Graham, the legendary concert promoter, was Erokan’s mentor throughout the process.

“I went to him every Wednesday to ask him questions. And one piece of advice he gave me early on, which is a critical piece to the PR puzzle…is that, ‘It’s really important to get famous…to be well known in your community and industry. When you are, good things can happen’.”

And they did. BAM Magazine was widely successful during its 23-year run. The print publication came to an end in 1999 (it re-launched on the web in 2011), but not before inciting a pretty incredible change in the industry.

The magazine’s annual award show was called the Bammies, and centered around the concept of having different musicians and bands perform on stage at the same time. Just take a look at today’s Grammy Awards and you can see the exact same concept at play.

Meanwhile, Erokan has established an impressive presence in the world of PR as well. Placemaking Group offers public relations, web design, social media, and many other services. But one service Erokan is very strict on not providing is political PR.

“Political PR is based on lying…it’s based on spin. The integrity of my business is very important, and we just won’t associate with lying. If we played journalists, we’d never be able to get back that trust.”

Erokan stresses the importance of those in PR working in sync with journalists. PR is essentially “producing something you hope a journalist will be interested in.” Journalists then have the choice to use it word for word, use pieces of it, or throw it away. While many releases may end up in the trash, this relationship is critical to maintain.

“PR is available if the story happens, but journalists make it happen.”

Instead of using spin to make a story intriguing for a journalist, Erokan believes those in PR need to have a clear objective in sight for each story. The information must be true, concise, and the connections must be obvious. Journalists pick up stories based on what they’re interested in – hooking the journalist is the first step to success.

“The key to PR is if you use it right, it can be really, really affective.” Erokan mentions that mastering the various forms of social media is essential to this. “If you tell the right story with the right tool, great things can happen. If you tell the right story with the wrong tool, it can be a total waste.”

Erokan has mastered the tools of social media, PR, promotion, teaching, and many more on his way to becoming an unforgettable figure in the Bay Area’s music industry.

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