Nicole Maffeo Russo
With more than 15 years experience in the Public Relations industry, Nicole Maffeo Russo is one of the leading restaurant and hospitality publicists in New England. Her company, Nicole Russo Communications works with several restaurants and hotels in Boston and beyond. She is also a hospitality consultant at 451 Marketing, marching to the beat of her own success.
Your success in New England is evident by your notable client list. How do you juggle a work/life balance?
Does anyone really know how to achieve work/life balance? I am lucky that I work with such amazing clients and that I have such a supportive family. That being said, work/life balance is a farce. You just have to try very hard to always choose the path that will accomplish as much as you can on a daily basis and handle disappointment as it comes. In today’s world, there is no “turning off”, and people need to know that you are always accessible. The good news is that all of my clients are also my friends and we respect one another. They know that I am going to give more than a hundred percent to them every day and so when there are days that I need to focus on being a mom and a wife, they respect that. I have been chasing that work/life balance dream for 10 years now. I have tried everything- cutting back hours, changing companies, starting my own company, going part-time… There is no good answer to succeeding in finding work/life balance. Something always suffers. But, I am okay with knowing that is the truth and I have to just do the very best that I can every day and hope that it is enough. The good news is that I love my job, I love my clients and I love my family, so I am very, very lucky to be in this position.
You give women motivation to lead the way in the Public Relations Industry. What would be some words of wisdom to young women starting out?
My advice to young women starting out in PR is this: intern while you are still in college, be kind to everyone, read at least two papers a day (not online – go buy them), know who it is you are pitching and understand what you hope to come out of your efforts, and never underestimate the power of a handwritten note. Know what your clients do and believe in them. Become your clients’ biggest cheerleader.
The media are very busy and they don’t have time for long pitches, so make the first two sentences compelling enough that they would want to read more. Also, read their recent articles and understand who they are and what they enjoy writing about. Don’t waste their time. Go to lunches and events so that you get to know them outside of the office. Know that the media works harder than you do and respect that. You give them the ideas, but they are the ones that mold it together with research and words and themes. Always meet with other PR people in your industry for coffee because working together is a lot easier than working against each other.
Robert Casey, owner of Maggie Inc. has changed the modeling industry here in Boston in more ways than one. He has been a driving force behind the scenes at Maggie Inc. for 15 years. Three years ago he bought the agency and now Maggie Inc. represents over 400 models throughout New England. His reputation for success and great eye is something to admire.
How have you influenced the modeling industry here in Boston?
We are leaders in the industry specifically in that we hold ourselves to a different caliber than what is most noticed in the city. The bones of modeling is about more than what most people see. I think what has always made us strong is that we know our lane. I’m not trying to book a girl on the cover of Vogue or for Chanel runway, that’s not our client base. At the same time I’m not trying to just get our names in the paper. It’s about servicing the client base that is here. For the people that do have potential in the industry, we give them groundwork, train them here and if they do have potential to get into Vogue or get on the runways in Paris, we put them in someone else’s hands. That’s when they go to a major market. The agent works for the model, the talent are the stars. It’s not about promoting the agency, it’s about doing right for the talent.
What is the key to success in the modeling industry?
Professionalism and marketability is what it comes down to. Again it’s about selling product. The best models in the world are the ones who know that is doesn’t matter who the client is. Their job on set that day is to sell the product. Whether it’s a toothpaste commercial or couture gowns, treat it with the same energy and enthusiasm.
No matter how great looking a model is, if they are chronically late for a booking, that all goes out the window. Beautiful girls can fail in their careers because they lack the professionalism. I have seen many girls who have excelled further by treating it as a professional job.
You have seen many models walk through the doors at Maggie Inc. How has their success impacted Maggie Inc?
Our success is tied to the success of our talent. But different people interpret success in different ways. It can be wonderfully exciting that we represented Olivia Culpo who became Miss Universe and we have placed girls at Elite in New York and Paris fashion week, but what I consider equally successful are the girls who make a full-time living at this. It’s the girls that don’t necessarily gain attention and fame, but are consistently working over the long term. It used to be impossible to earn a fulltime living just working in Boston. To know the number of girls that we have been able to build up a repeat cliental for and a career base for, that earn a healthy living on their own, that to me is what defines success.
The Boston fashion scene is continuously growing and evolving. There is a thriving local fashion scene not only in Boston, but all over New England. Designer Samuel Vartan utilizes his film-Inspired ideas and the love of the 1960’s to create his lines. Born in Greece and raised in Montreal, he creates designs that complement a woman’s body, making effortless elegance easy. His clothes are sold in Boston, Rhode Island, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Montreal among other cities here in the U.S. and Canada.
What are some of your major influences?
There are several because we are dealing with two collections. We have a spring/summer collection and fall/winter. They are both very personal collections and they are a reflection of my life. Spring/summer is a lot about my life born in Greece and frequenting Greece and Europe. It’s called Mediterraneo, so the Mediterranean coastal lifestyle is fundamentally the main theme.
Fall/winter is about my life growing up in Montreal where I was in a band for about 11 years. It’s about my love of visiting big cities with strong subcultures; it’s called Dark City. Dark city is about the love of architecture, sky scrapers, art deco, the alternative subculture scene in cities like Montreal, Prague, Berlin, London, Paris, St. Petersburg and New York City.
Key influences are definitely travel, music and film. Film is my background, it’s what I studied and of course I target specific films. Attached to that is also my love of the early 60’s. I was born in 1960, so from a young age I knew what kind of woman I was fascinated with. Women like Sophia Lauren and men like Marcello Mastroianni, people of that nature, early ‘60s, European and Italian film stars, are inspiration.
What fashion trends do you think inspire Bostonians and how do you connect that with your own collection?
I think when you’re chasing trends, you lose your way. I like classic and modern with a nice mix of eclectic undertones. I’ll look at trends, but I’m not interested in making things that are in this season, then they are out the next. You buy one of my jackets and you take care of it, it will still be fashionable 10, 20-years down the line.
If you’ve ever dined at Boston’s acclaimed French restaurant, Mistral, then you may have had the pleasure of meeting Youssef Bessaoud. A veteran server providing an exceptional dining experience, Youssef has a long list of regular diners that come in to experience his friendly demeanor, warm hospitality and world-class service.
The service industry can be consuming. What do you do in your free time? How do you enjoy your days off?
I spend time with my wife. We have a lake house and I really enjoy nature. In the summertime I enjoy boating, cruising around the lake and basically spending time with my family. I have two grandchildren, with another two on the way.
There is a list of people that come into Mistral to specifically request you as their server. What does that feel like, having so much praise and appreciation for what you do?
It makes me so happy to know that I actually make people feel at home and comfortable. Whether it’s a business meeting or a dinner for pleasure, I always try to make sure our guests are satisfied and want to come back. My goal is always to make people forget about the day. After all, a night out is entertainment. Whenever I work, it’s like a play and I am like an actor, in the best way. I am genuine in what I do, and I genuinely enjoy making others happy. I refuse to quit what I do, because I truly enjoy it.
I have learned this trade while I was going to college in London, in the late ‘60s. I worked for a private club that opened back in the 18th century. It was strictly for lords and that’s where I learned this trade. From then on I worked in very established places. When I first came to Boston I was fortunate to be one of the members that opened the Boston Harbor Hotel in 1987. I was assistant manager in the function department and then worked in the main dining room as assistant manager as well. Then I was offered to get involved with Armani Café on Newbury Street. It was a very hip place. I am very fortunate to be in Boston. After experiencing other cities, I believe it is the best cosmopolitan city in the world, no doubt about it.
I have been with Mistral since inception, in 1997. Since it opened, we wanted not only to open a restaurant, but open an institution. We are successful because of our consistency in cuisine and in our service. The bottom line is that this business is an art. You have to have a recipe not only in the dish that you execute, but in how you execute service. Once you have that recipe, you have the key to success. †