Rafael Azzi

Rafael Azzi is the founder of AZZI + CO, a luxury PR and Biz Dev agency with offices in NYC, Miami, and São Paulo. AZZI + CO represents some of the coolest international brands:

  • Rimowa – Luggage & accessories for the modern traveler. It was founded by Paul Morszeck in 1898 and is now owned by LVMH.
  • Sauer – Jewelry company established in 1941 and based in Brazil.

How did you start your own PR firm?

The PR industry is interesting because there’s tactics and protocols, but it also requires an innate skill that you can’t learn in school.

I’ve always worked in this industry. In 2008, I moved to NY to do PR for a fine jewelry brand Jack Vartanian. I later went to work for Tory Burch in international marketing. I was laid off in 2016 and began interviewing at other places. During the interview process, I realized I was tired of doing the same thing. I also didn’t want to create anymore Powerpoint presentations.

I decided it was time to start my own thing. I started AZZI + CO five years ago. My first client was actually my first boss. Today we have 30 clients.

I come from a family of lawyers and my parents always told me: do the right thing, don’t lie, keep following your path, and be consistent in what you do and it will pay off in the end. Hence my first boss being my first client!

What innate skill does a PR person need?

I say this all the time but I’m someone who will put my clients on the right pair of eyes. That doesn’t mean one person is “right” and the other person is “wrong.” You have to consider what brand is a fit for a certain person. Of course, you might present a brand to someone who says it isn’t the right fit, but you can always try again later.

The name of the game is follow up. We follow up all the time, with everyone.

For example, I have relationships with editors from a variety of publications. If one of these editors is interested in writing a story about interesting international brands coming to the US, they’re going to ask me about my clients & what I’m seeing. This is how you become a respectable industry source.

Do you need to cultivate a certain personality to work with different brands?

Now that I have my own agency it’s important to be true to my identify. I don’t work with brands or products that I don’t identify with.

I also don’t get involved in the production side of things with my clients. For example, in the US 14K Gold is more popular than in Brazil or Europe so I may advise a jewelry client to consider that when expanding to the US.

We also don’t produce content for our clients. We get the content, the products, and then spread the word. If you need help finding someone that creates good content, I know the best people to help and will connect you. I can connect because I’m your PR, right? I’m connecting you with the public that you want.

How do you build long-term relationships with editors and publications?

Be on top of your work and and your clients. Follow through with everything you’re saying.

I think the back office of PR sometimes gets a bit forgotten. This is what you said you’re gonna do, now do it. This is how you start getting respect. My follow-through is my greatest asset.

Editors come and go…they move to new cities, change jobs, become fashion designers and so on. Same with PR. You know people aren’t here forever in the same job, so you have to keep connecting the dots and building your company’s brand which also makes people reach out to you.

What’s something you grew up hearing that’s informed your career trajectory?

It sounds like the Nike saying but go for it. I mean what’s the other option? You don’t go, what are you gonna do?

I answer everybody who reaches out to me, and it shocks people. I keep wondering why people don’t answer each other. Is not answering the better option? Absolutely not. You never know where things can lead.

What is your favorite restaurants to take clients?

Sant Ambroeus is great. I also go to Il Fiorista, which is actually a client of mine. It’s a flower bar with amazing cocktails.