Professor and Marketing Guru—Dennis Erokan

Some people get more than one shot at fame. Take marketing guru Dennis Erokan. The Saint Mary’s instructor is known for his popular PR class and for his ground-breaking magazine BAM (Bay Area Music).

But Erokan’s time in the spotlight goes back even further—to his rock n’ roll days in the 60s and early 70s. “Living in San Francisco and having a fantastic music scene blowing up around us was so wonderful,” he says. “We started a band and toured around the country—had a fantastic time.”

His goal was to have a recording contract by 23, but when that didn’t happen, he told his band good-bye. “I worked for my uncle,helped run a restaurant, then came back to California to start a music business.”

In 1976, Erokan turned the music world on its ears, publishing BAM in a market saturated with music magazines, and giving it away because he couldn’t afford the marketing costs. BAM changed the publishing industry by being the first free magazine distributed at point-of-purchase.

Then, with the help of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham, he started the Bay Area Music Awards, known as the Bammies, to help push his brand. “Graham said ‘I hate award shows. I will never come. But I’ll help you,”’ says Erokan, and they brought in big acts like Santana, Starship and Creedence. With Erokan as host, the show soon became the hottest ticket in town and even the Grammies wanted to copy the format. “I was a musician,” he says. “ I wanted those heroes to play on stage together. The Grammies hadn’t done that.” 

Today, Erokan puts on a show for his students. His spring PR course plays on his expertise. He’s been on both sides of the fame game—as CEO of a quartet of successful businesses (including marketing/communications agency Placemaking Group) and as front man for a long list of Bay Area rock legends.