Behind every rising star is a team that shoots them to the top! Meet PR Strategist Laverne Thomas, who’s sharing with us her top tips on how to make it in PR AND how she juggles her international schedule helping artists take their journey to the next level.
What inspired you to become a strategist, diving into the world of PR, Digital Marketing and Artist Management?
I graduated in law and politics and practiced law for a few years after graduating. As much as I appreciated the legal world I realised that it was legal theory that I appreciated and that daily legal practice was not as exciting as I hoped. The day-to-day practice was actually starting to become quite routine and I realized I wasn’t passionate about legal practice. My mum took ill whilst I was practicing and I began helping out with her catering start up developing a growth strategy. This was my first real experience in a start up and gave me a taste for working within and for start-ups. I then started to consult for and then eventually manage an Instagram photographer helping him to develop project proposals for brands. We secured some great contracts with leading brands such as Adidas, Audi, Coach and I realized that there was a creative side to business that I soon became hooked on. As brand manager and strategist I work for a personal brands as well as companies to assist them in setting goals and working at the best strategies to achieving said goals but for the most part my job involves finding solutions to problems.
What is the best and worst thing about your job?
The absolute best thing is that no two days are the same and because of this I am constantly learning and evolving and get to travel quite often.
There has been so much to learn about changes in digital media from social media platforms and how artists can use them to the development and promotion of various forms of artistry on various platforms both online and offline. I have had to get my head around everything from music licensing and publishing to working with galleries and art dealers and given that I am a bit of an education junkie who also gets bored quite easily the role that I have found myself in as absolutely perfect for me.
The worst thing would have to be the common issue of self-employment in a start up company which is the lack of a regular salary, it can be quite stressful at times and was a challenge particularly within the first 12 months of operations.
What is your favourite motivational quote?
Can I cheat and have two? “If your ideas do not scare you they are not big enough”. (unknown) I firmly believe that a little fear is the perfect catalyst to propel you to excellence, that slight anxiety may keep you up at night but you’ll work and knuckle down to ensure that you avoid the worst case scenario.
The second is a longer quote from Bruce Lee in which he says. ‘…You must be shapeless, formless like water’. This is directly applicable to my life at the moment to be honest and it is something I have constantly had to remind myself when working with my clients in Nigeria and beyond. I could not run into Nigeria with a English frame of mind and start expecting things to run as they did when I was in the U.K. Doing business elsewhere requires a flexibility and adaptability to be able to work with the opportunities and constraints of the surrounding environment. The thing that most inspired me about Bruce Lee’s quote is that he says ‘When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup….bottle…teapot etc but it still retains its essence which is water. And yet and still it can drip and it can crash which I take to mean despite being easy going it can also be powerful when needed so I try for all my flaws to be like water.
What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to become a strategist today
I would advise testing the waters whilst remaining in employment and then developing a solid reputation and a customer base before taking the leap. The key things that you will need are a customer base, network and remember that you yourself are a brand and so should develop a positive brand reputation. This will undoubtedly help in potentially securing regular income.
How do you find new clients?
Most of my new clients have been found by networking and elaborating on my work during business discussions which then leads to referrals.
Do you believe in going to networking events?
It honestly depends on the event. I’ve actually been better able to network at non-networking focused events, perhaps it’s the absence of pressure to network that helps.
What is the most important social media platform to be on at the moment and why
Without a doubt that would have to be Instagram. Instagram has the highest conversion rate for brands in comparison to other social media platforms. It is geared towards documenting lifestyle products and trends and brands can definitely stand to capitalise on the ease of the apps use in uploading interesting content from memes, videos to boomerangs and gifs. All of which allow them to detail their product of service in an engaging way.
What has been the proudest moment of your job:
I am incredibly fortunate that I often have a number of proud moments within my work in that I have the opportunity to help clients achieve key goals and milestones so being able to be part of that I am often proud of opportunities to showcase their work and talent. However on a personal note it would have to be hosting my first Social media week Lagos session. I am always looking for ways to avoid any form of public speaking as I am quite introverted so when I had the opportunity to run a session in 2016 detailing how companies can use Instagram effectively I found that I was incredibly nervous but in the end got through it without shaking too much and got great feedback. I then started running smaller sessions with businesses in Lagos on the combined use of social media and PR.
Who do you currently represent and what exciting new projects are you working on?
Aside from the work with brands and companies for social media and PR, I am currently representing a range of artists both musical and visual artists.
Ladipoe a Nigerian rapper who has an exceptional talent for insightful wordplay and is just a genuinely hard working good human being.
Chuey Chu who is a former presenter with Pulse TV who recently became self employed and has had some amazing projects with Nigerian companies. There are a handful of other artists that I am currently working with at present but there are two projects that I am incredibly excited about one being a line of merchandise with an amazing Nigerian artists Ayoola Gbolahan and talks a documentary and product collaborations that spring from there.
What is the one tech item you can’t live without:
That would have to be ‘Goldie’ my 2016 MacBook. I need my phone to communicate of course but I actually quite enjoy the occasional bit of design work and I have Photoshop on my laptop for that.
What is the one handbag you can’t live without:
I am a bit of a geek so its more of a backpack than a laptop. I have a black leather backpack from Reiss that has a side strap allowing it to convert into a tote. Any bag I buy I check the dimensions to establish if Goldie fits, if she doesn’t then I probably wont buy it but I have the Kenzo, Kalifornia bag in my cross hairs as the next likely bag purchase.
What is the one pair of shoes you can’t live without:
Lace Romy Jimmy Choo’s are my go to as they are so ridiculously comfortable for heels as well as being very feminine. Not that I would recommend it but I’ve run for a train in them and jumped on an Okada in them when an Uber let me down at the end of a business meeting in Lagos. They are the perfect multifunctional heel. ☺
What bargain do you wish you had snagged on U-Wantit.com
The Macbook Pro that I saw sold for £1.17. I do like to upgrade my tech quite regularly where I can so I would have loved to get my hands on the Pro.
To find out more about Laverne, follow her on Instagram @lavernelthomas