June 6, 2011
Black Music Month Power Player: Chris Chambers, The Publicist
By all accounts, publicity juggernaut Chris Chambers has an enviable career.
As the owner of The Chamber Group–a boutique public relations, image marketing and special events company in NYC–the PR veteran of 21 years helps guide the careers of some of the biggest names in showbiz, among them Wendy Williams, Jill Scott and Drake.
So it may come as a surprise to hear that, outside of Chambers’s current roster of entertainment-industry clients–which have also included Keri Hilson, Outkast and Ne-yo–he’s not interested in repping artists anymore.
“The goal is to move further away from entertainment and do more brands and sports,â€ says Sony BMG’s former Senior Vice President of Publicity & Artist Development, who has designed the marketing campaigns of brand heavyweights like Armani, Versace, Ford and Belvedere.
“I don’t find that pushing the whole celebrity PR thing is lucrative,â€ explains Chambers, who spoke to BlackEnterprise.com as part of our continuing coverage of the Business of Music this month. “A lot of young PR folks are about that because it looks good on paper…but business-wise it’s not as attractive as working [with large corporations].”
“I’m 41; not 21,” the one-time Arista exec confides. “I’m not pressed to say ‘I rep so and so.’ So if you come to me it’s about you wanting us to put together a strategic media campaign. I am not the party publicist.”
The seasoned rep and marketing expert says he built up the confidence to strike out on his own in 2006 and form his own agency after so many years in “the industry” watching his mentors–music svengalis slash business titans like L.A. Reid, Jimmy Iovine and the legendary Clive Davis–run superstar record labels. “[Clive] taught me a lot on the business management end, so when I did decide to leave [Sony BMG] I was able to take those management skills and apply them to my own company,â€ he says.
“People say I left the music industry at the perfect time,â€ the Jamaica native continues, referring to the biz’s now pay-per-single I-Tunes format. “I left [Sony] five years ago because I felt I had reached a plateau and needed to be challenged. Even though it was scary…I figured, for years I have worked very hard for others, why wouldn’t I do the same for myself?â€
When it comes to offering advice to aspiring entrepreneurs or publicists wanting to follow in his footsteps, Chambers offers: “Your word should be your bond,â€ especially when it comes to building and maintaining relationships. “If someone trusts you because of the work relationship you’ve established over the years, they may very well work with you on projects you’re fighting hard to get coverage on.â€
Second, he advises, don’t think that simply doing your job correctly means you’re going the extra mile. “Good publicists take the time to put together professional campaign proposals as well as prepare official reports updating their clients on their progress. Being organized is key,â€ he suggests.
Lastly, Chambers says, if you’re just starting out in the business, intern several places before you go solo. “Interning is critical,â€ he says. “A young person fresh out of college should become well-versed in different mediums of PR–whether that’s corporate, crisis management, fashion, sports or entertainment. It’s best to feel out each work style to figure out where you best fit in.â€