November 03, 2021
"Tell The Truth" ft. Rosanna Connolly | Founder Of Morena Communications

On episode 34, I have a #CreativeConversation with my pal, Rosanna Connolly, the founder of Morena Communications. It is a startup dedicated to delivering bespoke PR campaigns for musicians who want more than just "press". Be...


On episode 34, I have a #CreativeConversation with my pal, Rosanna Connolly, the founder of Morena Communications.

It is a startup dedicated to delivering bespoke PR campaigns for musicians who want more than just "press".

Bespoke means "custom-made", and in this episode, Rosanna details how she executes these bespoke campaigns from start to finish.

 

Also in this episode, we talk about: 

· why she decided to cut her hair (5:05)

· her ethical clothing brand dedicated to empowering Women of Color (10:56)

· working with artists such as Ludacris, my twin Ne-Yo, and Rihanna (25:16)

· the easiest technique to help you remember everything (31:24)

· the #1 way for any artist to grow their audience (47:03

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MORENA COMMUNICATIONS

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Transcript

In this episode, I have a creative interview with my pal Rosanna Connolly. She is the Founder of Morena Communications, which is a company dedicated to delivering bespoke PR campaigns. I'll be honest with you, I looked up what bespoke meant and it's another word for custom-made. In this episode, Rosanna takes us through the creative process behind how she creates the bespoke campaigns for each of the musical artists she works with.

She takes us back in the past to what it was like to work with Ludacris and Ne-Yo when she barely knew what PR was. She shares the secret, which isn't a secret, on why she thinks the press isn't the thing that's going to grow your listenership. After and only after you've read the full interview, head over to the Pol and Pal's Newsletter to read a breakdown of something that stood out to me from this episode in addition to another resource on how to best create the life that you want to live. Without any further ado, let's get creative.

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I appreciate you coming on. I always start with a little background of how we met. You represented one of my close friends and also a very amazing artist, ThomTide. He has mentioned you to me because he was telling me how he's doing his marketing. I was like, "What did she do? How does she do that?” He gave me a little bit of insight and I was very curious because I personally like content creators. People that are able to, I don't know how to express it but, take something and then market it in a certain way, that's a skill that I want to have. I wanted to learn more and steal all of your tips and then implement them for my own.

I wanted to welcome you. I saw one of your IG posts. I noticed it because when we were talking back and forth in that email, you wanted to send me a picture and you had mentioned you cut your hair. It was a funny reel, by the way, so if anybody's reading, watch the YouTube video of this. The one thing that stood out to me in the caption was you mentioned, “Before this, I didn't have the choice in cutting my hair. This is the first time that I had the ability to do it on my own.” I would love to know the reasoning for that, the insight, and the history behind that.

It's pretty deep. You've gone very deep straight off the bat. It's something that I'd hidden for quite many years because I felt shame around it. I've had cancer and lost my hair twice. It's something that I've tried to put behind me, push, strive, keep going, achieve what no one else around me was achieving, be the first at something, be the youngest at something, or get these awards. It's something that has driven me but also taken away some of my autonomy as well. It took away a lot of autonomy in my life, which threw me the other way to like, “I'm going to do everything straight away.”

One of the biggest things was not having control over how I looked or any control over my body at that time. I shaved all my hair off and was fortunate enough to donate it to a charity that gave me a wig when I needed one. It has come full circle and I love how I look with a shaved head. I feel the most me with it at the moment. I prefer not to go into the ins and outs of everything that happened. It's been a big part of my life, but it's not who I am. It doesn't define me at all. Me shaving my hair was a choice that I made that I felt comfortable with because I wanted to do it and not because of any other reason.

I know we got too deep, but the reason that stood out to me was that I had an idea of what happened based on how you phrase the captions. What stood out to me was how you presented it. The video itself was funny. When somebody presents something in a way, you feel okay watching it, but then you realize, “They were brave enough to put that out there.” I liked that. It stood out to me. You're in PR. Have you always thought about the best way to market things? Has that always been a part of your character?

Tweet: PR is the perfect medium for storytelling.

I've always loved the art of storytelling. PR is the perfect medium for this. It's one of the best mediums for it because I've always been intrigued by people's stories and where they've come from. I used to sit for hours and listen to my South African grandma talk about her upbringing and go through photos. I would do the same thing every time I saw her and listened to the stories over and over again because I couldn't get enough.

I've always had this curiosity and I learned from a very young age what a good story looks like and picked out different parts. When you're repeating someone's story or saying something that you know what works with crowds, what jokes fall flat, and all of that stuff. I have a talent for it, which I didn't realize that not everyone does. It has come from a curiosity of listening to loads of different people and knowing my own story as well.

You've prefaced that your grandmother was South African. What about that sticks out the most to you?

My grandma was South African-Indian. She was transplanted into this country and she was in two cultures. She was in the South African culture and used to sing the South African Anthem. Every time I saw her was like, “Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika.” That was her thing. She loved South Africa and her upbringing there. It was also quite hard to listen to some stuff.

My grandma was a seamstress and she would tell me one of the reasons she became a seamstress was because she wasn't allowed to try on clothes that touched her skin because of the color of her skin. During the apartheid, she was allowed to try on shoes and coats. What she used to do was look in shop windows, go home, and make the clothes. She was a seamstress and sold clothes, made clothes for people, and made a wedding dress.

Those stories were interesting. My grandma would have these gorgeous saris as well and this whole Indian side, Indian jewelry, and nose piercings. She would tell me about how her mom got married at the age of thirteen or how her grandma was really young for these traditions in this sense as well. She was one of 10 or 11 children. She spoke Tamil but also Zulu and it was an amazing mix. I loved her so much. She was an important figure in my life and she had a big influence on who I am.

I got the vibe. I know you're building your own brand and your own thing. I'm guessing and you can confirm after I say this. Your fashion brand, Morena, did that come a little bit from your grandmother? What was the inspiration?

You're 100% on the money. My grandma passed away in April 2020. It was tough that she was not here anymore. It was a time of loss, but also, in the months after that, it felt like a time of honor. I don't know how to explain it, but even the week after she died and I got some bereavement leave, I made a coat that she would be proud of. I've always loved making clothes. My grandma used to inspect all of my clothing and look at the hem and the hand-sewing. She loved it. We used to talk about it for hours as well.

This Morena thing kept building in my mind. I didn't have the name for it at the time, but I knew I wanted to make a brand that empowered women of color. Eighty percent of garment workers are women and the majority are women of color. I was inspired by my grandma's stories of how she came to sew as well. Everything about Morena is based on my grandma's characteristics. It's regal. We walk in peace, we're loving, kind, rooted, and grounded in what we believe, but we're ready to learn at the same time. I feel so close to her when I am working on this and it's something that I know she'd be proud of.

How did you come about the name Morena? When I think of Morena, I think of brown skin or brown hair. What's that for you?

That's exactly it. It means brunette or brown-skinned girl in some languages as well. For me, as a person and woman of color, sometimes there are factions or sections within your women of color group. Morena is a word that doesn't separate you. I'm very light-skinned and I have a mix of cultures. My best friend is Jamaican and we're both morena. She works on me with the brand as well. Her name's Chelsea.

It was a work that united us even though she's like my sister anyway. I sometimes feel there can be separation within these factions of women of color. I've never fit into one because I have no clue about any Asian heritage. I have more of an idea of African heritage. My granddad was born in Guyana as well and came from the Caribbean side. I've never felt like I belonged to any group within these women of color groups. Morena was a word that, for me, meant more of unity.

I assume you've been close with your grandmother and understood your culture growing up. How did that manifest when you were younger and didn't feel like you were part of a certain group or faction of women? How did that manifest in your childhood?

It was interesting. I grew up in quite a White area, but it was super diverse in other ways. It was in South London. I grew up in Morden until the age of six. Morden is the end of the Northern Line. That's very South. Honestly, it's so diverse and modern, but the people that I was surrounded more by were White people. I'm half White. My dad is a White Irish-Liverpudlian. We moved to Wellington, which is next to Croydon. It's in the deep South. It's Greater London but still South London.

It was interesting because Wellington was quite White at the time, but Croydon was very diverse in terms of the Asian and the Black community. I had a good mix or more exposure to it. I can probably count on one hand the number of mixed people that I met growing up. That was a big difference, not being able to relate apart from my brothers and to many other mixed people. Now, there are so many more around and a lot more mixing going on, but at the time, it was odd to have two parents that were different colors. I wanted to be blonde and called Rebecca.

I relate to that a little bit because I'm from Nigeria. I came to the States and ever since I was growing up in school, I was always in majority-Black areas, Black schools, and had a lot of Black friends, so that was the norm for me. It wasn't until I moved high schools in the tenth grade that it was my first time being in places that weren't majority Black.

I didn't think about the effect that had on me growing up because when I went to college, it was a majority-White college. That's my experience growing up in that majority-Black area until tenth grade and I was 15 or 16, and then going to a place that's very different. I had a lot of Middle Eastern friends and got to learn a lot about them and their culture. It prepared me for when I got to college because I didn't feel weird in being in different spaces.

That's something that I'm like, “I wonder what my life would have been if I only grew up in one majority place and didn't get to understand.” It helps you because I can talk to this person and I don't feel uncomfortable. It's still weird being a minority all the time, but you don't feel too uncomfortable. I wanted to know, do you think that had an impact on how you market? When I think of marketing, you're taking an idea and making it so that the average person can consume that. Do you ever think about how you have that ability?

When I thought about it, I called myself a “culture chameleon” because I've always, for as long as I can remember, had the ability to fit in. I've never felt like I've belonged, but I've always been able to fit in with different types of people, cultures, and everything. I've always been able to get on with people and along with people. My mixed heritage and mix of cultures have completely contributed to that and getting on with different personalities as well.

I lived in a household that was very opinionated. Standing your ground but also being respectful and listening to other people has helped, and that relatability factor. I'm a real empath, so if you start crying, I will cry. Relating to people on that level has helped me a lot. PR is my job, but I don't think any job should be transactional. It has turned transactional in many ways.

Our first job as nice people or humans is to have a human-to-human connection, “Are you okay?” I genuinely want to know if someone's okay and about someone's life. That interest in the stories has helped as well with the PR side. It means that you build good relationships with people that want to open your emails should you have something to share anything that you are working on. A lack of connection is sad.

You are initially who you are when you first come in contact. I remember when ThomTide had made that first group chat with us. It felt okay to be sending emojis, smiley faces, and hearts because that's how you work. I'm a big emoji person. If I'm texting somebody and they don't see I have emojis, they might be like, “What's wrong? Are you okay?”

I noticed when you sent that initially, I'm like, “She's cool.” Do you know how you feel weird when you're texting emojis but then that person isn't? You're like, “Should I chill? Do I have to chill? Let me reduce the amount of exclamation marks,” and you're both talking dry. I would agree that you are an empath. You mentioned something and said that you feel like PR or your job is being more transactional. What do you mean by that?

The pandemic hasn't helped. You used to be able to see people at gigs, go for breakfast or lunches, chat, have some personal connection, and talk about work. You were talking about life and what's going on in general. Honestly, some of my closest friends are journalists. It's weird to say that, but it's people that you meet through work. These are people that I work with and I need them to help me do my job. At the same time, I have a big appreciation for them and care about them. They are my friends. I will check in with them because it's part and parcel of the journey.

Tweet: Our first job as nice people or humans is to have a human-to-human connection.

I get what you're getting at and I relate to that too. I remember when I was first getting into podcasting. One thing about an interview format show is you are completely dependent on the guest. I remember when I was first starting, I already had a list of people I wanted to interview and aspirations for certain people. I remember initially reaching out, “Please, come on this show. Do this. When are you free doing that?” I remember when somebody didn't want to be on the show and they let that be known in a way. Initially, I was like, “Why not? This could be dope. I'm good at this. I can do this.”

You are good at this.

I said that because I wanted to see if you would agree and repeat it.

I agree. I was like, “The research? The questions?”

I'm getting better. It makes it fun. What I'm getting at is I initially took it as, “They don't want to be on the show. Why?” I was looking at it purely as a transaction like, “This person has a cool story. They have this many followers or this much engagement. I know if I do that, then there's a chance,” but I had to step back and be like, “I have to genuinely want to talk to you and see if you're interested.” Even if I am genuinely interested in you, but then you're like, “I don't want to. I'm busy,” I have to respect that and not be willing to because that way, I'm not forcing you. I never want to force an interview because it's not going to go smoothly. You can hear when something's fake.

You can tell when it's not authentic 100%.

The pandemic has contributed to that because when I meet people in person, it's purely to talk. Sometimes, you send an email or a DM, “How was your day?” I definitely agree. I know we're in different lines of work, but I also want to ask you prior to this PR. PR is not you. That's something you do. I'm curious to know what other jobs and career paths did you initially pursue or wanted to do? We got a story coming.

I've done PR for many years. It was my first job.

That's right out of high school, then?

It was out of college. I studied at a cool school, which is the BRIT School. It's quite well-known in the UK as the school that Adele and Amy Winehouse went to. It's a music school or a school for the arts. I studied music there, but they do theater, media, and art. There are different strands, but I studied pure music there, which involved performing, production, and the history of music. It was the equivalent of three A-Levels in music. I don't know what that is in terms of the American equivalent, but it was pure music.

My dream was to be a singer from a young age. I had gotten sick at the age of sixteen and that dream changed a little bit based on what I felt my capabilities were, some fears that I had, and a lack of confidence. I wanted to be a songwriter, and I still write songs, play, and write poems, but I needed money and a job. I applied and got an internship at Mercury Records, which was a huge deal to get this as my first job at the age of nineteen.

I worked on Watch the Throne. I assisted, but I wasn't running them, but Watch the Throne, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Frank Ocean's Channel Orange. I was able to be a part of this journey and it was so cool. The first artist that I did PR for was Ludacris and I was like, “This is insane. I love Ludacris.” It was mad. I met him and Ne-Yo and said, “Ne-Yo was the best songwriter in the world.” This was in 2012.

I met Ne-Yo randomly. I went to this Labor Day club lounge and he was there. I remember telling the waitress at our table, “Could you go and tell him that people think I look like him?” She went over there, he turns around, and we acknowledged each other. I'm like, “My life was leading up to this moment.”

He was the cool guy. He was great. I was on promo days with him, got to assist with his projects, and went to the studio with him. It was so cool. I was nineteen and I was like, “This is the best thing ever.” I stuck at it.

You rarely have stories of people getting into what they want to do right when they want to do it.

I had no idea what PR was. I just needed money. Let me be clear. I did not care what job I was doing. I wanted to make money, but then I liked it.

When they initially put you in that role and you didn't have any experience, what were you doing and how did you know how to do it? Did you just have to learn on the job?

I had some great people that were very kind to me and patient with me. I've always been very conscientious and a hard worker. They saw this straight away because I remember my manager at the time said, “You're the best intern we've ever had.” It was two weeks in and I was like, “Okay.” Her name was Laura and she has her own PR company called Hailstone PR. She does Fall Out Boy and huge bands.

Another guy called Ash Collins did all of the cool Def Jam stuff, Watch the Throne, Frank Ocean, and everyone like that. He took me under his wing pretty much immediately as well, and then my dear friend Kat Marker. We are still messaging. We have pet names through each other, which I won't embarrass myself with.

You got to say it.

We have hot-stepper. This is Kat. She's the hot-stepper. We're both shu-shu. We call each other shu-shu and I'm sweet-cheeks. These are the names. I've known her for many years. She was the one that has honestly changed my life in so many ways. Not only was she a great friend, but she was a great teacher as well. 

I learned so much from her. She doesn't even remember this, but whenever I'd be writing press releases, she would go through it and put in reds. It's stuff that's wrong and needs changing. I'd sit next to her and we'd go through it together. I learned so much from that process and she took the time to do that. She is so kind and generous.

Because of my energy levels at the time, I couldn't be out every night. I relapsed at the age of twenty. When I came back to work, I couldn't go out every night. I wasn't even allowed to get on the Tube after being unwell and having a transplant. It takes a long time to get over it. She taught me that you didn't have to do what everyone else was doing to still be successful. I didn't have to be out every night, partying, meeting people, drinking, or whatever it was. I could be myself and still be successful and carve a new path. That's one of the most important life lessons that I have learned and that's from her.

I can see the love that you have for her and how she's impacted your life. I love to see that, so I hope she reads this.

She'll be the first to read and cry. She will cry. She might cry. She's the hot-stepper.

I love the advice she gave you. This is something I usually ask towards the end, but it's fitting now and we can get into more of why. You've already mentioned a big, emotional, and traumatic thing you went through in life. The one thing that stood out to me was your friend's advice of being who you are and still being able to accomplish things other people do is the key state of mind that everybody is trying to achieve. It's being who you are and still being able to live the life you want to live. I would like to know, based on your life experiences so far, what is a word of advice that you would give to somebody that wants to know, “How do I create the life that I want to live?”

There's a quote that I read when I was in my early teens that I have pretty much lived by since coming across it. I don't know who it's attributed to. I saw it on some social media. It was probably on Tumblr. It was, “If you never lie, you never have to remember anything.” For me, that was so powerful. I was in an all-girls school at the time. There would be little lies going around or gossip. You might say something to one person and then another thing to the other.

I didn't involve myself anymore. I told the truth to everyone. I didn't have to remember who I told one thing or another thing to because I don't lie. I can't keep track. I do not have the mental capacity to keep track of who I'm telling what. That's helped me be who I am because I'm not going to apologize for it and pretend. I learned that lesson quite early on in life, but it will work at any time. You can be yourself. If you don't like a type of food, you don't have to say, “I like this food. Thank you so much. I'll try it,” or something like that. You don't have to be mean and be like, “I don't want this,” but you can be a lot less stressed.

This is almost meant to be because I've heard that quote before. I'm familiar with it, but that quote itself is reflective of something I went through. I went to a therapy session. I've always wanted to try therapy, so I finally have the incentive. Somebody gave me some tips on how to approach it. We were talking and one thing that he had mentioned was talking about relationships. It can be boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife. The one thing that he said about him and his wife, and he's been through a lot of things too, and he was like, “No one knows me better than my wife.”

When he was younger, he was saying that, “You want to be this person for somebody, but you also have the person that you are.” Over time, if you want to be with that person, it's going to grow apart, who you want to be and who you are. He was like, “When you remove that shame and you're able to be that person, not who they think they are but who you actually are, it helps you better.” You're going to eventually reach a point where what they've thought of you and what you are would conflict and you're like, “Crap.”

Tweet: You don't have to do what everyone else is doing to be successful.

That quote resonates because it's something that I learned that I'm like, “That's true.” It's interesting that you were able to come to terms with that because you mentioned that you were the cultural chameleon. Sometimes, that makes you want to please everybody and want everybody to be happy. You've got your little why here and there because you want everybody to be okay and smiling. It's interesting that you've come to terms with it.

I wanted everyone to like me.

We all do and I love that. Was it Lauren that had her own PR company as well?

She started her own PR company in maybe 2013. She's been quite successful.

She has been hot-stepping for a minute. I wanted to ask because I know that you have your own. You have Morena Communications. Is that something that you just got in or you've been doing that for a while and launched your own thing?

I officially started it at the top of 2021 in January and it has been interesting. I never thought I would have my own PR company because it was never something that I had fully desired. I'm enjoying it. I have loved being able to work with independent artists, especially like Lee and ThomTide, and be able to offer a service that I'm proud of, put my best efforts in, and know that I've done my best job. I'm a perfectionist. I'm like, “You could have always done better,” but I've been able to do things for people that have impacted them as well their careers positively. That has been good. I've learned a lot about finance and tax.

How did you launch it? I'm curious. I know you were working in PR for another company, but is there a, “I have to quit this job to do my own thing,” or are you able to still have them separated? What's the conflict of interest with that?

I was working with Apple for two years and I was doing the PR for Apple Music at the time in the UK and in Europe. I was there in a contractor role and was covering someone who was on maternity leave, so I wasn't permanent. With that role, I did have a non-compete because of the nature of the work, the music, and that crossover. When I finished that role, I contracted with another company and this type of contract was part-time. Because of the type of contract, I had to have a second income as well. It meant that I didn't have a non-compete, I could do it, and I thought, “I'm going to do it. I want to do it,” so I did.

I want to put myself in an artist's perspective. Although I don't know if you're thinking about this in the future, I have noticed being in the podcasting space that PR for podcasting is a niche space that you will thrive in. Think of that in the future and I'll contact you.

We have done PR for podcasts. I did it for Apple. I did the podcast PR in the UK.

I'm going to pretend to be an artist. What I want to know is I want to go through this process with you. I always love knowing the creative processes for all of my guests. If I'm an artist, first of all, how do I even contact you? How do we start working together? What is that like?

I have an email that people can contact us on. It's Hello@Morena.UK and that is on our Morena Instagram account. It helps me set boundaries so that people aren't coming into my inbox as well. I check it every day and I can visit that inbox but not have the stress of replying immediately or anything like that. That helps me have a boundary for people emailing. Sometimes, you get spam and someone that I do not want to reply to and it's helpful that it's a different email, but that is checked all the time.

I need to hear the music first and I will only work on stuff that I believe in. That's so important because it's my company. I can do that. Before, when you work for other companies, you couldn't say what you're going to work on and what you were not going to work on. You work on your projects and that's it. With Morena, I don't want to do that. I wanted to only work on stuff that I liked and saw had potential.

I always listen to the music and then from there. I would do a call to understand the story. The story is so important. You can't have a release without any background. It's not going to fly. It might be a great song, but you need something else that will cut through because there are so many great songs. You need to have that personality and know what you stand for. That's important. Another important question for me is heritage for many reasons. You get to know so much about a person from their cultural heritage and upbringing. I don't think this question is asked enough. This is one of the most important questions for me.

If I want to take on a project, we'll have another chat. If I take it on, I'll then do multiple calls to understand what the artists want more and a PR questionnaire that I've developed as well if it needs it. Not everyone needs it because it's quite clear, but some people need a bit more drawing out of themselves. I have this tool as well to get that. That's the process. It sounds long, but you have to be dedicated to your own PR is as much as I'm going to be dedicated to it.

That's the thing too because I have two questions about that. One, you mentioned that if you're a PR for somebody else's firm or agency, you might get a project that you have to work on but not like the music. Does that happen?

Many times.

In this creative economy, for everybody that is creating, there's so much opportunity, but there's also more competition. Everybody's feening for a way to go to the top. You care about your art, but there could be other companies or agencies that might take advantage of somebody's want to be great. I'm curious. For somebody that's getting into this PR space, how do you navigate that and make sure you're not working with anybody that wants to take your money and submit it to random campaigns?

It's awful that this happens and there are so many stories that I've heard of this happening. Even when I was working full-time in companies where I wasn't allowed to do PR on the outside, I would still consult with people that needed the help and had been swindled because it makes me so sad. Being an artist is not easy. You're working and making the money so that you can release music and trusting other people to help you in the journey. It makes me so angry. It's not fair.

Some good questions to ask are specific titles that people are pitching to. I would ask for a full PR plan as well. You should be getting regular press updates when you're in cycle. I send weekly press updates when we have tracks and artists in cycle. You should be expecting regular communication from your publicist on updates when you're in cycle. When I say in cycle, it means that you are in release mode. There's stuff happening. If you're out of cycle, it's not going to be as full-on because there's not much happening. You're not releasing music, but opportunities might still come. You might have an event invite or something like that, but it wouldn't be full-on like, “We need to be hitting the blogs.”

These are good tips. Ask for specific targets as well and express your wishes and specific targets so that they have something to go off. You need to say what success looks like to you realistically. If you want to be in a certain publication, you can say, “This is my goal.” As a publicist, as long as it's a reasonable goal life if ThomTide wanted to be the cover of Vogue, I'd have to say, “Let's have a chat,” because that's not realistic even in ten years' time.

If another female artist wanted to be the cover of Vogue and it was within their aesthetic and different things that work at the story, and you can see it happening, that's realistic in a number of years. Some of Lee's goals were to be featured on i-D and Clash. i-D had playlists of him multiple times and Clash has posted about him. These are things that I was going to do anyway, but it's great to know that's what success looks like for him so that I can make sure or do my very best to get him what success looks like in his eyes.

I'm curious too because I'm thinking about artists that want to come to publicists. Let's think about the artists that are doing that. They've been doing their thing for a while on their own and they might not be either ready or wanting to pay for a publicist. What do you think is driving growth for most musical artists? Is it TikTok, blogs, or Instagram? Where do you think is the best place to try to be?

For playlists, it's definitely not the press and things in isolation. PR will never be something that you will see a spike in streams. The press is something that people visit, understand your story, and get to know you, but this could be at so many different times. Whereas in radio or TV, while that's happening, you see the spike.

At that moment in time, the press is a culmination and brings all of these things together. It will never be something that completely moves the needle. Sometimes, people expect, “We were in NME. We should have 10,000 streams.” It doesn't work like that. I would say what moves the needle is playlisting and getting on those Spotify and the top Apple Music playlists. Those are the ones that are going to grow your listenership.

Are there certain ways to do that? I know there are ways to submit, but there's a ton of people submitting. How would somebody, if they want to, stand out or get on a specific playlist that's so niche? How does that work?

It's difficult. You have to go through the process. If you're signed to a label, you have someone pitching on your behalf. I pitch to streaming services. As a publicist, it's not my job, but I do it because I see the value in it. I've worked at Apple. I know them. It's difficult, but I found the best way as a publicist is to pitch the playlist from the publications. Many publications will have playlists on Spotify and Apple Music and it's great to get your track featured in them.

Some of the UK playlists are Mixmag, UNILAD, NME, i-D, and The Independent. The Line of Best Fit is hot. Getting on these playlists is great because these are all about music as well. These are people writing about music and that helps. You can't control if Spotify or Apple Music is going to open your track. We all have to go through the same pitching process. You can also pitch to the playlist owners that aren't the DSPs and people aren't recognizing that as much.

Tweet: The story is so important. You can't have a release without any background.

It depends on the playlist, but I know there are some private people that have their own playlists and they're big. I know Lee was talking about Shrek. I've seen him on Twitter and he has a whole thing. I've always wondered about the ones that are run by Spotify, Apple, or Tidal. Those people that are curating, is that public information? That would be annoying for people to know that you're that person.

We need to protect their DMs and boundaries. It's public information, for sure. There are playlist curators out there on the public. They're not hidden away in a closet somewhere and have to wear a disguise. I would respect their boundaries and if you've messaged them directly, it's going to be more annoying for them than it is helpful for you. There is a process and even if they did reply to you, they'd say, “Use the process.” It's not going to be, “You DMed me out of nowhere. I'm definitely going to feature your song.”

Speaking of respecting boundaries, are you the only one working on your communication company? Is it just you?

I have an amazing colleague called Emily who works with me as well. She joined me in January 2021 and she has come into PR quite fresh. It's nice to be able to share my skills and give what I've received in terms of learning about PR. Honestly, she's so great. We get on really well, which is super important to me. The work is important but getting on with your colleagues is also important.

I asked that because I wanted to know do you ever sometimes get tired of listening to music or being pitched or too pitched? Is that something that you deal with? If that is something, how do you deal with that?

I never get tired of listening to music. I have never gotten tired of listening to music. I didn't have the energy, but I love discovering new music. I love it. It's my favorite thing. I love sharing new music. I'm an appreciator of good music and all music as well. I'm one of those people that can appreciate good music and that's good.

I also know when music is not good immediately and when it can't even be improved. I have a bit of an A&R head on me, not that I would ever want to do A&R. Sometimes, you can hear potential in the track and you can say, “If you do this, speed it up, or change some elements, this could work.” Sometimes, there is no hope. There's no hope and it's terrible.

At least you're real. It's better to let them know than to lie.

“I can't listen to this. I can't.”

It's good that you love it. I'm assuming you have an actual life outside of what you're doing but it seems like music is your passion overall. That's good to have. Do you have any other hobbies or things that you like outside of music and being a seamstress?

The fashion and sewing is a big thing for me. It's still music, but there's playing, singing, and writing poems. Netflix is a huge part of my life.

What are you watching?

I finished Squid Game.

I still haven't started it. I'm so mad. It's one of those shows where you have to watch it because somebody is going to ruin it for you. I've been dodging spoilers left and right. Do you think it was worth the hype?

I watched it and I could not get enough. My brother, I told him about it. He watched it in a day. It was that good. He wasn't working that day. He has a job.

I'll check it out. That's good too. We didn't get too much into the seamstresses, but you're running two companies and learning a lot about finances, taxes, and everything. I'm curious. Now that they're officially income-based, what are your goals for them? What do you want them to be now that they're not just your hobbies?

It's true because you don't need to monetize every hobby. Let me put it out there. I had the first iteration of a clothing company when I was nineteen. I used to sell clothes on Etsy and hair accessories. This is always something I've wanted to do as well. Unfortunately, it's not as far down the line as it's making the income. I'm working on the website and the socials. Everything is on pause at the moment because it is overwhelming doing so much. I was also consulting for a company twenty hours a week.

It's difficult because time isn't a commodity that you can escape. We all need sleep and necessities. Obviously, they're businesses, but the goal has never been to be multimillion or make so much money that I'm drowning in it. The goal is to have a good life, act on good morals and good values, be as inclusive as possible and make a positive impact.

We have to make money. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a business and I couldn't do those things, but that's not the ultimate goal. I'm not looking for 50% growth year-on-year or whatever that business jargon is. I hope that doesn't change because I don't want that to change. I don't want business to ever take over my life. My identity has never been in my jobs and I never it to be. My identity is in me or in crisis. It's not in these labels at all.

That's the self you need. You need the income, but you don't want it to define you. You don't want to be defined by dollar signs. I definitely relate to that. I love all you've shared with us. I like when somebody can be open. I'm not making you reveal everything about yourself but what you've shared is enough to get a hint of who you are. You have already documented your struggles and other things you've overcome. I want to know whether there is one thing that you are willing to share that you're still struggling with. How are you trying to navigate it?

We all struggle with so many things. That's a very privileged thing to say coming from a First World country as well. I don't want to diminish anything that I am or anyone else is experiencing but we're also in a very privileged position at the same time. I'd say I still struggle with energy at times or anxieties about getting sick.

For me, whenever I have a drink of alcohol, I have to be okay with my decision to drink that because alcohol is an immunosuppressant. It means that you can become more susceptible to picking up stuff. Most people won't think about all of this stuff when having a drink. In my mind, I am thinking, “What does that mean for the rest of the week? Does that mean that I might not be able to do something? Does that mean I could get sick? How am I feeling? Do I feel well enough to have this drink?” These are thought processes that happen.

For me, it's the same as going to the gym. If I over-exhaust my body, it's not good. If someone's like, “I can push myself and get in a gym session,” I have to be careful that thin line of what is pushing myself to a healthy point. It's a challenge on what's pushing me over the edge that's going to make me unwell. I've definitely gone over the edge a lot of times. You could call it a struggle with those elements of life. It's not comparable to what other people go through, but then again, I'm not going to diminish it.

It's you. It's personalized. I asked because sometimes the people that I have interviewed have accomplished something that you want to hear about, and you want to know how they did it. Sometimes, people in these elevated platforms, we see them how we see them or however they perceive themselves. 

We sometimes forget that they are also struggling with things. I want to always remind people that, “She's been able to figure this out and cultivate her life this way. Did you ever think about what it is on a day where she's tired?” or she goes to the gym and she's like, “I don't want to do this much miles because I don't know how I'm going to feel after that.”

I think about it too because I used to want to always represent myself in the best light. When you are struggling, sometimes good to be able to tell, maybe not the whole world on the podcast, but your dear friends that might never know that you do that. We tend to idolize a lot of things and we don't know what's the full 100% part of it. I appreciate you sharing that. I know I said it is a personal thing, but it's good for everybody to know that.

Somehow, I've gotten so many labels over the years because of what I've been through, “You're so brave. You're such an inspiration. You're all of these things.” I'm like, “Stop putting these labels on me. I'm just a normal human.” It's almost a pressure sometimes when people say this to you and you feel like you're being viewed in a certain way as this lovely, perfect, brave, or whatever person. It's not always like that.

I like that you're taking that away and removing the veil of that because we are all human. We do struggle with things. We do have up days and down days, and not everything is shared on social media. I haven't shared anything on social media for a while. That has been quite conscious because I don't want to. I'm not being pressured into it. I'm just not going to do it.

Not posting on social media and not drinking are two of those things where people want to ask why. We have to normalize, “I just don't want to.” Before I let you go, I do want you to do one thing for me. I would love to know who is a creative pal of yours. You might have already hinted at it, that you are very interested in. I would love to hear more about who is somebody for you that you are really amazed by their creativity.

Tweet: You need to say what success looks like to you realistically.

There are so many people genuinely that I'm so fascinated by. 

You can say three. Is that fair?

I have to shout out this person because they inspire me all the time. They're a photographer and creative director. They worked on me with Morena as well. Honestly, in every conversation, I learn so much. Her name's Almass Badat and she is insane. She's really cool and also has her own podcast that. Hers is a South Asian podcast. I don't know if you'd fit the bill. It's called What is this Behaviour?. I love that and she came up with the name. I don't know if you've seen that viral video of the Indian Big Brother where the woman is like, “You want it. You're asking for it. What does this behavior?”

I don't think I've seen that.

It definitely went viral in the UK and other places. It's named after that moment. She's so smart and savvy. I'd love to hear her speak. That's going to be my one because I can't choose.

That's why I try to keep that restriction because there's always a ton of people that inspire us. I know you inspired a ton of people in the short hour I've had you. For us to support you and keep you going, what would you like somebody to do? Follow or email you? What are ways that we can support and reach out to you?

My social handle is @RosannaRed and the PR company is called @Morena.Comms. It would be great if people could follow and support on there. Feel free to email that email. I do check it. Comments and messages are always lovely. I've also developed some tools for artists that want to take care of their own PR and I want to help people that have been swindled. When you brought up the question, it still makes me angry. If anyone's been in that situation, I'm here to help as well, genuinely. I will do a call with you and send you some resources as well.

Thank you so much for coming on and being a pal. To anybody else reading, always remember to stay creative. Peace.

 

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