I had the pleasure of interviewing Deja Cromartie. She has represented clients in various industries including beauty, fashion, entertainment, alcohol, and technology. She’s secured media placements in The Examiner, Madame Noire, Philly.com, The Daily News, Kontrol Magazine, Fast Company, and more. In addition to public relations, She’s a contributing writer at Explore with Cassie and Sheen Magazine. She also provides digital marketing strategy and brand development, as well as mentors women aspiring to have a career in publicity.She earned a B.A. in Mass Media Arts from Clark Atlanta University and a M.A. in Professional Business Communication from La Salle University.When she’s not working with clients, mentoring young professionals, or writing, you can catch her listening to Bryson Tiller, exploring the restaurant scene in NYC, and searching for the perfect matte lipstick.
I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my career in college after I was looking for a career that married my skill set for networking with writing. After interning at a few PR agencies, I knew that public relations was for me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
My most interesting story is that I had my first client prior to realizing that this is actually a viable business. My mother referred my first client to me the summer before my senior year of college and I had no idea what I was doing! I keep my first invoice of a reminder of how far I’ve come in this industry.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started, I had an author as a client was in a risky industry! It was something that I wasn’t that comfortable publicizing, but at the time I didn’t know what I was doing and I wanted the experience. So my advice to newbies is only take on clients that you feel comfortable representing! It’s your business and you don’t have to work with everyone.
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
I got really specific on the type of client I wanted to represent based on their demographics, income, ideal places to meet them, etc. I also raised my prices. It took a few months, but once I knew exactly who my idea client based was and how to find them, I’ve been profitable ever since.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
One of the most exciting projects that I just wrapped up was an voting initiative tailored to minority voters. It was amazing the combine my love of entertainment PR with social justice PR. Another exciting project that I just secured is with X of Demand which is an online streaming service that provides an outlet Black indie content creators to share their work. It’s like Netflix and Black Twitter combined!
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
Do your research and develop relationships with journalists and other publicists. Be a student of the craft.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
My philosophy to networking is to always provide value. I try to be an asset to whoever I connect with instead of focusing on what a person can do for me. Also focus on the quality, you can’t connect with everyone, but you can create nurture your existing relationships. Think of networking as an ongoing process.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
The Alchemist was a book that I read in college that really helped me to shift my thinking. After reading that book, I knew that anything is possible, but only if I think that it is. For podcasts, my favorites are Style Your Mind by Cara Alwill Leyba and The Money and Marketing by Emmelie De La Cruz. The Style Your Mind Podcast has continuously helped me shift my mindset to help create a career that I love. The Money and Marketing has helped me to apply practical business advice to improve my business overall.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My movement would be a campaign to show women of color that we are more than enough. A lot of women like me often struggle with having to prove ourselves in such a competitive space that it leads to lack of confidence and tearing others down when we should be building each other up. As a result of the lack of confidence, we are not working up to our full potential, not charging our worth, developing toxic relationships and so forth.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
- Understand your value — In the past, I’ve left a lot of money on the table because I didn’t know how to properly communicate my value to others. Be confident in what you offer and be able to explain it so clearly that a five year old would understand.
- You’re only as good as your last client — When working with clients, it’s not only about being paid, but also how the client adds to your portfolio.
- It’s OK to say no. — When I first started, I thought that I had to work with every client that wanted to work with me. You have to think about what the end goal is for you and if that next project that you want to take on is a reflection of the goal.
- Collaboration over Competition- I didn’t start working with other publicists until later in my career, but I wish I would have started collaborating earlier. As a service based business owner, you have to get smart about how you will make the most of your time.
- Be Your Own Publicist — I made the mistake of not pitching myself for opportunities early in my career. So at least once per month, I set time aside to find my own interviews and speaking engagements.