Written by: Amber Gillan
Edited by: Raechel Allen
Lola Plaku is a 28 year old jack of all trades. Her list of professions is endless – from journalism to PR manager, and online marketing coordinator to owning her own company – Lola does it all. Her website, ILuvLola (http://blog.iluvlola.com/), acts as a promotional vehicle for the world of entertainment with the goal of informing the public of new music, videos, products and releases; focusing mainly in the Hip Hop genre. She has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Big Sean, Rick Ross and A$AP Rocky. As someone who I met when I was just sixteen, Lola has been someone for me to look towards for honest advice. She never hesitates to tell me exactly how she sees things. Yes, she has experience and knowledge in the music industry, but it was her genuine passion for what she does that I admired from the beginning. As a blogger for UOPRA, I asked Lola for an interview to share her insights into what she does in the music industry with our audience.
UOPRA: How did you get started in the PR aspect of your job?
Lola: I started as a journalist interviewing recording artists for HipHop Canada. As a media outlet like a magazine, you’re looking for a story – an artist who has something to talk about. As journalist, you have to do research, find the angle, and build the buzz. Slowly I understood what it was that went into an artist press kit, what a biography should look like, and what to look for in an artist. As an artist the hardest part is knowing how to become popular and get attention, but with me being part of the media, I know what they look for and knew I could help. I was with HipHop Canada for four years getting press kits, assigning stories, editing stories, reaching out to labels, and I became the go-to person for articles being written. That built relationships, and eventually people started asking me to be the bios and press kits writer. In 2009 Belly (a part of CP Records) was working with Snoop Dog. The owner of CP Records contacted me to write all of their artists’ biographies. They then said to me “we want you to work on Belly’s project”. That’s when I started working on the branding of artists.
UOPRA: What made you want to be the “jack of all trades” instead of sticking to one main profession?
Lola: My best attribute as a person is to be able to maintain all of my relationships, whether it’s business, friends, and so forth. So doing these interviews in 2007, it wasn’t difficult for me to maintain the relationships with those I interviewed. For example, if I interviewed [rapper] TI, I kept in touch with his management and at some point, if he reached out and said to me, “hey, I want to come to Toronto” I’d be like, “ok let’s make it happen”. I ended up becoming a person to connect the dots between people. Little X (who directed Drake’s Hell Ya F***** Right video) had a company called Maximus entertainment that would do private events, social gatherings, album release parties, and others. Somehow we started working together and I started doing their online marketing. From there, I would help promote and coordinate the events and started booking artists for them. They would say, “well who do we want to do this event” and I would say, “oh I just interviewed Rick Ross last weekend, let’s get back in touch with them”. In 2009 when I started working with Belly and CP Records, I quit all of my other jobs.
So I guess how I became a jack of all trades was my desire to constantly help people attain their goals. I wanted to be the person people needed, because in this industry if you aren’t useful or needed, you are disposable. I was this girl in university who would work three, four jobs, just to stay relevant. I would take the bus from Kitchener just to go to a party in Toronto. I would stay stranded downtown waiting for the bus back – I did whatever I could just to get those relationships. Back then, Toronto wasn’t trendy like it is now, Drake wasn’t always popular, and Canada wasn’t a big deal on the international scene. I wanted to be a part of that relevant world; I wanted to be relevant in New York during fashion show or award shows. I would put any money I had towards a flight. It was the necessity of being relevant but also wanting to make money at the same time.
UOPRA: What is your typical day like?
Lola: Right now I’m in New York City, sitting in my apartment having coffee. Earlier today I had to fill out a Visa application for French Montana to perform in Switzerland. During my typical day, I must send contracts for artist performances, write media marketing plans for new clients, and build content for the new ILuvLola website to launch. Today, I have to write and rider for one of my other artists that will be doing a performance later. I also have to schedule a stylist for photo shoot this Sunday; do all my taxes because I haven’t done them yet; call my lawyer so I can discuss opening my business in the US; check my voicemail; respond to booking offers for French Montana; go through resumes for interns and interview them via Skype; send a photographer to a video shoot in LA; and update photos on our website. If this isn’t enough, I have an event in Toronto that I have to start promoting, and two fashion week events tonight at 9pm. That’s today, tomorrow is a different story. I don’t really have a typical day.
UOPRA: What are the biggest challenges you face when pulling off a successful event/campaign?
Lola: The biggest challenge is the communication between the people you’re working with. When working with artists, the biggest challenge is to be in the loop. Sometimes the publicist/PR person is the last person to find out information even though they should be first. Today artists have Twitter, so sometimes a journalist can tweet them and set up an interview, completely axing out the publicist. The publicist might not even know an interview happened before it gets published. Sometimes I find things out via Twitter and it’s so frustrating because as a campaign leader you have a plan, you think, “I’m going to pitch this story to this media outlet.” The way I work things is by, ok let’s say I have an artist releasing songs, I will match the song to the media outlet and offer them an exclusive. But sometimes the artist just wants to drop it on Twitter, or someone on the management team will reach out to a different media outlet saying, “hey we have a song, want to release it”, and we all look foolish. Who gets the exclusive now? We don’t want to break relationships, but you’re put in the position that’s like, “I wish I knew you were going and doing this.” That’s not something I’m comfortable with because I focus on my relationships.
When putting on events, personally, I don’t like to work with artists I’m not familiar with. I know it’s a lot to ask for to know an artist personally, but will not go out of way to work with someone who I don’t have a direct relationship with or whose team I don’t. There are lots of hiccups that could happen such as issues with, permits, flights, crossing borders, press, and I want to be able to work it out within the team. When the artist and their team want the event to be as successful as you do, everything goes fine, but when you don’t know each other or have a connection it is nearly impossible to run a successful event. If something goes wrong it’s my company that looks bad, not the artist. It seems like we’re unreliable. I’d rather do two really successful shows each year than 50 mediocre ones.
UOPRA: What is it that you like about PR?
Lola: What I like about it is that you get to witness firsthand the success of an artist because of the story you pitched, or the calls you made. I don’t care what anybody says there’s no comparison to that. When I stand on stage and watch kids go crazy for an artist, I literally cry. When kids were freezing waiting for Big Sean at one event, I started crying because I was so sad that they had to wait outside; but at the same time I could not believe I was able to bring that many people out in the cold and have them wait that long. There is no better feeling than knowing you made this happen. Because I do everything – insurance, riders, sound check, rehearsals, interviews, transportation, marketing, PR, literally coordinate all of it, going on stage and seeing the crazy screaming fans it is unbelievable.
P.Reign is relatively unknown in US. He did one song with A$AP Rocky and when we were shooting the video I literally did everything – studio space, wardrobe everything. I talked to Billboard Magazine and pitched an angle I knew would work, they liked it, and wanted to write the first story about P. Reign working with A$AP. We had a photographer come in and take pictures, the next day the story goes up on Billboard “P.Reign works with ASAP.” It was great to know that was something I was able to put together. I care about making things happen. It’s not about who I’m seen with, or who I’m working with, it’s literally about the joy I get from making things happen.
UOPRA: This runs full circle with what you said at the beginning; because you build relationships with everyone you work with, you get genuinely excited doing your work because it allows you to see your friends do something incredible. Do you have any advice for new PR graduates, or those still in school?
Lola: Don’t get into PR hahaha- it’s so busy. But really, build relationships and know what you’re getting into. My biggest pet peeve is when people want to do everything and aren’t good at it. Know everything about that genre, you have to know everything about the industry you want to be in. In music, build relationships for the particular genre you’re getting in to and become the best at it. In the film world, if someone wanted me to represent them, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know anything about the film world. I don’t even know what magazine it’s important to get the cover of, so study the lane that you want to get in to. If a graduate came to me and suggested things I wasn’t even aware of, I’d be blown away
UOPRA: If after reading this, someone thinks they’re the right fit for your team, is there anything they can do?
Lola: Show me what you can do! If I can see that you can do damage, obviously it’s a no brainer to bring you to the team. A lot of the time graduates are looking for advice or for us to take them under our wings; they’re not looking to contribute to us. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not a lot of people have time for it. Though I respect that you went to University, it’s not the place for me to coach you. So, I would like someone to come and say “I know how to do this already, this is what I would do and how I would do it”, and I’d be amazed.
Follow Lola on Twitter: @Iluvlola & @iluvlolaonline
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