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Exploring Life & Business with Shaun Thompson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shaun Thompson.

Hi Shaun, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I’m a native Angeleno, I’m the founder and principal of boutique public relations firm, Shaun Thompson PR (STPR), and I have three French bulldogs that keep me busy on the weekends in between surfing and yoga.

My career began in entertainment with a brief tenure as a junior agent for a commercial modeling agency, then working in the motion pictures division of Rogers & Cowan and then landing a corporate PR position at Carl Byoir & Associates in the agency’s ‘blue chip’ technology division, launching campaigns during the dot-com boom. Agency life provided me with skill sets I’m grateful for, as well as invaluable experience on high profile accounts such as Planet Hollywood, Razor Scooters, Turner Pictures, Warner/Chappell Music and Universal CityWalk. But much of this work came with exasperating hours and work/life balance was always a challenge. When 9/11 happened, everything changed for me. I wanted more meaning in my life and work. So I reevaluated my career and decided to found my own firm. I felt similar to how I imagine many feel now after our current experiences living through a global pandemic, and taking personal inventory of our work and daily lives.

I launched STPR with just one client and suddenly had a lot more time on my hands. There was also a larger economic downturn when I started my practice in 2002, so I found myself regularly attending more yoga classes. That made all the difference–I met my second client who had a faux finishing company in Venice through yoga. I landed her a feature in Architectural Digest, no easy feat even then, then a larger profile in Angeleno shortly after. She was a collector, and told her artist friends and the interior designers she worked with about me, which led to several referrals.

I’ve always been drawn to highly intelligent creative people, especially artists, so I thought, ‘why not represent them?’ I figured if I could inform and move the industry influencers and journalists of tech and entertainment PR, surely representing designers and artists would be possible and more engaging—right? And it was. When I got started, there weren’t many publicists in LA that specialized in PR for interiors and artists. There are several more now; excellent ones that I respect and am happy to call colleagues and I often partner with other publicists too. And now I look for clients who not only have a story to tell but are making the world a better–or more beautiful–place through their art, creative vision or social impact. If they are improving the world in some manner, I want to know them and share their story.

The majority of my work transitioned into interiors after landing some prominent features, representing mostly designers, architects and furniture brands, though I’ve returned to working more frequently with artists in the past year through Art Angels’ Los Angeles gallery. They hired STPR in February of 2020, and have been incredible to work with and a leading art innovator throughout the pandemic. They’ve brought art to the community during gallery closures, supported their artists with increased PR and found creative platforms including digital viewing rooms, NFT launches and use of public art space that continue to help the artists they represent share their work.

The design business didn’t stop either during the pandemic; in fact it got busier. Homeowners have invested in renovations, moved to larger homes and upgraded their interiors. This past year has really been a growth year for my firm just to keep pace with our design clients’ work. I’ve brought on more team members and greenlit more new business. I expect even more positive outcomes as the city fully opens up.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story–has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being an entrepreneur comes with challenges. For me, the biggest struggle has been maintaining a work/life balance. Even with support and team members to delegate to, I often dedicate more time to work than my personal life. PR inherently requires extending a lot of mental energy to make things happen for clients. Getting into nature restores and counteracts any stress accumulated from an intensive work week. That’s where I find my balance.

PR is also a highly competitive field. To succeed, you have to be genuinely invested in your clients’ success. I’m constantly looking for new and creative means to elevate our clients’ brands. It can be difficult to ‘shut it off’ at times and not answer an email, or to carve out time to plan for what’s next. It’s not just about thinking of the best angle that makes your client’s story interesting or relevant. The clever pitch is the origin, but then there’s getting it in front of the right journalist that cares about your client’s story and will want to write about it. Stories land by a bit of synchronicity and by staying on top of current events, and so your pitches are timed with the news cycle or are on trend. There’s really an army of work that goes into that pretty feature we see and share on social media.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Shaun Thompson PR (STPR) is a boutique creative consultancy representing clientele in the visual arts, luxury market and design industries. What sets us apart is that we unearth the unique perspectives that shape our clients and their work into compelling stories that stand out and can be shared with the world. It’s important to help clients connect with larger audiences–the influencers, journalists or industry leaders that will impact their businesses. Essentially, we enable our clients to do what they do best: create and design.

I like to call our work ‘Aesthetic PR’ or ‘Design PR.’ Our core service is media relations, but we also provide bespoke events, develop content for social media campaigns and facilitate strategic partnerships.

What are you most proud of in your career?
There are so many wins I’m proud of. For example, seeing our clients featured on the number one local morning news program (Good Day LA — whoot whoot), featured in major newspapers (including USA Today, New York Times, WSJ and the LA Times), or stories by respected journalists in design publications. But when there is that groundswell of support from the media, and there is a convergence of having a meaningful story to share that will touch others and impact the public at large, that’s when it really gets interesting.

I’m especially proud of the artists we’ve represented this past year through Art Angels gallery who have released impactful works such as Micah Johnson’s series, “Mom, Can Astronauts Be Black?” and “‘sä-v(ə-)rən-tē,” a time-sensitive photograph with two real subjects (Jacque 8, Rayden 7) which started by simply wanting to empower youths who have faced adversity by letting them see themselves in high-art, and quickly turned into one of the most impactful use cases for Bitcoin and blockchain technology the world has ever seen.

My favorite events remain a tie between producing the launch of the Bugatti Home Collection at the Petersen Automotive Museum—a night that drew our design community and celebrities together—and a Fendi Casa/Luxury Living Group collection event, where we partnered with Galerie magazine during Art Basel.

Additional career milestones I’m proud of are entering the global marketplace with a Paris-based client, Le French Design by VIA, that enabled us to be a part of the global traveling exhibition of ‘No Taste for Bad Taste.’ It debuted at the A+D Museum in L.A. and at both ICFF and the windows of Saks 5th Avenue in New York. I’m also extremely proud that my firm represents several strong, creative female entrepreneurs that challenge me to do more and be more by witnessing their talent, impeccable nature, values and brilliance.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
Surround yourself with others that uplift and inspire you. It’s all work, so it might as well be interesting. If you believe you can make the impossible happen, you probably will. Confidence and a genuine heart always open doors.

Regarding public relations specifically, respect and foster relationships with as many journalists as you can, no matter how junior they may be or the prestige of their publication or outlets. Jobs change. Relationships matter, and they last.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:
Shaun Thompson, Founder/CEO Shaun Thompson PR, STPR team at A + D Museum’s NO TASTE FOR BAD TASTE exhibition, Emily Chlohessy/Account Executive, Julie Du Brow, Partner/Account director.
Photo Credit: Tony Chiappetta

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