Today we’d like to introduce you to Onika Richards.
Onika, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and grew up surrounded by creatives. I attended performing arts schools for dance my entire life but around my senior year of high school, I started tapping into other passions. I enjoyed planning events and fell in love with film and storytelling. I started skipping my lunch and dance periods to sit in a classroom to teach myself how to film and edit videos because I didn’t have the software or a camera at home and I was just that determined to learn.
I went to Ithaca College in upstate NY and graduated in 2018. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Documentary Film with minors in journalism and sociology. Naturally, I fell into documentary film because I was getting to tell stories visually and creatively about topics important to me and sociology was great because I just loved learning about people. Unfortunately exactly halfway through my college experience, my friend was tragically murdered. It was during the first week of my junior year in 2016, and it impacted my entire college friend group. Everything about that semester fell apart and I had no motivation to do anything. Literally. I decided to spend the following spring semester at my school’s Los Angeles program to clear my mind and to get away from an environment that was affecting me mentally. It’s crazy how things work because I now credit Los Angeles for me finding my passion in public relations/talent relations, although at the time I wouldn’t know those moments would be so transformative to my career.
While there, I was interning in production management at MTV. Being in the capital of entertainment, everyone always wanted to know who you were and what you did. I was meeting so many party promoters, DJs, bouncers, agents, artist managers, and artists organically. I noticed a lot of people gravitated towards my energy because I was genuine, compassionate and a great listener. I never spoke much about myself, I just observed. I just always wanted to know what I could do for others. I was good at reading people and I could help someone craft and tell their story instantly. I noticed I always was good at connecting the dots and planning. My life was quite a story, but I was more interested in hearing and telling others’. It was almost like I fell into PR without even knowing what I was doing were key components of being a publicist. All while learning to navigate a new city.
After spending nearly 6 months living in LA, I moved back to NY where I finished up my senior year and interned at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. My experience at Fallon was simply put: surreal. Seeing publicists come in and out day after day with some of the world’s biggest stars helped me realize it was a career I’d really enjoy. It helped me realize that publicists are such key components to any team and every industry, not just entertainment. I realized it was so important to craft proper messaging to the right target audiences. It solidified what I really wanted to do, I just needed the confidence to finally do it.
After graduating college, I got a job at MTV/VH1 in their brand creative department before going on to work at a talent PR firm. After six months at the firm, I went on to become a talent coordinator at Condé Nast Entertainment back in October 2019, where I currently work today. To further gain experience in PR, I worked on BET’s PR team at tentpole events like the BET Awards, BET Hip Hop Awards 2018 and BET Black Girls Rock 2018. I have also worked on several MTV Video Music Award events, the International Emmys, and different movie premieres around NYC. I still go back to Los Angeles often, whether for work or leisure because LA is the reason why I am where I am today.
Great, 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?
In August 2020, I officially started my company, Elevate PR Group. Elevate happened organically and for the first time in my life, I felt confident enough to want to own something for myself. It was a business idea I was sitting on for a while, but I guess the uncertainties of 2020 made me finally just start it. Nothing about the journey has been smooth. I wouldn’t even trust someone who says anything they really want in life is easy.
Imposter syndrome has been my biggest struggle. As a Black woman who has always been in corporate environments, I have doubted my abilities time and time again. I have questioned if I belong in the room I am in, often losing sight that hard work got me there. When it came to starting Elevate PR Group, I often wondered: am I ready for this? Am I doing this right? Was it too soon to start a company? I feel like self-doubt is one of the biggest problems I have faced as an entrepreneur. I feel like there were many times I have self-sabotaged my own worth and my own business endeavors for the sake of how the world would perceive it. But then I remember all those days in high school I isolated myself to teach myself everything about editing and film and how hard I worked for something I was passionate about. I’m slowly learning to trust my instincts more. I would say to everyone trying to start their own business out there to just do it! Stay true to you, build your network, and elevate your net worth. It’s worth it and you can do it.
Elevate PR Group – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Elevate PR Group is a public relations agency for both emerging and established artists’ needs. While our specialty is music publicity, we also work brands, small businesses, and other creatives looking for representation. Our goal is to help ELEVATE your endeavors through publicity exposure, strategic communications and artist/brand development. Through the recognized advancement of the digital era, we aim to increase visibility on all platforms, get our clients exposure in digital blogs and media outlets, and provide support from the beginning of your journey to the peak of your success and beyond.
I wanted music and artists to be a major focus of my agency because music got me through the loss of a friend, my time in LA, college, and just about literally everything in life. Music is something that can bring literally anyone together no matter what walk of life you come from. So to be able to help spread the art of music through a skill like PR…it’s a dream. I am most proud of Elevate because it is the first thing in my life that doesn’t have to “play by the rules.” No attachments to a big corporate company with rules and multiple layers of hierarchy. If there is anything 2020 has taught us is that things can so quickly change – so just do it. Many people are caught up on there being a right way to do things (and yes, I’m guilty of this, too). I think once you apply your basic skills, always remain professional, and stay authentic, there is no “perfect way.” PR is a quickly changing industry and I want that to be reflected in our strategies with our clients here at Elevate.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
It’s a recent moment but definitely finally starting Elevate and securing two clients (one is an artist signed to a major record label and the other is a Black-owned business/Entrepreneur.)
- Website: www.elevateprgroup.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @elevateprgrp & @onika.richards