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interview: olivia dikambi, a young CEO

Olivia Dikambi is an inspirational, entrepreneurial young woman. Aged just 24, she has already represented over 50 clients in the entertainment industry and has spent the last year running her own PR agency in New York. This interview with Olivia Dikambi covers what inspires her, how to succeed and lead in a competitive industry like PR.

Where did you grow up? What subjects did you like in school? What qualifications do you have and where did you go to get them?
I grew up in Paris, France. I always liked literature, foreign languages, and sports. I have a degree in business & international trade from La Sorbonne. I also took classes for Public Relations and Advertising in the communications department at CUNY.

Did your early life experiences help contribute to a successful PR career?
I believe so! Looking back everything happens for a reason and my life experiences shaped me into the woman I am today.

How did you first get interested in PR and what keeps you excited about working in the industry?
I first got interested in PR when I was handling the celebrity / press relations for Quai 54, one of the biggest basketball tournaments in Europe. We had Eva Longoria and Tony Parker in attendance, and tons of press & photographers looking for a scoop. Total chaos with so many people to coordinate with but I nailed it. This was my first taste of PR!

What keeps me excited about the industry is that is that there is a lot of room for growth in my profession. There are so many sides to PR: Fashion PR, Corporate PR, Lifestyle PR, Sports PR. Knowing that I will always be challenged is quite fun.

Who inspires you?
Winners, people who overcame struggles, people who defy the odds and keep moving forward. People who turn a loss into a win and do not let their environment define who they are. I love people such as Rosa Parks for standing for her rights; all the greatest achievers in history; Beyonce for keeping her drive for more than 13 years in the entertainment business and being a role model for black women and women in general. The list is long!

Why did you decide to start your own agency? How much industry experience did you have before making the decision?
I have always wanted to be my own boss- I like to do things on my own time and my way! However I knew that in order to become a great leader, I would need to be guided along the way, so I studied my bosses for years in order to know the type of CEO I wanted to become. I had two years of PR experience both in the classroom and on the field before I ventured on my own.

Obviously starting an agency involves being a good leader. What kind of leader are you? Do you have any leadership advice?
I lead by example. I don’t expect people to do things I wouldn’t do myself. I think the best way to lead is to share your passions, fears and successes with your team. So they are not just employees, they are team members, a part of the success of the agency.

Your agency seems to be very much based in representing musicians. Was that a deliberate choice for you? What’s great about working in the music industry? What kind of people/bands do you want to represent?
I had my start in music PR, however the agency isn’t one-dimensional. Our first client was a musician and we coordinated such a successful campaign that it attracted more and more business in the music industry. It wasn’t  a deliberate choice, but we plan on expanding  in other fields very soon. The great thing about working in the music industry is that it is constantly evolving since there is no longer a traditional business model to follow.

We currently represent alternative, rock, hip hop and metal bands.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in the industry and especially in starting your own agency?
The biggest challenge I’ve encountered in starting my own agency was wearing multiple hats and running several departments at once: CEO, Marketing, Finance, Customer Relations, etc – I would easily work more than 80+ a week.

What’s a typical day for you? What time do you need to wake up in the morning and when do you get back home at night? How hard/intense is your workload?
A typical day for me? There are no typical days because every day is a new day in PR!  But usually I wake up  around 6/7 am and check my emails. Then once I’m in the office, I coordinate interviews with media, or I head out to a photo shoot/ video shoot with a client. We also do event planning so we coordinate events (concerts, album release parties, etc)  in multiple states; and then there are the day-to-day activities of running an agency. The workload is bearable thanks to my dedicated staff.

How important is the work-life balance for you? How do you get one?
It is very important now! When I started I spent every minute I had working on the business and it was not only detrimental to my health, it was detrimental to the time I spent with family and  having a social life. Now I totally realise the importance of work-life balance and I make sure to have some “me” time. I implemented business hours and force myself to take breaks during the day and sometimes during the weekend.

What kinds of people should consider PR as a career? What is great about working in PR?
You have to be a “people’s person” to work in PR to some extent. Even if you are not in the forefront, you have to deal with lots of people at once, so it can be overwhelming if you are shy. What is great about working in PR is that you always meet/learn someone/something new. Everyday is a learning experience. You develop strong skills (communication, negotiation/leadership, etc)

Is being young an advantage or disadvantage in working in PR?
I thought being young would be a disadvantage and tough getting accounts because I haven’t worked in the field for 15/20 years. But not at all! We currently live in a digital era, and young people not only grew up in it, they know what the market wants. Being young also means you are overly aggressive to go after what you want. We don’t act like ‘we’ve seen it all, done it all’.

Are there any challenges that women specifically face in PR? Do you find that it’s male-dominated? Is there a glass-ceiling?
I don’t find the industry male-dominated and I don’t think there is a glass ceiling. Again, I believe that the only limitation is the one you put on yourself.

Your story is clearly inspirational! What advice would you give other young women who want to start their own business? What do you think is the best advice for succeeding in PR?
If I can do it, you can do it! Fight for what you believe in! Life is short and you need to reach your full potential. Don’t let anyone destroy your dream and work smart to get where you want to be. Do your due diligence and learn EVERYTHING you can about the field before you launch your own business. The best advice I can give you is to stay hungry and work every project like it’s your first one.

What do you see in the future? What are your biggest goals and priorities right now?
I want the agency to represent artists in every music genre, I want to expand to other states and over to Europe in a few years.  My biggest goal right now is to be listed among the top PR firms in NYC for indie acts!

Interested in PR?

Visit www.iampragency.com for more info and follow Olivia on twitter @iampragency

If you are looking for an internship or a business consultation, email olivia@iampragency.com

Resource:

If you would like to follow in Olivia’s successful footsteps, checkout MBA programs online with classes in public relations and advertising.

Photo courtesy of I AM PR Agency.

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