In one of the Huffington Post’s newest series highlighting the top African-American public relations professionals in the country, Imani Pope-Johns, 28, a Howard alum, finds herself in an elite group. Leading Influplexity, a boutique PR firm in Silver Spring, Md. the 2012 Howard graduate in just a few years has ascended to the top of the ranks in the competitive world of image management. Meet Imani Pope-Johns.
How did you get started in PR?
I have a background in journalism, public relations and marketing, in that order. I got started in the communications field after obtaining an internship with J’Adore Magazine as a market research intern in Fall 2008. I was new to Twitter and started following magazines. I tweeted J’Adore, “Do you have any internships?” and the publisher told me to send over some samples. I went from interning for three months to a staff writer attending NYFW, and covering other entertainment or lifestyle stories. For about 2-3 more years I would submit work for various publications. So in late Fall 2010, I had stepped away from interning for a DC-based publicist to being approached to work on my own with a celebrity music manager. From that moment, I was in public relations full throttle and excited about it. I had the confidence to keep going and so I did.
How would your describe Influplexity and why did you start the agency?
Influplexity is sophisticated influence. I came up with the word by combining “influence” and “complexity” and decided that my public relations boutique would take the hard part out of earning media placements. I started the company in May 2015 after resigning from my assistant manager position at Drybar. I realized that everyone around me was able to do something they loved.
What is the process of building a client base for a new PR agency?
The process is not easy. I mostly gain clients through word of mouth, and stray away from bidding for now. I’ve always promoted my interest in PR — and when put to the test, I make sure I can hold my end of the pitch to the client. In PR, there’s a lot of research to do, and if one is not able to prepare work and research the details, they might as well forget it. Nothing is given to you and if it is, there may be something you have to do to help someone in the end. There’s a lot more helpfulness now that I’m 28, than when I was 21 doing this. Being young in PR can be a threat, especially when you are where they are mingling with the right people.
Who are your clients and how do you choose who to work with?
I’ve learned that just because the client has the budget, does not mean they’re the best for you. I agree with being selective and making sure you can align yourself with the people running the business. My current clients are Dio, a natural wine bar in Washington, D.C., and Zach and Zoe Sweet Bee Farm in New Jersey. I started with musicians, magazines and event companies, to hair brands, public figures and now I’m in lifestyle, beauty, home, and I love startups of any kind. I choose clients based on my personal interests. Since I love décor and I’m licensed in cosmetology, I want to work with brands I can really get behind.
How competitive is the PR world in Washington, D.C.?
I’d say I get more love in New York City or in Atlanta, than I would within the D.C. area and anyone can say that. I could be a rapper and say the same thing. I’m not sure why it’s like that, but I’ve always felt it.
Why do you think you were chosen for such a prestigious list early in your career? What are you doing that works?
I think I was chosen because I’ve been holding on for seven years. I’ve made some serious sacrifices to get this far, and sometimes I’m so unsure that I would let it all go. Then I find this spark, and go at it from another angle. I’m truly not able to pinpoint this honor, but I’m glad someone saw it in me. Running a business is tough and we don’t always look for the glitter and gold when we’re in the thick of it.