Written by Brandon Robinson @ScoopB
As folks in the entertainment industry will gather around their tables on Thursday to give thanks for the spread of food, it’d also be in their most professional interest to thank their creator for an important thing―a good publicist!
Uber driver, spokesperson, baby sitter, life coach, style coordinator, therapist―you name it. Those are important hats that publicists wear daily in maintaining their client’s careers.
Meet Briahna Gatlin, a native of Chicago, IL’s west side. Gatlin is the founder and CEO of Swank PR, a customized PR agency and boutique that launched in 2006. Swank tailors to client needs and provides public relations services, creative branding and marketing.
A recipient of the 2013 Music Publicist of the Year from Chicago’s notable Mary Datcher/Global Mixx, Gatlin’s Swank PR firm has represented pretty big names like, G.O.O.D Music, Jay-Z, LeBron James, Hennessy Black, Lupe Fiasco, Raekwon, Mos Def, Chrisette Michele, Sway Calloway, New Era Cap Brand, Complex Magazine and Grey Goose.
What makes her journey into the business of public relations unique is that she began her career as an aspiring writer. All you fly by night publicists, take notes: Before stepping foot into the pr realm, Gatlin rolled up her sleeves and was actually a pretty good writer. “I started out as a journalist in college,” Gatlin told Pynk by phone. “But I thought it would be pretty cool to merge my passion for music.”
Gatlin developed her writing chops after college while living with family in Piscataway, New Jersey. Gatling would fork over her cash by commuting back and forth to Manhattan while writing for The Source Magazine. She’d also written for Mass Appeal, XXL and Red Eye Tribune and interned at Vibe. She penned concert reviews, wrote feature articles and wrote about unsigned artists like fellow Chicagoan, Kanye West, before he went Through The Wire on his 2004 release of his debut album, The College Dropout.
Gatlin speaks fondly of that music scene in the early 2000s when both West and Alicia Keys were considered up-and-comers, particularly of West. “That’s when he got his first full placements on the Blueprint,” said Gatlin of West’s producer genius of Jay-Z album. “He had came to me and asked me if I could get him in Vibe. What really made me go into the music business was when I went to the editor’s office. I asked her if she knew who Kanye was and she said ‘yeah.’ I asked her if we could do a story on him and she told me that he wasn’t relevant enough and she also told me that she just didn’t feel like it was that important.”
Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, dating Amber Rose and saying, ‘I Do’ to Kim Kardashian, it is safe to say West got the last laugh. West’s snub, according to Gatlin, made her want to become a publicist. “Kanye didn’t get the just due that he deserved,” she said.
“And people were sleeping on him. That always became my niche after that. I realized that I needed to be ahead of the curve and if I knew dope music, then I needed to get it out there.”
After her tour of duty in NYC, Gatlin became an executive associate of True Star Magazine, served as the Editorial Director for True Star Magazine and Scream Star Magazine. While at those posts, she created and built brands that became prominent among the teen demographic within Chicago.
After rounding the bases with those endeavors, she became a full-fledged publicist with her brainchild, Swank PR. These days, she’s representing and advocating for rising stars like The Boy Illinois, a Chi-town representer who has garnered comparisons to both Lupe Fiasco and Andre 3000. Gatlin leans on advice from her mother, experiences in college and while beating the pavement in NYC to help today’s artist.“What makes Bri great at her job is she is very personable,” said The Boy Illinois. “As an artist, she gets to know you as a person and she goes and does her job from there. A lot of people don’t get to know you as a person or individual.”
Landon Battles, also represented by Gatlin, shares similar sentiment: “There are not too many black women in Chicago doing what she’s doing so well,” he said. “She’s honest too. She never sugarcoats things and she finds ways of giving constructive criticism that’s moreso of a challenge to you to step your craft up.”
For more info on Briahna Gatlin and Swank PR, visit www.swankpublishing.com