Named one of “Hollywood’s New Leaders” by Variety in 2015, Jordyn Palos, founder of Persona PR, launched the company in 2010 and has established Persona as one of the most dedicated and hands-on independent PR firms in the entertainment industry today. With offices in Los Angeles and New York City, Persona has grown from a dozen clients that followed Jordyn when she left her previous PR job, to over 100 clients in the talent, music, branded lifestyle, non-profit, and corporate space. Persona PR’s client list includes a select group of award winning actors from film and television, New York Times bestselling authors, various experts in the beauty and lifestyle space, comedians, production companies, and a handful of musicians.
Born and raised in Southern California, Jordyn obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Radio, Television, and Film with an emphasis in Electronic Media Management from California State University Northridge. Her educational experience has provided a background vital to navigating the PR world and ever-changing digital arena: electronic media systems, media management, media message design, audience analysis, mass communication research, international broadcasting, new media, and more. During her senior year of college (2006) Jordyn took an internship with a LA-based entertainment public relations firm, and worked for that company for four years before launching Persona PR out of her apartment.
Before finding her true calling as a publicist and business owner, Jordyn worked as a Marketing Associate for Ashley Furniture, and in the music industry as a stylist (working with Tyga, Paramore, and Panic! At The Disco, to name a few). While her business and clients are two of her greatest passions, Jordyn is also a wife and mom, and loves to spend time with her family. She is also a supporter of the American Diabetes Association (as several people in her life are Type 1 diabetics) and the Bumble Bee Foundation, a local organization that provides relief to families who have children suffering from cancer.
What investment did you need to start Persona PR?
When I started the company in 2010, I was in debt. I graduated college four years prior, had some debt from being in school, and didn’t see a way to get out of it if I continued working for the company I began my career with (which was one of the factors that fueled me, in launching Persona PR). I had no investors and figured if I had a few paying clients right out the gate I could generate what my former company was paying me over the course of one year, in just a few months. From there, I could pay off my debt, get some positive cash flow happening and put some money in the bank, and that’s exactly what I did. I kept my overhead minimal. I had no staff, did everything myself (including press clippings, mailings to clients, everything!), and I had a PO Box in the valley instead of an actual office space. After a few months with positive cash flow I started to slowly build my team, secured my first little office space in Beverly Hills (literally one office to start), and the company has been growing ever since. So, to answer the question of what investment did I need to start Persona PR— I bet on myself, and was fortunate enough to have other people invest in the company with their time, energy, and belief that Persona would grow to become something great. Sometimes, the confidence, support, and mentorship from others can be much more valuable than a financial investment to get a start-up company off the ground.
What does your work entail?
I always jokingly tell people when they ask me what I do, that I have to be an expert in a little bit of everything. Generate national and international press placements? Yep, I can do that. Curate a strategy and marketing plan for high-level CEO’s and their businesses? Yes, I can do that too. Advise on social media strategy, streamline account handles and spearhead press-driven social media campaigns for clientele? Absolutely, on our list of of capabilities. That said, Persona is rooted in representation. Our bread and butter is working alongside actors and multi-hyphenate talents, filmmakers, producers, creators, networks, and studios. Along the way we have added in digital strategy (as even 10 years ago that was a completely different conversation when it comes to social media, streaming platforms, and the power they wield) however at the end of the day personal representation is one of my biggest passions. My day to day job has shifted over the years; early on I was doing everything on my own, from buying magazines at grocery stores and mailing the print clippings to clients, to calling restaurants to make reservations for our clients who wanted to get squeezed into some hot new spot at the last minute, and networking with other representatives in the entertainment business and/or members of the media, I did it all. Today, I still do a lot of those things but I have a robust staff in New York and Los Angeles, and they certainly make my world go around.
Why and how have you chosen PR as your career?
I’m not sure if I chose PR as my career, rather it chose me. When I was in college, the only thing I knew about publicity was what I learned watching Samantha Jones on “Sex and the City” or Shauna Roberts on “Entourage.” I thought publicists got free UGG boots for their clients and just went to parties all day! I had no idea what I was truly signing up for. I never took a publicity or marketing class, my major was in Electronic Media Management, and I was learning about Nielsen ratings and entertainment law. My senior year of college I found an internship at a boutique PR firm off of Craigslist, decided to try it out, and I have been working in publicity ever since. If I had not found that listing online, or if I hadn’t needed those three internship units to graduate, I have no idea what I would be doing today. I truly fell into my career. What has been fascinating for me though, is watching my career evolve and blend into multiple roles: publicist and business owner/entrepreneur. I also have to note, over the last 11 years I never had any expectations about how this whole beast of a business would evolve, and it is still something that I am learning and growing in. It has been one of my great joys to watch it take on a life of its own, especially with my hard-working and talented staff building their careers within Persona. I always have had an entrepreneurial spirit, so perhaps I would have found another type of business to launch if Persona didn’t exist. That said, I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined back when I was growing up or even a senior in college that I would be working in entertainment in this capacity, specifically in representation, and running a company that I am so proud of.
The digital industry is expanding every day, and more people are interested in work in the business. Do you have any advice for the younger generation who wants to work in the market?
This is such an interesting question, because when I started my career back in 2006 the “digital industry” meant something so different, and today it’s evolving at a rapid pace. I remember when Hulu and Netflix started… and trying to wrap my brain around how all the episodes of a television series would drop on one day and how that could ever feasibly work with publicity. “Who would binge watch eight episodes of a show in one night, certainly not me!” I thought- I was proven so wrong (shoutout to That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph, it’s a great read). Today, knowledge of digital media, emerging technologies, digital marketing, social media, and being aware and educated on streaming platforms and how they are continuing to disrupt the marketplace is all critical, so my advice for the younger generation is to immerse yourself in all of it. If you want to be successful in publicity and marketing, you better be educated on how people are consuming their content and where they are getting their news. I am still a student, and push myself to be educated every day in some way, shape, or form on what is new and emerging in the digital industry.
What are the top three errors you made at the beginning of your career?
I have been working in publicity for almost 16 years, owned Persona PR for 11.5 of them and let me tell you, I have made a lot of mistakes. How can you succeed without some failures? It’s impossible. I am not afraid to take risks, try new things, and sometimes those ventures do not succeed, and that’s OK. I was 25 years old when I started Persona, and it took me a good five years to figure out what it meant to be a leader in business, how to cultivate company culture, elevate and empower staff, navigate and curate people’s careers on the publicity front, and understand the trust others were putting into me and my firm, by representing them. Some epic failures along the way: bringing in a “strategic partner” when the timing wasn’t right, attempting to launch a social media branch of the company without proper structure, and even some of the team members I hired early on who contributed to an unhealthy team environment, due to the company not having a vision (which in turn, was stemming from me not having a vision – one of my biggest learning lessons yet). As humans, we have the opportunity to learn from every single mistake, grow, move on, and do better.
What has changed in your business due to COVID-19?
On March 13, 2020, our entire world was flipped upside down. I’ll never forget that day, I was on set covering a photoshoot with a client, and the vibe was weird. Everyone was a little bit quieter than usual, some of the artists on set were wearing masks, and I remember thinking this might be the last time we have a photoshoot like this for a while. I never could have imagined productions across the globe being shut down, our actors being pulled offset, and the quiet that would envelop our industry; effective immediately. Events stopped. There were no red carpet premieres, no press junkets, Broadway plays closed, and on top of that, the news cycle was disheartening, daunting, and relentless every single day with non-stop coverage on the pandemic, 2020 election, and then with the murder of George Floyd. Just heartbreaking news, every single day. What saved, and essentially changed my business over the last 18 months (as I answer these questions the pandemic rages on as we are still navigating events being shut down, strict COVID-19 protocols, and junkets being moved to all-virtual) was our pivot to book and music driven campaigns (as people were sheltering in place, music streaming hit all-time highs along with books being read) while our actors waited to get back to work. We also had clients with banked content; series and films that had been completed pre-pandemic that were scheduled to be released on various platforms regardless of what was happening with the pandemic, and therefore press was still happening. Networks and studios moved premieres and junkets to virtual, our clients started speaking with press from their homes (or even from their cars at times!) instead of sitting at a hotel for 8-10 hours on media days. Photographers shot magazine covers and spreads from FaceTime and Zoom calls. Clients did their own hair and make-up, self-styled, and sent in their own photos for press use. Zoom, which I had never even heard of pre-pandemic, exploded (and we continue to use it for clients all over the world in a much bigger capacity than before COVID-19).
Myself and my team have yet to return to our LA and NYC offices in person (however we are on the ground in both cities covering more and more in-person items), which was a big adjustment in the beginning of the pandemic. Today, we feel more connected than ever before with our multiple team zoom calls per week and working virtually, together. The entertainment industry worked hard to put COVID-19 safety protocols in place over the last year and a half, so that tens of thousands of people out of work could return as safely and quickly as possible, and for that I am forever grateful.
How do you balance work and life?
Juggling a work/life balance is a constant work in progress for me. I love to work, I love my business, and I thrive in a busy, exciting environment. That said, I also love being a wife and mom. I love going to baseball games on the weekends, and hanging out with my family. As I have gotten older and gone through different seasons in life; from getting married, starting a family, working to grow the company, and investing in our clients and their successes (and failures!) ensuring you are nourishing all of the different areas that encompass your day to day life and the people within it, can be challenging. I like to write down my goals and have them visible throughout the day, so I can stay focused on what I am aiming to achieve. So for example on my monitor right now, on a sticky note (which is right in front of me as I answer these interview questions) it says: Pray. Keep a positive spirit. Stay intentional. Workout. Do not drink soda. Be present. You did your best today.
How would you describe your leadership style and what has made it so effective?
I think my leadership “style” is rooted in how I attempt to live my life every day. I try to be a good example for my team, as you can’t be a leader and talk the talk, without walking the walk. I work hard to have ongoing conversations with my staff about topics that can affect their everyday lives. Real-life stuff. If you aren’t happy at home, it’s difficult to be happy at work and be fulfilled in your career. I genuinely care about each and every person who works at Persona PR, and the hundreds of people who come in and out of our daily conversations whether that be clients, managers, agents, attorneys, network and studio publicists, and members of the media, just to name a few. Some of the topics that we discuss regularly: what are our core values, how can we bring meaningful campaigns and work to the table for our clients, what does success look like, what does representation look like, and one of my favorites, when you say you are going to do something, do it. I see myself and my team as a light, in what can sometimes be a very dark business. That’s what we strive for, and all ties into my leadership style.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
I speak to many students each year who are interested in pursuing a career in publicity, whether that be specifically in personal representation like what I do, or sometimes they are interested in brand PR, working at a studio or network in their PR department, and even corporate PR. My biggest advice is if you are still in school and can intern, do it. Many of our interns have gone on to pursue full-time careers in publicity post-graduation, and typically Persona PR is just one of a handful of internships they have under their belts, trying out many different areas of PR to see what they like best. Personal publicity and representation comes with its own challenges and rewards, it is not for the faint of heart. You must have thick skin. You need to excel in many areas to succeed: from writing and pitching, to generating press strategies, crisis management, social media knowledge, and being a great partner and communicator amongst many different people in the industry (to name just a few skills). Also understand, publicity is a marathon, not a sprint. Being a publicist and shaping the narrative for our clients is rewarding, exciting, and challenging, and I can’t wait to see and work alongside the future generation of public relations professionals.