My Work: Kevin Gessay

Portrait of Kevin Gessay

Interview: Haris Stavridis // Portrait: Nikola Borissov for Fashion We Like

Could you please describe your role?

I am the Managing Director of PMK•BNC London. We are a strategic marketing and communications firm that specializes in popular culture and entertainment. We represent close to 400 celebrities as gatekeepers to their image and work with brands all over the world orchestrating their storytelling and cultural relevance through communications, influencer outreach, social/digital content creation, and experiences. My job is a combination of managing our London office teams and operations, keeping on top of global client needs/movements, and always looking for new opportunities and stories to tell.

What is your typical day at the office like?

I like to be in the office by 9:00am. I usually skim my daily online publications and trade news and then review the calendar for the day. My days really vary and are a combination of meetings, client calls, brainstorm sessions, writing plans, and presentations. I also travel a lot so depending on the job at hand, I may be on a plane to Geneva or a train to Paris. What I’ve always liked about my job is that no two days are really alike, and I’m always on the move and being challenged.

What do you enjoy most in your current position?

The autonomy.

How has technology changed the way we see celebrities and digital influencers? Would you say that anyone has a fair chance of becoming an influencer with the tools offered right now?

Technology has made celebrity truly global and instantaneous. And everyone has a platform now. But rarely do you change anyone’s opinion about a subject, you just change their opinion of you. To separate yourself you must find your unique voice, be informed, have a point of view but do it in a way that is not combative, too controversial or overly opinionated. Everything is very visual now. Just look at how Instagram and Snapchat are skyrocketing. Stick to the facts, create an aesthetic and have a sense of humour. The rest is just noise.

Your agency has worked with clients such as Audi and Tod’s. What are their needs when it comes to talent booking and experiences?

Influencer outreach can be a powerful tool for a brand. But it has to feel right. It can never be “insert celebrity here.” We often use a fashion and style lens when creating brand/celebrity associations and make sure the individual’s persona and style sensibility align nicely to the brand and vice versa. We also have created a proprietary measurement system that helps take the guess work out of celebrity associations and can assess potential return on investment. There is a science to celebrity.

You deal with a lot of people on a global level. What kind of personal skills does one need to have to be successful in a role like yours?

Trust yourself and be confident. I learned there was no reason to be intimidated or have self-doubt. If you have done your homework, are informed, add value and show passion for what you do, people, no matter who they are and at what level they are at, will be drawn to you.

What kind of manager are you? Do you prefer to be liked or respected?

A friend recently sent me a quote that resonated with me. “Managers make it about them. Leaders make it about you.” I’d rather talk about you. Asking questions and sharing successes equal respect.

How do you hire the people in your team? Are there any specific questions that you ask potential candidates to see if they would be a good fit?

I ask questions about their work that will indicate passion or excitement around what they do and what they can offer. I need to see some type of spark. Someone who just talks about their past achievements with no mention of how they see themselves in the future, will not make the cut.

When it comes to fashion and business news, what's on your daily reading list? Any great business books you'd like to recommend?

I read Daily Front Row, WWD, WSJ, PR Week, Hollywood Reporter, Daily Mail, and to name a few. For monthlies, I’m all about GQ and Monocle. I’m a huge fan of the book Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo. It really made me rethink how to give presentations. I also took a lot away from the book Mastery, by Robert Greene. It is about both historical and modern day individuals who mastered their passion. Fascinating.

What are your three biggest headaches at work right now?

The instantaneousness of social media, I drink too much coffee, and always lose my umbrella. It rains a lot in London.

What was the biggest setback that you have faced in your career? How did you respond to it?

We have cycles during the calendar year when staff is considered for promotions. There was a time in my career where I felt I was overlooked. At first, I was furious and played the victim. A very wise friend made me take another look at the situation and after some objective contemplation and introspection, I realised why I had been passed over and decided to be proactive, take responsibility and address it head on with goals and next steps. Three months later I was promoted.

What is the most solid, specific piece of advice you have for anyone wishing to work in marketing communications?

Our business is all about storytelling. It doesn't matter if your client is a person, a brand or a service, if you can tell a compelling story and amplify that content through multiple channels of communication, you are a step ahead.

Could you please tell us about your business priorities in the next six months?

Our London office is growing so we will be bringing in some new talented staff and expanding our teams. And of course, our focus will continue to be on our clients and to do great work.

Whom would you like to recommend next for My Work?

Cheryl Calegari.

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