Chanel Rae Pettaway is a woman of many names: The Red Carpet Hero (via BET), The Culture Princess, and one of The Baddest Publicist Baes In The Game (via Bossip). In my opinion, she truly should also be recognized as a national treasure in public relations. She is the co-founder of The Legion Media Group, a New York City-based public relations and branding agency that specializes in creating unique, creative, thorough, and multifaceted campaigns. The public relations specialist has a very wide resume spanning different mediums of culture ranging from music and sports. Some of her current clientele includes the likes of WWE, Jimmy Jazz, and Hot97 itself along with various individuals: Peter Rosenberg, DJ Drewski, producer Salaam Remi, and Dipset.
The Central Islip, New York native began her journey early in high school as she first interviewed the first lady at the time Hillary Clinton. She earned her Bachelor's in Political Science and English from Pace University. Her early work ethic would bring forth a snowball effect of many successes in her current lifetime. Chanel was a recipient of the Essence of a Woman award from the Queens chapter of the NAACP in March of 2012, named in the top forty-five publicists you should hire Proverb in May of 2014, and featured in Urban Magazine’s Executive Power and AllHipHop’s Powerful Women in March 2019. I can't forget to mention her recognition on Black Enterprise in March 2020 for the brand alignment between Dipset, The NBA, and Bleacher Report.
Nowadays, her mission is simply to “save brands.” Outside of her PR work, she is also known for being a cohost of a podcast that helps millennial moms, the “Our First Time; AMommyCast”. The podcast has gained recognition from platforms such as VIBE Magazine and Hot97. TheMSQShop was fortunate enough to have some time in her day to learn more about the multifaceted woman.
Jay: What inspired you to get into the entertainment industry? I noticed your college background is in Political Sciences and English.
Chanel: I thought I was going to be a real-life Olivia Pope. I pictured myself being down in Washington running around politicians. If I had stuck to my guns and fought more to be in hard news, I'd probably still be involved in politics in some way. However, I was in the school paper and for whatever reason, the news editor left sophomore year, and I never was really assigned any hard news after that. They kept assigning me A&E stuff. Because of that, I got more contacts in the arts and entertainment world. I want to say because of that, it made me become open to other possibilities in that field. I knew at that point I wanted to be in entertainment but didn’t know in what capacity. I’m keeping writing for arts and entertainment. I've learned how to treat people like people. My coach and high school teacher Carl Hawker in high school said to me "be careful of the toes you step on today as it may be connected to the ass you may have to kiss tomorrow."
In a sense, some of it fell into my lap. I began writing for InTouch Weekly at the time thanks to a colleague of mine. When I was asked to write for them, I said of course. I started getting assignments and it wasn't until 2008 that where stock market crashed. I lost my job with Advertising Age and I stopped getting gis left and right. Stock market class and offices started closing. It was the start of the digital era. In 2008, the NAACP asked my partner Ian and me to put together a fashion event for their college division centennial. We used to do events like that, so it wasn't too difficult. We saw it as a cool way to get some summer money. When we would put together shows at the time, my partner did the production ad I did the so-called PR. I knew b and c list celebrities and asked them to come together on the red carpet. it got so much exposure that it was featured on USA Today. The designers and DJ asked if I can do PR for us regularly. It was just supposed to be a summer gig but I said sure. You have to learn your craft. We brought on an additional partner, Thomas who helped clean us up and do it in more of a more professional way and do things as we go. One client went to another client and so forth.
Jay: How did the public relations field evolve from when you first began your career to today?
Chanel: I remember managers or executives not taking any digital seriously. They saw it as a fad or trend. They definitely did not take blogging seriously and managers did not consider blogs as media at all at the time. They did not think social media was what’s for fun and I watched it now transition from print and television pitching to blog-era pitching and maybe social. Now executives want to be on social pages.
To see how the shift has gone since 2008 is very interesting and I think it’ll continue to trend that way. As much as clients will always want to be in print and blogs, the real impact nowadays is through digital and social media. It's important to always keep up with the changes on social media. Even some favorite influencers' pages are getting taken down. With influencers right now that are trying to make it to events like Summer Jam, for example, it'll be tough because the numbers are trash due to making a new page after having their first page deactivated. Not only does it affect the influencers, but it also affects the publicists and content creators working with the influencers. Now, it’s about protecting IG and Tik Tok accounts.
Jay: Definitely. In the words of a homie of mine Big Sto, it's crucial to get a website. We've seen social media platforms shut down often over 2021. Instagram was frequently known for doing that. The website can help fans stay up to date with the person when all of these apps are down. A website is a foundation for everything digital in my opinion. Blogs. Social media apps. Everything. To also speak on Tik-Tok, they surpassed Google in 2021 as the most visited website, ending Google's near two-long decade streak in that statistic.
Can you describe the differences between public relations and marketing? I feel like public relations is the problem-solving logistics aspect of media while marketing itself is promoting the solution to various stakeholders and audiences.
Chanel: Marketing is paid placement and public relations is earned placements. The easiest way to understand it is that marketing is guaranteed. Marketing is an umbrella that contains a variety of different strategies such as advertisements but they're all paid. PR is all about brand perception. It's about earned media as opposed to paid media.
Jay: How do you maintain a balance between the PR life and the life of a parent?
Chanel: Learning how to say no on both sides. Honestly, it’s still a journey for me. We as working moms put so much pressure on work-life balance but the truth is, one side will always suffer. I guess I know this because I was always a B+ kid. I was never the A+ kid because it’s very hard and seldom you can be great at everything. You can be good at everything but you’ll never be great at everything. You do one thing and be great at it. My mom was the mom that put me on everything in school: girl scours, dancing, some sort of sport, religion, whatever. I got into high school and did the same thing: track, student body president editor-chief of the newspaper, and I had a job.
In my opinion, I never excelled to my full potential because I was spreading myself very thin. In college, I’m not doing that. I picked one thing and that was journalism and I stuck with it. I'm still a writer as I write every day. I think I still hold that true to me that journalism is my thing. It’s the same principle knowing that if you give anything got one side, it sacrifices the other, so I still look at myself as a B+ at both.
If didn't have a personal and family life, I’d be kicking ass at PR. There are people that kick ass at the job one day but don't perform well the next because they couldn't balance their professional with their personal. They don't have a personal life because they couldn’t balance. Unless you’re okay with being a B+ player. That’s a conscious decision I made. I don’t want to sacrifice my kid from my career and vice versa.
Jay: What was the best no you ever received and why?
Chanel: It was at HOT 97. I have always been what I called the stepchild of HOT 97. I had the support of jocks but it took a while to get executive attention. I was told no repeatedly when the opportunity came about for a major consulting position. They put two people ahead of me and both of those people failed in the position so once they gave me the opportunity, I was recognized for my value and worth. Sometimes you have to show and improve I get that. I never held it against them on why they didn’t hire me the first time. No doesn't mean the end of the story, it means that it wasn't the right time.
Jay: You were a part of the team that helped Cardi B get her first music placement in a media company, XXL Magazine. What was it like to see the evolution of Cardi from that point going forward knowing that you played a role in someone’s career like that?
Chanel: I'm super proud of her and myself. Don’t get me wrong. I knew she was going to be a star. I don’t like talking about her this much because I don't want any assumptions or anything misinterpreted. I don't really promote it like that because to me yes, she was a part of my career as I was a part of hers but it's not the only thing that validates us. I have done so much more since then but she’s a good example because of going to that for unknown artists and getting her the awareness that she deserves. Both of us have grown since then and if we cross paths again, may still work together in the future.
Jay: While doing research on you, I did find that your experience with WWE was some form of an outlier to me. Was that project something you and Peter Rosenberg worked on together or did the brand reach out to you for assistance?
Chanel: Absolutely. March will make it ten years of working with Peter. I am humbled and proud to call Peter a friend. I will say that most of my early clients have been true supporters, especially with referrals. If it wasn't for DJ E Stylez, I wouldn't have worked with Joell Ortiz. If it weren't for Peter I wouldn't be working for WWE. It's so humbling how much clients believe in you and I'm still super proud to be working with them.
Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would like to shout out?
Chanel: Definitely the ones I'm working with such as Vanity Rose out of Atlanta, Prince Lawrence from the Bronx, and Iman Nunez from Yonkers.
She can be found on all social media @pqchanel . Learn more about The Legion Media group at thelegionmediagroup.com and on their social media platforms @thelegionmediagroup
Written by: Jay Guevara @justinhisprime on all social media.