Women in Music: Jen Appel, CEO of Catalyst Publicity Group

The Catalyst Publicity Group is a boutique PR & marketing firm based in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The Catalyst team sets out to make a unique mark in the PR landscape by providing innovative and unique ideas and dedication to their clients.

We had the opportunity to speak with Catalyst’s CEO, Jen Appel, about her journey, Catalyst’s vision, and we received some insight on working in entertainment PR. Read what she had to say below.

First, can you start off by telling us a little about yourself and your role at Catalyst Publicity Group? Can you give us more information on what Catalyst does and what services you offer?

Hi everyone, my name is Jen, I am the CEO & Publicity Director of The Catalyst Publicity Group. I started Catalyst almost two years ago with the sole purpose to give the underdog DIY artists/brands a chance to thrive in the competitive music arena. Catalyst is a full-service PR/Marketing firm offering exclusive campaigns to artists/brands. We assist our clients with everything from setting up an exclusive for a single launch, tour press, to assistance with their social media.

Prior to starting Catalyst, what jobs did you hold and how did those lead you to where you are now? Did you always want to work in music?

Prior to opening Catalyst I worked for several PR firms here in South Florida working in all different areas including hotels, entertainment, automotive groups and charity galas. My favorite job was working for a fabulous company called Zucker PR. At this job I’ve never worked harder or had the ability to learn more about the PR field. This job absolutely shaped me into the person I am today. Although I didn’t work in music at the firm I learned a great deal on the fundamental PR skills. Just before opening Catalyst I worked for a startup music entertainment firm where I built their entire publicity, social media, and management departments. It was here that I knew a career in the music industry was obtainable.

When and how did you get the idea for Catalyst? What led you to start your own company and what did you set out to accomplish?

To be honest I got the idea for Catalyst after unfortunately working for a firm where my beliefs were not aligned. I felt like the artist/brand was not getting a say in their representation that it was very commercialize to make a few extra bucks. I was cornered to work on material that I wasn’t passionate about. I am a very driven person; I cannot just sit back and let the ball roll. I guess you could say I am a control freak and enjoy being in the position to work as hard as possible to make the client happy. I started Catalyst because I saw room for improvement in the industry and wanted to offer a hand to those artists/brands in need. I started Catalyst as a way to pass the time after quitting my job and wasn’t too sure how it would escalate. I wanted to give it 3 months and see how it went and by the holidays if nothing progressed, I’d likely apply for unemployment and begin job searching again. Fortunately, Chrissy (our PR Director) had reached out to me after my announcement and had an interest in joining. Since we were both in the same position we decided to bring several of our own freelance clients together to make Catalyst’s entrance into the scary music world. I believe from the beginning we had about 8 clients! In our first year we were able to work 42 campaigns, something I am very proud of!

What is your advice to people who want to work in music marketing/PR? What skills or traits do you feel are necessary to succeed in this industry and how can people get started now?

My biggest advice is to learn how to be patient. Not only is this an impeccable skill to learn in any career but especially in music and even more so in PR. There are many days my patience runs out, but luckily I have Chrissy to talk to and vice versa. Also, be prepared to work a lot. I have a very bad habit of not shutting off from the world, but am constantly reminded by friends and family that that is most important. Over the 2 years I’ve had friends pull me away and make me leave my phone at home for a few hours, those ended up being my favorite days. Another thing to remember is everyone has different work schedules; there is no 9-5 in this industry. Chrissy and I work nights and we work weekends. We sometimes stay up super late on conference calls to brainstorm because our days are too chaotic to chat.

However, on a much more positive note you get to work in music. You get to make someone’s dreams come to fruition and when that happens nothing in the world can replace that feeling. Some skills one must have in PR are the ability to write. Not one to throw together perfect sentences but to deliver a press release quickly. This is a very fast paced environment and if you do not act on something immediately or be prepared if there is a crisis this industry isn’t cut out for you.

Lastly, a music publicist must have a backbone. It is imperative for one to not get overwhelmed in this industry; there are people out there that will knock you down. You have to be able to get right back up and keep moving. For those interested in getting started I would suggest interning. I interned for 7 PR firms before I completed my Master’s program. Without that work experience I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

What would your advice be to musicians who are trying to establish and grow their fan base?

The biggest advice for musicians trying to establish a fan base is making sure you have something unique to offer. Is your music different? Are you ready to go? Meaning are you happy with your band, are you happy with your brand, do you like your team and most importantly is everyone on the same page. If none of these are in order than growing a fan base will be near impossible. When you are satisfied with your brand/band/team and everything is lined up to grow a fan base you need to get on the road, establish relationships with other bands and industry individuals, and communicate with your fans. Your best tool is social media. Talk to your fans, get to know them. The more you communicate with them and allow them in to your band the more they’ll want to be a part of it and organically spread the word. And lastly, make sure that you are giving the fan an experience they’ll never forget. Is your live show unforgettable? Yes, well people will talk about it and when you continue hitting the road your fan base will grow because people want to see you. Is your song so catchy? Yes, well then people will be sharing it. Make something unforgettable, get people talking, it is the best and most organic way to grow a fan base. Be unique!

What has been you’re biggest obstacle, either in your career in general or at Catalyst, and how did you overcome it?

Every day we have mini obstacles at Catalyst but so does every publicist. We all find ways to overcome them by continuing to push our clients and giving them the best campaigns possible. I’ve been so incredibly blessed to have Catalyst run off the ground. As we quickly approach our 2nd anniversary I still have to pinch myself and say “you’re doing it!!” For the girl that struggled immensely in school with a learning disability and had the hardest time received her Masters and started her own company [sic]. The 21 year old me would have laughed. Personally, Catalyst is the biggest accomplishment of my life and I feel so happy to be doing what I love and finding success in my own business.

Where do you see Catalyst Publicity Group in the next 5-10 years? What goals do you hope to accomplish?

I love this question! I would love to continue working with incredible artists/brands in 5-10 years. In the coming year our biggest focus is to begin working with more labels and management groups.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you to absolutely everyone that has supported Catalyst over the years and helped myself and Chrissy live out our dreams. And special thank you to Music Creates Us for giving us the opportunity to showcase Catalyst to viewers.

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