Strategies & Tactics

The Apollo’s Fatima Jones on PR and the Arts

May 1, 2019

Name: Fatima Jones

Current status: Senior Director of PR and Communications, Apollo Theater

Location: Harlem, N.Y.

Career highlights: Working on press campaigns for Pina Bausch, William Forsythe and Mark Morris at Brooklyn Academy of Music; leading the PR and promotions team for “David Bowie Is” at the Brooklyn Museum; securing profiles on dancer and choreographer Ronald K. Brown; meeting the painter Kehinde Wiley; and living and working in London with a small firm during the tech boom.

Dream job as a child: To own and run a dance studio

Favorite artist: The artist formerly known as Prince (May he rest in power)

Any three dinner guests: Zora Neale Hurston, Prince, James Baldwin

Favorite place in NYC: My home in Brooklyn, N.Y., with my daughter and husband

 

How did you become interested in communications and first get your start?

I was selected to be a part of the Arts and Business Council of New York’s multicultural arts program. They placed high-school students interested in the arts in cultural organizations around the city. I was placed in the PR department at the New York Historical Society. I pushed a lot of paper but, ultimately, got a chance to work on a press plan and write a media alert. I had never heard of public relations and loved working in a museum. I learned so much that summer. The internship led to others and, eventually, after college, a PR associate job at a small firm.

 

Have you always been passionate about the arts? Are you an artist or performer?

I grew up surrounded by music, visual arts, dance and theater from all over the world. My father worked in the arts and my godfather ran a regional theater company in upstate New York. My mother has a gorgeous voice and we sang together all the time. I grew up dancing and singing. Being artistic didn’t mean you had to be “professional.” It was part of who we were as a family.

 

The Apollo just turned 85. What role does public relations play in building and growing this storied brand and institution?

I think of myself as the Apollo’s chief news officer, unearthing new stories we can tell about the Apollo and the people on and off the stage that make this theater great. We are fortunate to have an internationally renowned brand. It warms my heart to see tourists taking photos at our Walk of Fame or seeing a packed house enjoy themselves at “Amateur Night,” but my mission is to bring more attention to the work we are doing in this moment.

As this city changes, the Apollo Theater remains a space for artistic innovation and artistic excellence. Our tagline “Where stars are born and legends are made” still holds true. From Ella Fitzgerald to James Brown to the young jazz musician Kamasi Washington who performed here recently — and rocked the house. The energy is still very much alive.

 

What artistic and community initiatives does the Apollo have right now?

The Apollo is both a presenter and a nonprofit that continues to present new and established voices. In fall 2020, the Apollo will serve as the operator and manager for two new theaters located within the Victoria Theater Redevelopment Project, a public/private partnership in Harlem. The new theaters will be perfect spaces for organizations and companies for whom the 1,538-seat main stage is too big.

Behind the scenes, the Apollo’s education department services more than 20,000 adults and students a year through career-development programs, interactive school-time performances and in-school workshops and residencies. This is a busy place, bustling with creativity!

 

What makes a great story and how can you use great content to reach consumers?

People love to laugh, and watch babies and dogs play. Those types of things cross cultural, religious and political boundaries. The best content tugs at the heart — a great voice, a fly dance move. It’s why talent shows like “Amateur Night at the Apollo” are so endearing. People like to be transported. I am constantly going down the rabbit hole on Instagram!

 

What advice do you have for someone wanting to work at a cultural organization?

If you can afford it, take an internship or volunteer! Join a young patrons group or a community advisory board. Get to know the place and its people. It’s easier to hire someone who’s already familiar with the organization. Plus, you get the inside scoop!

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.

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