CJC Insights

Chanel Cathey, CEO

Meet Chanel Cathey, CEO of CJC Insights. Chanel knew she wanted to be in comms from an early age, and her resume reflects her passion for media relations, storytelling and relationship-building. Today, her boutique agency provides PR support to female founders and BIPOC, minority-owned businesses (Chanel is also a mentor on our BIPOC Mentorship Program!). Read on for more on her impressive career milestones so far, exciting current projects and her future plans.

What attracted you to the PR and comms industry and how did you get your start?

As a child, I always wanted to be a media executive in NYC or a broadcast journalist traveling the globe chasing headlines. Every morning I would snatch the newspaper and read it aloud to my parents in my 'news anchor' voice. I always loved media but I didn’t know anything about public relations until I started college. I went to a communications career panel and everything clicked. I approached the speaker, then ABC News PR chief, Jeffrey Schneider, to ask for a summer internship in Washington, DC. That introduction landed me a media relations internship spot at This Week with George Stephanopoulos and then Good Morning America. That's how it all started and snowballed into the career I have today.

PR combines all the things that I love – media, relationship-building, writing, storytelling, ideation, and brand building. The job is fast-paced and always changing. While on the media relations teams at ABC News, Unilever and Viacom, I loved working across each organization looking for new stories and ways to amplify leadership, missions, and social impact work. Now running an agency, I get to partner with so many diverse entrepreneurs and leaders and work with different brands. I'm blessed to love what I do – making headlines for people, companies, and causes I care about.

What does your work as the CEO of your agency CJC Insights entail?

I believe that running a boutique PR agency requires you to do a lot of everything, all the time, all while remaining calm above the surface. At CJC Insights, we specialize in working with female founders and BIPOC, minority-owned businesses. We create space for people and stories. We also do a great deal of press strategy work, crisis and issues management, and diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting. I am the main point of contact for all of my clients and I'm always there to weigh in with a point of view, to help shape messaging, and to pitch key news to reporters, editors, and bookers. I'm always on and try to be available for my clients and for my team. You spend a lot of time figuring things out as an entrepreneur running a small business -  from learning to automate payroll to applying for PPP funding during a pandemic. You have to be willing to lean into what you don't know, as much as you rely on your strengths. I have been fortunate to have the support of a great team and really inspiring clients.

Please share a few career highlights with us.

I'm fortunate to have a career of many highlights. I had the great fortune of learning from talented colleagues and mentors throughout the years. It was fun working on award shows like the VMAs to planning massive team offsites and marketing leadership meetings at Viacom. I thought I would be in-house forever. Starting my own company was the biggest pivot that I didn't see coming. I'm an unlikely entrepreneur but this leap brought me so many unforgettable career moments. Every time we place a story - I get excited. CJC Insights gave me a newfound sense of confidence, resilience, and the runway to discover myself more fully without the pressures of external expectations. I have always guided my business with a strong mission, values and it kept us strong throughout the pandemic. Then we rounded out that challenging year by being recognized by our industry and receiving the 2020 Change Agent Award from ADCOLOR and landing on the Observer's PR Power 50 list. It's a humbling experience for an agency that's going to turn just 3 years old this summer.

What are a couple of current projects you’re excited about?

All of our clients are doing really incredible things from IFundWomen to Black Card Revoked. I'm passionate about encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs therefore our work with the nonprofit, digitalundivided, and CEO Lauren Maillian is particularly near to my heart. It's a social startup that leverages data and advocacy to catalyze economic growth for Black and Latinx women entrepreneurs, we were thrilled to work with them to release the latest ProjectDiane report and to highlight the challenges facing women of color founders, especially during the pandemic. It's been wonderful to shape headlines together to underscore the lack of funding to Black and Latinx women in outlets like CNN Business, USA Today, Fortune, Vogue Business, Insider, and more.

I'm also excited to see my client Esusu expand the reach of its bold mission nationwide. The financial technology company uses data solutions (like rent reporting) to build credit and close the racial wealth gap. Forbes 30 Under 30 alums and Esusu Co-founders Abbey Wemimo and Samir Goel worked so hard last year to keep residents in their homes. Together with the team they raised over $1 million dollars to start a national rent relief fund and extended zero-interest loans to those struggling to pay rent because of COVID. It has been such an eye-opening experience to see the housing crisis up-close and to hear the stories of families fearing eviction. This work is important and I'm proud that this is where I can focus my energy.

Any future goals and/or plans you’re working towards?

Continuous improvement is always on my goal list. I'm looking forward to writing more with my own byline. I wrote an article in Fast Company last year and I want to keep it going. I've seen a lot behind the scenes and I think I can leverage my insights and experiences to help others.


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