British Expat of the Month: Fiona Bloom, Publicist Extraordinaire
Like it or not, we’re living in age where social media is a daily part of our lives. For many of us it’s a happy addition, allowing us to see friends around the world and get free access to more information and humor (and everything else in between) than you could shake a stick at.
For publicists like British expat Fiona Bloom though, there are good things and bad things about this non-stop culture. On one hand celebrities and artists—whether they’re already famous or are working their way up the ladder—can have instant access to their fans, but on the other it can mean that mistakes can go viral in the same time.
For Bloom, that means wearing a number of hats and taking on the role of entrepreneur, doing, as she describes it, “a plethora of things.” Her main focus is The Bloom Effect, a small New York agency that she founded in 2007. It specializes in branding, marketing, PR and social media, with a concentration of eclectic musical artists including South African Jesse Clegg, Turkish alt-rockers maNga and Grammy-nominated Wayna:
“I’m actually responsible for several areas in an artist’s or boutique’s career, something that means that my job is never boring. Generally, my role as a publicist is making sure my clients gain exposure, visibility and profile via digital and traditional media as well as through social platforms.”
She trains her artists how to use social media effectively, but doesn’t tweet or post for them: it’s her goal to help them develop their own online personality and create content for the ever-hungry fans. But how does she keep ahead of the pack (and keep sane?):
“There’s always some craziness, a fire to put out, a disagreement, a failed campaign and a lot of trial and error and experimentation, which I love. No two days are ever the same, but I would say it’s an extraordinary day if I’m on tour with my artists, or at music conferences, where it’s literally parties, networking, shows, panels and meetings 24/7, I’ll be on the go the entire time.”
She currently lives in Bedford Stuyvesant, a neighborhood in Brooklyn (“the coolest place in the world,”) but this Londonder actually first immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1990s with her parents, who settled in Atlanta. Bloom struggled to find her feet at the beginning, mainly because of something she—and all other expats—could do nothing about:
“My English accent didn’t quite resonate in the deep South and I was often made fun of and misunderstood. I didn’t quite fit in. However, I soon adapted to the environment and thus life became a little less harrowing. I started enjoying southern hospitality, as they say.”
Perhaps predictably, that transition from being misunderstood to being a professional communicator was promoted by music, and it began back when Bloom was training as a classical concert pianist:
“I was spending half my life thoroughly disciplined, practicing 6-8 hours a day and competing in piano competitions as well as performing recitals. I immersed myself in my performances 110%, and I had virtually no life outside music.”
She studied at the Royal Academy of Music and won scholarships, but then, in a transition she calls “absurd,” some huge changes happened when she moved to the U.S.. After 22 years playing piano she fell heavily in love with hip hop, and then, in part due to her accent and new attitude, she was hired by a radio station as a DJ.
She also began working in party planning, and then—in a phone call out of the blue—she was called by EMI Records and offered a job in New Artist Marketing in New York, and moved there just before New Year’s Eve in 1993:
“I had never even met a record executive! I was more of a music geek, into liner notes and cover art, and I never thought twice about the companies who actually signed artists and released the music.”
Years in the record industry followed, and over the period she even ran her own record label (home to Blackalicious), organized showcases and became an independent consultant—a kind of encyclopedic “fixer”—for many hip hop and underground artists, labels, touring companies and organizations, before she decided to “take my destiny into my own hands; I was fed up of working for others and seeing companies fail.”
As you can imagine, she has plenty of stories about her years in the music business (her dream was featured in a book about Madonna called I Dream of Madonna and she also did the entire voice-over for the MTV Video Music Awards in 1999 at Lincoln Center), and she has high praise for living in the U.S.:
“New York is where everyone in the world wants to come and fulfill their dreams. American really is a land of opportunity; anyone can achieve anything over here. Everything’s possible – there are no limitations.”
Though she misses her friends and family in England, the distinct Brit sense of humor and “being able to travel anywhere in Europe in a quick plane ride,” she has many expat friends and compatriots in the music business:
“We do like getting together, chatting about British telly, films, food and how we miss England but we also love America!”
New expats often ask her about the job market in the U.S. and want to know where (and if) a British community exists in their area, and “where can you get a good cuppa tea!” Her favorite is Earl Grey, and she does have some advice for new arrivals:
Don’t let the mass geography of America overwhelm you.
Don’t get upset or take it personally if your sarcasm or puns don’t make people laugh.
Food portions are big, but don’t feel you have to clean your plate.
Personally she never leaves the house without cough drops, lip liner and hand sanitizer (as well as her phone and Metro card), and as for the future, she plans to grow the Bloom Effect brand:
“I’d like to have satellite offices in Israel, London and Singapore, and partner with a few other ventures within the creative space to form a powerful collective. I also intend to become a published author so I can do more public speaking, lecturing and book tours. I already have three books in the works on social media, my past interns (all of whom have surpassed me!) and much later, a memoir.”
“I watched hundreds of people lined up outside waiting to get in, and then it was archived online for the rest of the world to see—and to see what they missed!
What stood out to you most about this month’s expat?
British Expat of the Month: Gary Clementson of Cary, North Carolina
British Expat of the Month: Alan Kerr from Belfast to Hollywood
British Expat of the Month: Composer Bramwell Tovey, From Essex to the Hollywood Bowl