Mona Elyafi, Owner of ILDK Media
Mona Elyafi has been helping promote and market musicians, actors, writers, brands and events for a number of years. She has worked at a some very prestigious PR companies in L.A., among them have been The Lee Solters Company, Luck Media and Marketing and Harper PR.
In 2004, Mona started her own boutique PR company called ILDK Media. If you want to know what ILDK stands for, you must continue reading. Mona reveals the answer to that and many other interesting items in the interview below. I love her answers to my many questions and I could’ve asked a hundred more, but she has clients to promote and a life to live so I had to limit the questions.
Mona constantly works with great talent and awesome events and here is a recent list of happy clients: Marlene Forte (“Dallas” TNT), Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend, Hunter Valentine, Lauren Bedford Russell (“The Real L Word” HBO), The Cliks, Krissy Krissy and award-winning filmmaker Rolla Selbak. They’ve all received a lot of great PR from the experience and hard work of Mona Elyafi. If you want, you can always click this ILDK Media link to learn even more about Mona and her company.
Now, onto the enlightening words of Public Relations Expert and owner of ILDK Media, Mona Elyafi:
You were born in Beirut, Lebanon. How long did you live there before you moved to Paris?
I lived in Beirut, Lebanon until I was four years old. We moved to Paris France in the summer of 1975 when the civil war started. My mom put my brother and I on a plane and sent us to our grandparents in Paris while she remained in Lebanon for another months to pack everything.
Having been raised in Paris, what influences from your formative years do you see help guide you in your life and work today?
What I am grateful for the most is my cultural background. I was lucky to benefit from the best of both worlds! Growing up in Paris, I was exposed to the European culture but never detached myself from my Lebanese roots. I’m very family oriented (all about traditions) and a “bon-vivant”; I have a great sense of humor, an addiction to Lebanese food, and good negotiating skills, which I owe to my Lebanese (Phoenician) background. But I’m also very unconventionally analytical; extremely critical in my thinking, and sarcastic at times, which no doubt comes from my French education! I’m very direct and typically tell it like it is, which is not much of a popular LA trait.
Overall the combination of both cultures has instilled in me an appreciation for diversity, an affinity for elegance and sense of fashion; an ability to easily adapt to any situations and/or locations.
You have a degree in journalism. Was PR and marketing always something you wanted to do or did you ever desire to work full time in news or in some other way work full time using your gift for writing?
I originally wanted to be a lawyer. I graduated with a BA in Political Science, had passed the LSAT and was supposed to go to law school in California. But when my older brother transferred to NYU, because I was obsessed with New York City and absolutely wanted to experience living in Manhattan, I made it my mission to go to NYU too. It was too late to apply to Law school there so instead I decided to go for journalism, which had always been my second career option.
After a year in NYC I moved back to LA to write my thesis. I thought I would become some kind of investigative reporter. Somehow the first job I landed in LA was at an independent record company. It was an amazing opportunity for me because not only am I an inveterate music fiend but also was able to experience first hand the business side of the music & entertainment industry. I was learning about promotion, distribution, contracts and also PR. That’s how I realized that PR was the best fit for me because it was the one department and specialization that allowed me to combine both the creative and business aspects of things.
I see in your bio page that you write for the Huffington Post and for Diva Magazine. How did those gigs come about and how often do you write for each?
Both opportunities came through my professional connections as a publicist.
I write all my clients’ press releases and news items and have been asked several times the permission to reprint and publish some of them as full articles.
In the case of the Huffington Post and Diva Magazine I simply asked if I could write for them. I wish I had more time to write but lately my daytime job keeps me very busy so I haven’t been as prolific as I used to be with my writing.
What was the reason behind starting your own firm instead of continuing your work at some of the most prestigious PR firms in the industry?
My motivation in starting my own PR company was to work with people with real talent and a true passion for their craft. Having worked at prominent PR companies with A-list celebrities for quite some time, I got burned out by the superficiality of it all. And most of all, I was bored by the lack of creativity. You basically sit behind your desk and wait for the phone to ring only to then go through the process of sorting through it all and only selecting the “important” media requests to schedule interviews. There was also a lot of “baby-sitting” I had to do, having to take clients to all these fancy-schmancy parties – and really, there’s so many red carpets you can humanly do! The good thing was that in the process, I was meeting a lot of talented artists who did not necessarily enjoy the exposure some of these celebs were bathing in, yet deserved it more. While I absolutely understand the nature of the beast and the mechanism of the PR world, I was frustrated that more and more celebs (with no identifiable talent) were becoming famous for the sake of being famous. So when I had the opportunity to launch my PR company, I made it my modus operandi to align myself with people who truly deserve the recognition. I’ve been lucky so far to work with amazing clients and absolutely love the challenge it brings me on a day-to-day basis.
When you started out on your own, did you hit the ground running or were there some real struggles involved at the beginning of ILDK?
I didn’t hit the ground but I did struggle to find clients. My strategy was to get all the paperwork started to official launch ILDK Media. I figured I needed to believe in it and act as if it was a done deal. As the saying goes “fake it until you make it!”
What kept you going when the struggles came your way?
The one thing that kept me going was the belief that there was simply no other option for me. If others had succeeded in that field, why not me, right?
I named my company after my grandmother’s initials – she was an amazing woman who always believed in me and encouraged me to be independent and go for my dreams. My favorite quote is from W. Clement Stone: “Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve”
What was the turning point with ILDK when you knew the company would succeed?
When new clients come to you because of word of mouth referral then you know that what you’re doing is working! I’m beyond grateful for the vote of confidence my clients continuously give me. I love what I do and am grateful for the opportunities I get to keep on working in my field under the marquee of ILDK Media.
How do you gauge success of a PR and marketing campaign? Are there multiple ways to judge success?
The term success is a very subjective in nature, much like happiness.
We all have different definition of what constitutes “success” because we all operate based on different expectations and aspirations. Within the context of a PR campaign success is typically evaluate based on the amount of press generated, the buzz that has been created and/or the exposure & name recognition gained. But again, that all depends on what the client’s goals are.
For instance back when I was working at the Lee Solters Company we handled the PR campaign for Rick James right after he had served his sentence and had released a brand new album. Evidently the goal of the PR campaign for his record company was to sell the new CD. We got Rick James a colossal amount of media interviews in a short period of time. I mean, he was everywhere from print, radio, online to TV. However, as much publicity as he got, said exposure did not translate into successful album sales. With that in mind, depending on whom you ask the PR campaign was considered to either be a monumental success or a royal failure!
If there was ever a time you had to promote yourself or your company, did you find that more difficult than promoting someone or something else?
I’m not a huge fan of self-promotion. It feels awkward having to toot your own horn. But I do understand it is part of the job and the nature of the business so naturally I play the game. But overall yes it is easier to promote other people than your own self. The reality of it all is that we live in a world where the minute you leave your home you are in pitching mode. We’re always promoting ourselves when in public; it’s just an unavoidable fact. As much as we like to refute it, the fact is that we all invariably judge a book by its cover. You never get a second shot at a first impression – image is everything. It’s all in the presentation!
Can you describe an ideal client?
There’s no such thing as an ideal client. Everybody is different and has different ways of operating and thinking. It’s up to you as a publicist to understand where they are coming from, and acclimate yourself to fit their personalities and meet their needs. I think what is ultimately important is to create a collaborative relationship with your client – one that is based on trust and open communication.
Do you have any pet peeves about the PR/Marketing industry? If so, can you tell us some ways to remedy these problems?
My pet peeve has to do with media manipulation, bias and deception.
I find it mind blowing to see how, generally speaking, the media tend to blow things out of proportion to create unnecessary drama. It’s all about sensational news and the need to create a scandal or a controversy where there’re none to be had for the simple sake of boosting ratings and selling ads. You can see the flagrant difference when you watch US News as opposed to French news or even Al Jazeera. One is based on entertainment, provocation and sensationalism whereas the others simply stick to hard news. Real journalism is dying.
And don’t get me started on these TV hosts & news anchors who think they’re celebrities! But that’s a whole different topic for perhaps another kind of interview at a later time.
Finally, just a quick round of questions. Elaborate on any of these that you’d like.
Do you prefer:
Cats or dogs?
Hamburgers, Sushi or Pizza?
None of the above! You should add “Lebanese Food” as a category and I would hands down check that box.
Buddah / Jesus / Mohammed?
Personally I would say Yoda – I believe in the force and the inner power we all have within each and every one of us to do good (and bad). As my late grandmother used to tell me: it’s all about the power of the mind!
Visiting an antique store/ volunteering at a no-kill shelter / going to a Lakers game?
I’d most likely be volunteering at a no-kill shelter. My dog, George Michael (aka Georgie) is a rescue. He was actually scheduled to be euthanized the day we picked him up. It was a close call but we saved him. Seeing how much of sweetheart he is I can’t even begin to fathom why anyone would ever want to abandon him. Sadly there are so many other dogs in the same predicament Georgie was who will probably not be as lucky as he was.
What’s your favorite color?
Who’s your all-time favorite Saturday Night Live cast member?
What’s your favorite 80s movie? 80s song? And 80s fad?
That’s a hard question as I have so many favorites in each category.
Overall I would say favorite movie: Star Wars (with Breakfast Club coming at a close second).
Favorite song: “Careless Whisper” by George Michael
Favorite 80s fad: the original Sony Walkman but also the George Michael single crucifix earring –that’s what I call quintessential vintage 80s!
Thank you so much for your time Mona. It’s been a pleasure to learn more about you.
On Twitter, you can follow Mona @ILDKMedia.