About Morgan Canclini-Mitchell
My name is Morgan Canclini-Mitchell and I’m the Founder and CEO of two|pr, an entertainment publicity and influencer marketing firm. In my role, I spearhead traditional and digital publicity campaigns for my clients to enhance their visibility and reach their business goals. I have worked with some of today’s most influential tastemakers including national magazine editors and New York Times best-selling authors; global Top 10 Netflix films, hit network television shows, and Academy Award-winning feature films and documentaries; Grammy Award-winning recording artists and ASCAP Songwriters of the Century; cable news correspondents, renowned politicians, and award-winning radio show hosts; former NFL MVPs and NBA Championship players; plus reality-show stars and social media influencers.
I launched my career at Word Label Group (Warner Bros. Records) and have since served as Director of Marketing & Media at Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group and as Director of Public Relations for Worthy Publishing Group.
In addition to securing coverage for clients, I have been featured in Fast Company, Bustle, ExperChat, Christianity Today, Nashville Lifestyles, Her Story of Success and as a speaker at Baylor University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Alabama, Belmont University and Lipscomb University.
You can find me online at:
Why Did You Become an Entrepreneur, Speaker, Author, Etc. in the First Place?
I became an entrepreneur somewhat by accident. I’d been working in the entertainment and publishing industry for several years, and by the time I was 28, I’d pretty much reached the top rung at the publisher where I was working. As the only in-house communications employee managing multiple outside PR firms, it dawned on me that I could run the publicity campaigns I was currently overseeing “in my sleep.” I no longer wanted to be told who I was going to represent, when I was going to represent them and what media they should be on. I knew I could make those decisions with a more nuanced view of the communications landscape, and I was excited about the possibility of taking on my own clients—though that was a little bit of a dream.
Ultimately, I decided to quit my high-powered job at this publisher. I didn’t have a concrete plan, but sure enough, people in the industry began calling me and asking me to do publicity work for projects that hadn’t been as successful as they had wanted them to be under their current representation. I created a basic website for my fledgling company (two|pr), and from there the business grew and grew. I’ve never done any paid marketing or advertising, and yet our client pipeline is constantly full. I really enjoy representing people I truly believe in and thus amplifying messages that matter, which has become our company tagline. I’ve been able to book my clients on national media from Good Morning America to PEOPLE magazine and E! News.
It’s been quite the journey to get to this level of media placement and success, and it definitely wasn’t a straight line. I took a roundabout path, gaining a lot of years of experience in the industry before I ever ventured out on my own. But now I’m so glad I did.
Much like how I started a company without really ever setting out to have my own company, I became a publicist without the intention of being a publicist.
Taking it back to the beginning, I went to Baylor University, where I studied Music and Entertainment Marketing. To complete my bachelor’s in Business Administration, I interned for a record label in Nashville. I was thrilled, because the music business is where I’d hoped to work after I graduated.
At that time it was very much a period of upheaval in the industry. Between the launch of music-streaming (and stealing) platforms and a major economic recession, very few people were getting hired . . . In fact, employees were being laid off left and right. Fortunately, I was able to pivot from the music business to celebrity management. After rounds of interviews, I went to work for a company in Nashville that managed A-List celebrities out of Nashville and Los Angeles. During my time at this company, one of the publicists had to take a leave of absence for a few weeks and my boss, the company CEO, asked if I could fill in while my colleague was gone. So my first client was a well-known basketball player on that year’s NBA championship team. It was quite the way to dip my toe into PR! I’ve been doing publicity work ever since.
How Do You Deal With Fear?
My answer to that is, “Not as well as I should.” I’m more of the grin-and-bear-it type. My mantra for years has been to just grit my teeth and get through it, even if it’s painful, especially in business. In my personal life, this coping mechanism probably manifests as some anxiety when I’m fearful about things. So, good therapy, wise counsel (including a business coach), and plenty of prayer are how I truly deal with fear.
How Do You Deal With Rejection?
I deal with rejection at work pretty well, actually. Publicity is essentially sales, so rejection comes with the job. I hear “no” a lot before I get any yeses from the media. And typically my plate is so full that I’m moving right on to the next thing.
Career-wise, as head of a boutique firm with a full client roster, I’m the one doing more of the rejecting these days. Still, I admit that if someone does pass on a proposal I submitted and decides to go in a different direction with another firm, it stings a little. Especially if it’s a prominent client or someone that I know I could’ve had a lot of media success with. So it definitely hurts in the moment, but because I always have campaigns to run, the sting doesn’t last too long.
What’s the Name of Your Company? What Exactly Does Your Company Do, How Do You Help People?
The name of my company is two|pr and we are in the business of amplifying messages that matter. Two|pr is a public relations and influencer marketing firm. The job of my team is to spread our clients’ message, brand and/or product through a variety and abundance of media interviews, including TV, podcasts, radio, print, magazines and digital outlets. In our social media influencer division, we work to get our clients’ products (or whatever they’re promoting) to influencers, who then spread that message to their followers.
Our overarching work is to craft the message about what our clients are doing in such a dynamic way that the media will want to cover it. We are the saleswomen behind the scenes, metaphorically knocking on the media and influencers’ doors, making sure the product—whether that’s a personality, a book, a movie, a social justice issue, a non-profit, or an organization—is getting out in front of a lot of people and breaking through the noise. We want consumers around the country to know about who or what we’re pitching via the media, become interested, and subsequently purchase the book, watch the movie, or get involved with the organization, etc. Our job is to create awareness, which is vital if anyone wants to break through all the noise of today’s 24/7 media landscape.
Name One of the Biggest Challenges You Have Faced and How Did You Overcome It?
I have faced many, many challenges in my career, especially in dealing with high-profile celebrities and the crisis communications that naturally attach to these personalities. However, my biggest challenge has been starting a company from scratch in my twenties. Business experts have determined that most businesses fail within the first five years, so I’m obviously doing something right, but starting from the ground up at such an early age . . . it was really hard!
I heard a major music artist once say that, in hindsight, if he knew everything it took to become “him,” he’s not sure he ever would have gone for it because that level of success was such a huge mountain to climb. I completely understand that sentiment in regards to starting a company. Being naive about the amount of blood, sweat and tears that go into creating a successful business may be one of my saving graces. And years later, I’m so proud of two|pr and all that we’ve achieved to date.
Looking back on it, knowing what I know, I’m not sure I would have wanted to take the leap. But after taking one small step at a time and having made it to where I am now, it’s so worth it. However, running a company is still a continual growing process. I have challenges every single day, whether it’s management challenges, client challenges, accounting/finance challenges, website challenges—the list goes on.
I overcame (and continue to overcome) these challenges simply by putting one foot in front of the other and just doing it, learning more by the day. Over the years I’ve learned accounting functions and how to write legal contracts; how to research and implement new software; how to write proposals and hire experts for things that will never be my areas of expertise. Instead of having it all figured out from the start, I’ve figured things out piece by piece. There wasn’t a big plan when I launched the company, which may be different from a lot of businesses, but this has provided a continual challenge that has kept me engaged over all of these years.
What Piece of Advice Do You Wish Someone Had Given You at the Start of Your Career?
The biggest piece of advice I wish someone had given me is that it’s okay to say no and have boundaries. I would say I’m probably a recovering workaholic, and therefore I’m still in the process of learning boundaries. I was in my early thirties when my workaholism started to take a personal toll on me that even I couldn’t deny. So I would say to others: Be strategic about your yeses and understand that it is okay to say no. “No” is a complete sentence.
Especially if you own a company, it can be tempting to say yes to every opportunity in order to bring in more revenue for the people you work with and for. However, it’s really important to say no because that, in turn, actually defines your niche. And at least in my line of work, this has given me an opportunity to be an expert in a specific area. As such, I’ve become someone who is a go-to in book, personality and music publicity among both faith and mainstream media. There are very few firms that are equally strong at securing religious and secular press, especially in the entertainment space. But this is my wheelhouse. And being able to say no and have boundaries has helped make that possible.
Who Are Your Biggest Influences and People You Admire and Why?
The people I admire are often my clients. The amount of creativity and drive they have in their various professions—whether they’re a music artist, an actor, an author or the founder of a nonprofit—is astounding. Their vision for their work, along with the people they help through their work, is enough to bring tears to my eyes.
One of my biggest personal influences right now is my husband. He has a lot of experience in business operations as well as a very entrepreneurial mindset, and so he’s helped me make some tough decisions about my company. Even in starting two|pr, he was such an inspiration to me. He’s always pushing me to take risks and believe in myself beyond what I would ever do on my own.
As far as people I admire, I admire other entrepreneurs I know—some of whom have been my clients, as mentioned. Derek Evans created an organization to help the formerly incarcerated and under-served communities in Nashville. I was hired to do publicity for his book, titled Made to Change the World, which told the story of the creation and mission behind his company. The publicity campaign was widely successful, and he is an incredible person with a big vision. He has now sold his company and started another, which I also admire. My friend Allyson Nelson also started a company in the entertainment space from scratch, and ended up selling it to a very large tour company. So I really admire both of them, especially their ability to get it all done and have a personal life too!
Name a Person Who Helped You Along the Way?
The better question is… who hasn’t helped me along the way? There have been so many people who’ve helped me in my career journey. From every client who took a chance on two|pr at its inception to every contractor I’ve worked with over the past six years, each of those individuals have made the company what it is today.
In my career as a whole, I think of supportive people like my Baylor professors, Dr. Kirk Wakefield and Charles Fifield, who were incredible teachers and mentors. These two professors took a handful of students, including me, to Nashville for a summer and helped us in some practical ways—like introducing us to entertainment contacts, which is pivotal in this industry. I left college with a wealth of practical knowledge on how to get a job, and I graduated during “The Great Recession,” so that educational foundation from them was very important.
Curtis Stoneburger, who was my boss at my first company, Word Label Group (which is part of Warner Brothers Records), was also instrumental, and our paths reconnected years later at two|pr with one of his clients—a total full-circle moment. I really appreciated his mentorship while under his supervision at that record label.
From there, most of my colleagues at Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group helped me find my path. Celebrity management can be really challenging, but Angela, Erin, Amy, and Emily were some of my key colleagues turned friends there. Finally, at Worthy Publishing, my boss Dennis Disney was pivotal to my career and success. Dennis is a huge deal in the music industry and was truly the best boss I ever had. He challenged me and helped me grow, and he did it all with great enthusiasm. He and I also got to team up again just this past year on a project, which was another fun full-circle moment. The entertainment industry, especially in Nashville, is a small circle of people—you almost always cross paths again somehow. So therein lies another lesson: you never want to burn bridges. Dennis really carved my path in such an incredible way, and I give him a lot of credit for that. And last but certainly not least from my time at Worthy Publishing, editor and writer extraordinaire Kris Bearss has encouraged me from day one of the creation of two|pr and has helped me professionally and personally for the past six years.
It really is true that none of us ever rises to success without those who are willing to lend a hand and an ear as they gift us with opportunities to succeed.
What Do You See as Your Greatest Success in Life, So Far?
My answer is twofold.
My greatest success in life so far is having an incredible family and fulfilling personal life. I have a toddler who was born at the beginning of the pandemic when it seemed like everything in the world was uncertain. My son is such a dream and a delight, for which I certainly can’t take all the credit. Without question, I can say he is my greatest personal success, born in a time of tremendous upheaval for the globe but bringing so much peace and perspective to my life.
Professionally, I climbed the ranks of the entertainment public relations industry in my twenties and started my own company at 28 years old. I think that’s pretty incredible, and I don’t stop to reflect on that as often as I probably should. On top of that, two|pr has been a successful company without ever taking on loans, outside investment, or debt. Experts say companies often don’t make it past five years. To be going into our seventh year in business is something I’m extremely proud of. We beat the odds!
So, the creation of my two babies: my business baby two|pr and my cute, human baby. Those are my two biggest successes.
What Book Would You Recommend and Why?
A fiction book I would recommend for figuring out life’s journey is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s a thin book, but it is packed full of meaning for life and is great for introspectively discovering the “big picture” of your life. In terms of business/self-help books, I really got a lot out of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I also listen to his podcast to supplement the book content. In a nutshell, the book offers a way to discern what’s absolutely essential and then eliminate everything that is not, in order to make the strongest possible contribution toward the things that really matter in your life. It’s like minimalism, which is talked about in the home decor space quite a bit, but for business.
What’s a Personal Self-Talk, Mantra, Affirmation or Self-Belief That Contributes to Your Success?
I have a “vision code” I recently created through a PR agency owner group that I’m a part of. Writing out this vision for my business has been extremely powerful and helpful, as you’d expect writing a vision for any part of your life would be.
The code is long (it’s more than a page) but it ends with “I am so grateful for this life I have chosen.” It would do me good to recite that more often, especially in times of stress.
Ultimately, I also have an overarching belief that God directs my steps and that whatever He has for me will come to pass. God is my gatekeeper opening doors that no “man” can shut and closing doors that He doesn’t want me walking through. It’s reassuring (and even relaxing) to know that other people can’t keep me away from my purpose, and obstacles can’t keep me from what God has ordained for me.