Exec Profile: Carleen Donovan of The Oriel Company

Carleen Donovan


The Oriel Company

Years with Company: January 2021

Address: 37 West 20th St., Ste. 1004 New York, NY 10001

Phone: 212-677-0014

Web: theoriel.co

Email: [email protected]

Clients: Questlove, Zoe Kravitz, Robyn, Andre 3000, Phoebe Bridgers, Lenny Kravitz, Adam Levine


Having already established herself as a publicity and management expert, Carleen Donovan was seeking new opportunities. Instead of joining an existing organization, she formed Donovan Public Relations. She shuttered that outfit in 2020 in favor of starting The Oriel Company, a similar venture with even greater reach. Most recently, the firm launched a presence in Nashville.


I founded DPR in 2015. We had offices in New York City and L.A., and I was looking to expand. I’d been approached a few times to be purchased or absorbed into other agencies. 

Jen Appel and Chloe Walsh, the other cofounders of the company, approached me. They were looking to make a move from the agency they were at. We worked together many years ago with another agency, so it was kind of like coming home. We have a 20-year history and are like a family.  

What Publicists Need

We need clients to come prepared with their 12-month plans. We talk through every level of those plans. What content can we create? What is the narrative going to be? What’s the social strategy, and what’s the online presence going to look like? Once we have all those elements, we look at ways we can amplify and grow it. 

Essential Questions

Every artist campaign is different, but at the foundation of everyone’s campaign is: what does the calendar look like? What are their pegs going to be for the media? What’s going to be the single? When is the artist going to release an album? When are they going to tour? When are they available to speak with the press? 

Being Charitable

We work with a multitude of nonprofit organizations. We say to our team, “Please provide us with ideas for charitable contributions.” We want to convey a shared understanding of purpose in all we do. 

Paying It Forward

Mentorship and mental health are two big priorities. They were part of our ethos long before they were in vogue. Thinking about the health and mental wellbeing of our staff is paramount. This is a 24/7 job, and we’re always looking for ways to incorporate balance into our work life and educate our team on ways of achieving it. When I was coming up, many young publicists did not have this sort of support. Quite frankly, there was a lack of mentorship, so nurturing the next generation is important to us. 

Finding and Picking Clients

We get a lot of referrals from talent, and their teams. A lot comes to us through our social channels. We also pursue the talent we work with. We work with every level, from unsigned talent to iconic, award-winning superstars. We pick clients we’re passionate about and clients we [believe] we can help achieve their goals. 

Representing Estates

Working for an estate can be very exciting. You’re looking to honor the legacy and find new ways to expose it to new generations. For example, we represent Phife Dawg’s estate, [the rapper] from A Tribe Called Quest. We worked on [promoting] a posthumous album to his existing fan base and to new generations of listeners.

The Artist’s Role

What are the goals? What are you asking the publicist to do for you? You should be managing your social and online presences and have a sense of that. Come prepared to help the publicist do their job. Public relations strategies cover a full year, so come with a 12-month plan. 

Staying Current With Media

Stories can break at a moment’s notice. How and when you approach a journalist can have a significant impact. 

You have your traditional print outlets and television shows that continue to resonate, but there’s a new crop of online outlets that can change week-to-week. You need to be on top of which outlets are having an impact and help your client rise above the noise. 

Seeking Coverage, Being Innovative

I had a client go to the Met Gala this year. We pitched a getting-ready-with-style piece. We said, “What’s another way we can tell the story of this exciting night in fashion?” So we created a time-lapse video of the dress being created, brought over to the U.S., being presented at the fitting, and then arriving on the red carpet.
    It was another way of telling the story and keeping things fresh.

Switching Modes

Something a lot of people in the public relations world struggle with is changing gears. Your to-do list sometimes has to go out the window, and you have to be okay with that. You never know what the day is going to bring. 

    One day, I came into the office on a holiday to do some filing and clean my desk. And then I got news of an album from a client unexpectedly breaking a month early. You have to jump into action. 

Opportunities Everywhere

A lot of students believe they need to be in a major city, like New York or L.A. I suggest that students look around their own communities, as well. It’s surprising how many internship opportunities are available from local media outlets, college radio stations, and local performance venues. All these places are looking for help. And when you’re looking for a job and have that on your resume, it’s going to be very advantageous.

The Female Factor

[Staffing The Oriel Company with women] wasn’t by design, but women are recognized as great communicators. And I’ve always found the entertainment public relations field to be a dynamic and creative environment for women. It’s a job sector that consistently allows plenty of room for advancement. Women have the ingenuity to play the long game. We’re also recognized as being nurturing, and that’s something that lends itself to creating a successful P.R. campaign. 

A Single Territory

For a lot of our campaigns, we not only manage and execute the domestic strategy but we also dictate the international strategy. It’s one world with the internet. If you do an interview in Japan, it’s going to have an impact here, so we really like to get involved with the international strategy. 

    When I started, the labels would dictate how you worked a campaign by the Mississippi River. If you’re on one side, you work that half of the country. And if you’re on the other side, you do the other half. That would never work today.

Holistic Service

A lot of independent P.R. firms keep things very siloed. Here, you get the strength of the entire firm. Our resources and network are shared with all our clients. Everyone gets the strength of the company. And every project here is a priority.