Ernest Dukes is a successful brand builder, award-winning publicist and television producer. Owner of The Nottingham Group, a premiere boutique public relations firm based in Beverly Hills, Ernest’s passion is rooted in educating, inspiring and helping others realize their fullest potential. Born and raised in California, Ernest’s hustle and determination is unmatched. Ernest’s past and current client roster includes Fashion Nova, Nick Cannon, Keyshia Cole, K. Michelle, Jeezy, 112 & more. In addition to marketing and branding, Ernest is also a creative force in the television industry, currently producing on season 3 of BET Her’s From The Bottom Up in addition to the new late-night variety show Get Into It Forizzle starring Snoop Dogg & Tami Roman. We sat down with him to get the 411 on the industry and where it is headed. 

What are some of the obstacles you face as a black publicist in a predominantly white-washed industry? 

I disagree that my industry is pre-dominantly white-washed. However, I can be honest and acknowledge that the biggest firms and the ones with the most recognizable talents are not black owned. For me, the challenge is outworking a machine and being able to convince talent why it’s sometimes in their best interest to work with a smaller firm who can devote more time and energy into their careers. 

You published an e-book called ‘Caption God’. What triggered your interest to produce a book like this? 

It was a passion project for me. For the last couple of years, I’ve built a following on Instagram of people who follow me purely to see what captions I post so that they can re-post and use them for themselves. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was traveling and had nothing but time on my hands so I opened my laptop and got to work. It was sort of a novelty product at first but since it’s creation, I’ve sold thousands of copies and now I’m talking to different publishers about getting a hard copy printed and distributed. 

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? 

When I’m not working the thing I enjoy the most is probably sleep. The kind of sleep where you’re not having a panic attack when you wake up because you know what awaits you for the day. I also enjoy spending time with my close friends and family. Last year I moved into my first house and so I’m always entertaining guests over, ordering takeout, watching Netflix and catching up. 

What direction do you think the social influencer movement is heading? 

I believe the social influencer movement is headed toward micro-influencers being the main focus. Mirco-influencers are influencers who don’t necessarily have hundreds of thousands of followers but their followers are quality accounts that are engaged. Mirco-influencers also tend to dominate niche markets which is what most consumers are interested in. I like the idea of micro-influencers because they don’t come across as salespeople or someone who gets paid just to promote on social media, those type of accounts are now starting to be looked at as dishonest and are losing the trust of consumers. 

Do you have a specific criteria for the clients you choose to represent? 

Yes and no. There are specific things I look for (ie: can I pitch this person, would my contacts be receptive to it, does this person fit into the marketplace, can they afford my services in the long run, etc.) but a lot of times I let my spirit guide me and I use my discernment to determine whether or not it’s a good fit. I’ll be honest, there have been times where I’ve missed the mark and took on someone I later regretted but it doesn’t happen often. 

What are some habits you see that keep people from obtaining the level of success that some of your clients have? 

Lack of consistency. Often I see people start something super dope or create a nice buzz and then later they abandon the idea or switch their methods. I believe there is some truth to the old saying “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” in the sense that it takes consistency to peak a person’s interest. We live in a generation where everyone wants success overnight and although it has happened for some, it’s not often and it’s not realistic if you want to build something that will sustain. Another thing I would say is the lack of teamwork. I’m guilty of this as well at times, but we have to do a better job at delegating tasks to others and not trying to do everything ourselves. It’s impossible to win by yourself. Everything great was built by a team. 

Why do you think Fashion Nova is such a successful brand? 

Fashion Nova is successful for many reasons, I think one of the main reasons is that we’re plugged in with the youth and culture. The majority of everyone who works for the company is younger and is apart of the demographic we target so we know first hand what consumers want. In addition to being tapped in with our audience, we’re also extremely consistent, we’re never content and we’re always looking for ways to top ourselves. 

What type of backlash if any did you receive when you donned the jacket with “Beyonce’s Publicist is Black” emblazoned on it? 

I didn’t receive any backlash. I call that jacket “the magic jacket” because outside of it being a viral thing that many people reposted and commented on, it has started a necessary conversation within the public relations community that I’m hoping will bring change. Since wearing the jacket, Yvette Noel-Schure (Beyonce’s publicist) and I have built a friendship and have partnered on a couple of things that will definitely shatter some of the glass ceilings that executives of color face. I’m extremely excited to see how the industry shifts within the next couple of years. 

How did you get into the PR game? Was it always your intention? 

I got started in PR when I was in high school. My friend’s mom was a publicist for Music World (Mathew Knowles record label) and I asked her if I could intern for her and she agreed. It’s funny because looking back on it, I don’t know what she saw in me, I was extremely ambitious but extremely green. On my first day of working for her, she asked me to come to her office and to bring my computer with me. I didn’t have a laptop at the time so I packed up my desktop computer into a suitcase and drove two hours to her office. When I arrive and started setting up my computer, she looked at me like I was crazy but still gave me an opportunity to learn and grow. I’ll forever be grateful to her for teaching me how to be my own boss. 

Caption God! is Available for purchase at www.earnestlivingtour.com

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