Bright Lights, Big Publicity
by Robert DiGiacomo
This alumna makes sure the spotlight is always shining for her clients.
Caroline Bubnis ’01 (B.A.) can often be found in the company of boldface names, but you’ll rarely see hers in print. She’s been seen with supermodel Naomi Campbell and her fashionable set in the south of France, has flown on Donald Trump’s jet to attend the Miss Universe pageant in Ecuador and has accompanied Colombian-born singing sensation Shakira to the Latin GRAMMYs.
A longtime publicist for high-profile music, food and fashion celebrities, Bubnis has worked with supermodel rocker-turned-designer Gwen Stefani, fashion label Tommy Hilfiger, rapper-turned-mogul Sean Combs and one-woman brand Jennifer Lopez. Now, as executive vice president in the New York-based firm The Door, she helps represent lifestyle and TV personality Rachael Ray, music artist Tom Moon, Food Network chef Marcela Valladolid, and Philadelphia’s own famed restaurateur Stephen Starr.
Bubnis thrives on the variety of her profession. “There’s writing and pitching and attending events, walking clients down the red carpet, lots of strategizing and lots of messaging,” she says. “Sometimes it’s putting out fires; sometimes it’s creating fires. I like doing it all.”
Her interest in other people’s stories started during her childhood in small-town Wyomissing, Pa., where Bubnis regularly devoured newspapers and magazines featuring Hollywood megastars. According to Lois Najarian O’Neill, a founding partner at The Door, that sense of discovery is the key to Bubnis’s success.
“Caroline is a reader, a student of the media, who is always thinking about how to craft unique stories for her clients,” Najarian O’Neill says. “She’s relationship-oriented, she pals up quickly with media — they trust her — and relationships make a huge difference in our job.
“She’s also tough — way tougher than me — and stands up for herself. These are assets you truly need in this business.”
Bubnis began to hone her PR skills when she moved to New York shortly after graduating from Saint Joseph’s with an English degree in 2001. While sharing an apartment with her two older sisters — one is a longtime producer at “The View” — she landed her first PR job at Dan Klores Communications. There, she worked with Hilfiger, Campbell, Combs and W Hotels, among other high-profile clients.
Najarian O’Neill, a colleague at the time, would later recruit Bubnis for the publicity department of Epic Records and to help found The Door. In Bubnis, she recognized a PR natural. “You can only be great at PR if you love it as a true craft and get a jolt when you score a great piece of press for a client,” she says. “You just have to have a certain chemical make-up for it. Caroline has this in her blood.”
Those instincts serve Bubnis well when she thrusts her clients into the media spotlight, facilitating one-on-one interviews and red carpet moments. At Epic, Bubnis helped create a buzz around album launches for Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Los Lonely Boys and other artists. “It’s a totally different set of circumstances when you’re working from the inside out,” she says. “Your client is sitting next to you — they’re not a phone call away. You have to manage [the press opportunities], so those media folks walk away with a positive impression, but also to make sure you take care of your client.”
Her work can range from planning and executing Rachael Ray’s four-day music and food showcase at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas — booking newer bands, such as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, along with the long-established Kenny Loggins — to advising budding celebrities such as “Top Chef: Season 4” contestant Spike Mendelsohn on projects, personal appearances and media opportunities to establish his name.
According to Mendelsohn, Bubnis has a particular knack for helping clients develop their brands. In his case, that meant determining where to take his budding fame from “Top Chef.”
“I was just a cook and a chef, and she’s helped launch me into notable chef status and has helped keep me current,” he says. Under her guidance, Mendelsohn launched his first book, The Good Stuff Cookbook, and landed several partnerships with brands and TV deals. He’s also the chef and owner of Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza, both in Washington, D.C.
“No matter what their level of success is, you take something from everybody, whether it’s learning about a new band — or becoming more of an adventurous eater,” she says.
Building her own agency with partners Najarian O’Neill and Charlie Dougiello has proved to be another valuable experience for Bubnis. In five years, The Door has grown to include 21 employees, with offices in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
“It’s a dream job,” says Bubnis, who is now based in Philadelphia. “I’m constantly learning things. We still consider ourselves a young agency with plenty of room to grow and change, as the world around us changes.”