A Conversation with Paul Munford
Writer & Entrepreneur
Essentially taking the tools that were at his disposal (as well as all of ours), Paul Munford turned his blog named Components of Enthusiasm into a viable platform. He then turned that website into a way of getting his foot the door of menswear. C.O.E. started conversations, reviewed product, served as a way to meet various individuals and allowed for interaction with the fashion community and culture at large. His work that he put in for free has now paid off, as he is now heading up his own business: an independent PR firm.
Read how we discuss the route in which he took to get to this point, and me throwing some borderline insulting questions. In all seriousness, he handles it well with composure. It’s interesting to read what the foundation was of starting his firm, which wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.
Let’s start from the beginning of your blog “Components of Enthusiasm.” Running that was already something different for how in-depth you went into polishing every article. You paid attention to the details and created a presentation that went above and beyond. What were your goals and what did you learn from running that website?
Good question. So, some people don’t know this, but there were actually two renditions of COE. The first COE I started in February 2009 and it was based on the stuff that I’d see on places like Selectism and Hypebeast mostly. Kind of like your glancing coverage of the latest collections and what not. I kind of ran with that model and started talking about why I liked those particular collections and products, but it was still in that Selectism type mold in a way. So eventually, I progressed into interviews with the brands that I liked but I quickly got bored with the blogging game, haha. Felt it was getting stale so like any writer who needs a break… I took one, readjusted my approach… thus came the second version of COE which featured nothing but 100% original content. All the photography, art direction, copy, and styling was done by me. The content was mostly product reviews, where I’d be compensated for my work because “blogging ain’t easy.” The most recent version of COE had more of a magazine type presentation because I felt content should be more compelling and I took the initiative to help offer something different. People seemed to appreciate that.
Very much so. You were essentially Madbury Club before… well, Madbury.
Well, I was actually supposed to work with Madbury, haha. But I had to back out just before launch because I had my own stuff going on. Yeah man, Phil hit me up. Massive email convos, but this was way back.
That’s so awesome. Really? I had no idea. I did see your feature with Phillip T. Annand’s dad’s varsity jacket.
Yeah, that was fun. That was a way to kinda get all the bloggers contributing. A way to gather them all together in a way. To talk about something sentimental; something that offered something real, you know? I thought Phil’s piece was epic.
It was! So, how did COE come to an end? Were you feeling like you needed to do something “next”? Or what was your train of thought in regards to sunsetting the platform?
Haha, to be honest… two things. One, I tend to get bored very easily with things. Two, the format that I chose for COE, the second version, was unsustainable. I had to do so much stuff just to get those articles together and even though I had general templates, it was so time-consuming.
That’s understandable. You were the only one running that site, too. Right?
Yessir. Everything I’ve done with COE has been solo.
So I assume that the work you put in cultivated your eye as a creative director type in a major way.
Yeah. For sure. It’s like, well, for me, I can say that when I started taking that angle of art direction for COE. I was led to brushing up on design principles so I did a bunch of just research and absorbing in all this design influence and kind of taking what I learned and bringing it to COE. It’s pretty awesome because I just recently went back a few days ago to check the archives and it still is impressive. I was like damn, Paul you did a pretty good job with these, haha. Not to self-congratulate too much. Haha.
Hahaha, well, I’ll congratulate you too.
Haha. Thanks, man.
I should jump into Munford PR stuff now. So you’re the founder and creative director.
I’m the everything, yes haha.
Are you running the company solo?
Yes, sir. I’m beginning to think I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to my projects. Often I have to have it done a certain way, or look and feel a certain way. It’s gotta be specifically done the way I envision it in my head which has led me to learn a lot of stuff on my own to be able to manifest a lot of my ideas. I don’t fully trust being able to tell a web designer, “I want it done like this.”
But getting back to the solo PR thing, it kind of feeds off that control freak thing. I just do things a certain way.
That’s a good thing though. And I find myself relating to that like crazy.
It’s not always the most efficient thing but it’s what makes me the proudest of my work.
Haha. Yeah man. I mean that’s the beauty of technology and access to info these days too. You can learn a lot on your own.
So, I’m probably overthinking this. But how do you limit yourself to public relations? You’re a creative director/art director. You thrive at presentation. How do you find yourself not dabbling into design, branding, visual art, marketing, advertising, etc? It seems like public relations is a mere facet of making a great product.
Hm…. well, funny thing is, I’ve been thinking about this exact question for a minute.
I mean it in the most respectful way. You have all of these other talents, and when talking to clients from running a PR firm’s perspective, it would seem like you’d also want to provide services that could better each prospective brand in other areas.
Yep. You’re exactly right. I think sometimes I do dabble in a little bit of all this from time to time, but at the same time, I just started in September. That’s 3 months. And right now it’s still just me, so I don’t want to run the risk of expanding too quickly and wearing myself thin. It should be a natural progression, that’s how I want it to be. So for right now, what I’m mainly doing is PR and becoming an expert in that particular craft and then expanding into other areas. I’ve got a few ideas that I have laid out for the future though, rest assured.
That’s commendable, for sure.
You were talking about technology. That’s something I’ve been very interested in lately. You said it was easy for people to learn different things, and now more than ever, anyone can kind of be… exactly who they want in the digital realm.
In addition to that, how people interact with one another and how people interact with brands has been completely thrown for a loop. I’d like to dive into how you’ve witnessed social media and technology pushing the PR game.
Well, obviously social media has made things much more democratic and based on merit, based on what you’re doing and how well you’re doing it. In many ways, it’s eliminated the gatekeeper, and the “traditional” hurdles to get to where you want to be, which is a phenomenal thing when you think about it. It’s like what I’m doing right now… think about it.
Yeah, thank you. As little as 10 years ago, if I wanted to run my own PR firm, I’d have to go the super traditional route. I’d have to “pay my dues” in the agency structure so that means I’d have to study journalism/communications in college I’d have to get the right internships. After which, I’d have to land the right job with the right agency, stay at the agency for a few years to a decade before I finally had enough clout, power, whatever within the industry to go out on my own social media axes all that nonsense. The quickest way from point A to B is a straight line and social media provides that.
So, in addition to that, social media and technology also makes my job a lot easier. It means that my overhead costs are very, very low; no need for an official office space or anything. All I need is a smartphone, a computer and I can literally do everything I need to for my clients anywhere in the world at any time. (As long as I have an Internet connection, haha.)
I’ve set my company up to be very mobile in that way and I use technology to have a great roster of international clients and technology is the way to help me reach that goal.
Thinking about all of this is fantastic. The sense of power that has been handed to anybody and everybody. Question: have you witnessed over-saturation in the field?
I think there might be a risk there for sure with kids just starting their own thing because no one’s stopping them, but in the end just like with any other industry. I think it’s fair to say that the cream rises to the top and the ones who can’t cut it will be filtered out eventually. That’s just how it works. Hopefully, that won’t be me, haha. I think if you keep learning and perfecting then you’re in the right place.
So, looking at the broad skill-set needed to do what you do—what do you think is the foundation? And in your experience, what has the x-factor been?
I think that’s an excellent question to consider. For any young guns looking to go out on their own, and the one word I will go back to that is pretty much the godfather of social media is blogging. Blogging is how you establish authority. Again. This stems from the whole democratic element; if you have something valuable to say, no one’s there to stifle your voice because you can scream as loud as you can through your blog. What you just asked me is a question I’ve been considering from the get-go. I realized that having a blog that allows me to speak my mind, put forth my ideas, and establish some sort of authority by blogging them.
People connect with ideas. Ideas filter out the wrong types of people, and if the ideas that you present on a blog resonate with certain people/brands then those are the individuals you want to associate yourself with or collaborate with, you know? The COE Journal helps me to establish authority because it addresses everything I’ve just laid out. It’s a platform to basically establish authority. It’s fun. but it’s also a place to learn because as a new entrepreneur (or an entrepreneur, in general), I’m still learning.
Wow, I haven’t actually realized how important blogs are. You’re so right! That insight is super interesting.
Haha, it’s crazy, right? But so cool. Social media, son! Don’t sleep.
Any last words?
Always question why things are a certain way and if you’re good at something and want it quickly, ask yourself if there’s a better way of going about getting there. Oh, and the concept of retirement is fucking stupid. Haha. Waste your able-bodied years slaving away for someone else just so you can save and hopefully live off the riches of the life you effectively wasted?
F*ck that noise, do what you want now.
Ask yourself if you didn’t have to work, what would you be doing and then do that exact thing and find a way to make money off of it.