Industry Insights: Hannah Gottlieb-Graham on publicity and the importance of a personalised approach

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“Nothing is cookie-cutter. Everything is personal,” says the founder of New York-based firm ALMA Communications

“I am a collaborative person,” says Hannah Gottlieb-Graham, founder of ALMA Communications, a New York-based firm specialising in publicity, partnership, and publishing. Its client-list includes Air Jordan and Fotografiska New York, critic and curator Antwaun Sargent, and photographers such as Tyler Mitchell, Andre D. Wagner, and Diana Markosian.

“My business operates at the intersection of contemporary art, fashion, beauty and social justice,” says Gottlieb-Graham. At just 26, she comfortably combines the language of the digital generation with a politically aware understanding of the power of art in centering previously marginalized groups within an institutional framework. 

Since launching ALMA on 01 January 2020, Gottlieb-Graham has taken on more than 40 projects in the fields of art, photography, book publishing, film, fashion, beauty, and nonprofit. She signs clients for three or six-month contracts, with the aim of building lasting relationships. “When I work with a new client, we’ll sit down and talk about their wish list,” she explains. “I’ll make a strategy, and that will change depending on specific projects or launches. Nothing is cookie-cutter. Everything is personal.”

Hannah Gottlieb-Graham, portrait by Luke A. Wright.
Gottlieb-Graham's home office in Brooklyn, New York, photographed by Luke A. Wright.

Gottlieb-Graham recently helped facilitate and coordinate Andre D. Wagner’s photo feature for W Magazine’s second annual Directors Issue. Released on 06 April and directed by Academy Award-winning actor Regina King, Wagner photographed Viola Davis and her 10-year daughter Genesis Tennon, for a feature titled Black Americana: A Photo Essay on Love and Pain.

“I have occupied the space between publicist, manager, and all the things in between,” says Gottlieb-Graham. After spending the past year establishing ALMA’s roster, she is now focused on building a staff of five, to ensure the highly personalised service of a boutique firm. This was an insight gained from working as in-house publicist for Aperture, from 2018 to 2020, where was part of a small team that created highly coordinated press campaigns, promotional events, and corporate partnerships, for photographers such as Deana Lawson, Hank Willis Thomas, Zanele Muholi, and Joel Meyerowitz

But it was Antwaun Sargent’s The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion (2019) that inspired Gottlieb-Graham to level-up. “For the first time I had been given carte blanche to run things as I wanted. I thought, ‘What am I waiting for?’” she recalls. “I started ALMA with three clients: Antwaun, performance artist Miles Greenberg, and art collector Bernard Lumpkin. Ever since then I’ve been operating on referrals. I keep things tight, insular and in the family.”

W Magazine: The Directors Issue. Viola Davis and Genesis Tennon, photographed by Andre D. Wagner.

“I’m interested in taking on projects that move the needle forward socially and politically. I make a conscious effort to promote stories and voices that change the world in some way”

Left to right: I Can Make You Feel Good by Tyler Mitchell; Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists by Antwaun Sargent; Santa Barbara by Diana Markosian.

Adopting Washington Post publisher Phil Graham’s analogy of journalism as “the first rough draft of history”, Gottlieb-Graham has mastered the art of storytelling. She takes tremendous care to develop strategies that align the client, their work, and message with the larger zeitgeist of our times, pairing them with personalised pitches to a carefully curated selection of journalists with complementary expertise. “I’m interested in taking on projects that move the needle forward socially and politically, whether centered around climate, gender, identity, race, or sexuality. I make a conscious effort to promote stories and voices that change the world in some way,” she says.

For photographer Adrienne Raquel’s first solo museum exhibition, ONYX, currently on view at Fotografiska New York, Gottlieb-Graham tapped into the intersection of women’s empowerment, sex work, and hip hop – as exemplified by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion – to present exotic dancers in a new light. Working with Raquel, Gottlieb-Graham recognized an opportunity to reframe the image of a strip club into a conversation around female gaze and sexual agency through a series of carefully crafted stories placed with CNN, GQ, Artnet, V Magazine, Dazed, and i-D.

From ONYX by Adrienne Raquel.

For artists and creatives seeking a communications team, Gottlieb-Graham recommends developing a clear vision and the courage to speak it into existence. “Know your goals and don’t be afraid to share them, even if you think it might take time to build them. Work with your publicist to craft a narrative that you’re comfortable with; if your story or your project is sensitive, make sure you hire someone equipped to listen and learn about you and communicate your work to a wider audience,” she advises.

“Spend time selecting your publicist,” she says. “This is the person who will be working on your behalf to communicate your talent and help move things forward in your career. You might become lifelong friends, and work together on a number of important projects over the course of many years.”

Miss Rosen

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer focusing on art, photography, and culture. Her work has been published in books by Arlene Gottfried, Allan Tannenbaum, and Harvey Stein, as well as magazines and websites including Time, Vogue, Aperture, Dazed, AnOther, and Vice, among others.