The Business of Hip Hop Spotlight: Tresa Sanders

5 min read

Title: Founder/CEO

Company: TreMedia

Location: Atlanta, GA/New York, NY

Merging the elements of brand building with the art of public relations requires dexterity, passion, and a reverence for the power of reciprocal relationships. It’s a recipe that TreMedia CEO and Founder, Tresa L. Sanders, has mastered during a career that spans two decades. Along with garnering multi-platform media placements for her roster of sports, entertainment, corporate and non-profit clients, she continues to expand her reach and fortify her reputation a valiant force behind-the-scenes.

A native of Flint, Michigan, Sanders studied at both New York University and Baruch College and also served as a Cryptologist in the Intelligence Department of the United States Navy, the latter which she credits for strengthening her work ethic. “That experience was very beneficial to me as a business person,” she says. “The level of discipline required to excel in the armed forces prepared me for the rigors of climbing the corporate ladder and thriving as an entrepreneur.”

Since launching TreMedia in 1992, Sanders has been a trailblazer in her field. Whether embracing the new media landscape during its infancy or orchestrating the first mainstream media hits for her clients, she remains one step ahead. Not surprising, she utilizes the same level of focus and commitment to shape her clients’ brands as she does to strengthen her own. To date, she’s lent her Midas touch labels such as Warner Bros., Interscope Geffen A&M, G-Unit, Roc-A-Fella, Steve Rifkind’s Loud and SRC Records and So So Def and to the likes of multi-platinum Grammy winning and nominated acts such as Nelly Furtado, Mary J. Blige, B.o.B and Jay-Z, chart-topping rappers, Future, Scarface, and Yo Gotti, Oscar-winning duo, Three 6 Mafia. And R&B Starlets Solange, K. Michelle and Keyshia Cole.  Also in the realm of entertainment she’s work with athletes like heavyweight boxer, Roy Jones, Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard, Daniel Gibson, and skateboard champ, Stevie Williams have all been among the clients on the TreMedia roster.

Always eager to conquer new frontiers, Sanders ventured into the realm of television and film and most recently served as PR Talent Executive for TVOne’s original series, Verses & Flow. Under the public relations umbrella, she recently launched the new daytime series, The Real, with co-hosts Tamar Braxton, Adrienne Bailon, Tamera Mowry-Housley, Loni Love, and Jeannie Mai – which, upon launch, was the #1 new daytime talk show.  She crafted a publicity campaign for BET’s January 2011 premiere of The Game, which shattered cable television records by earning 7.7 million viewers. She again scored big with BET’s Sunday Best, which earned its highest ratings under her leadership, and the original series, Reed Between The Lines, starring Malcolm Jamal Warner and Tracee Ellis Ross. In the film world, she’s implemented media plans for Brooklyn’s Finest, HBO’s documentary, Music Behind Bars, Palm Pictures’ indie feature, Thicker Than Water, and the documentary film, Ghetto Physics. She’s also contributed to RZA’s success as both a film actor (Derailed) and a featured soundtrack artist (Blade: Trinity, Kill Bill) as well as rapper/actor Common (American Gangster, Smoking Aces).

Along with her work in entertainment, Sanders has development a number of community-based projects. IN an effort to promote AIDS awareness, she created and managed a customized media campaign based upon Spearhead’s single, “Positive,” and polled resources for the Center for Disease Control and President Clinton’s National Minority AIDS Council. As a result of her efforts, Spearhead’s frontman, Michel Franti, was recruited as the official spokesperson for both organizations.

Throughout her entrepreneurial journey, Sanders has also enjoyed the opportunity to flourish in executive positions by overseeing public relations and marketing departments at both major and independent record labels. After kicking off her career in the corporate sector, she switched gears and took a leap into the entertainment industry. Her starting point was as General Manager of Odad Productions where she oversaw operations and learned the inner workings of music production while working with artists including Red Hot Chili Peppers, the B52s, Jeffrey Osborne and freestyle fellowship. Within two years, she was eager to spread her wings and explore her creativity. Armed with a single client – Odad President, Daddy-O – she launched her first venture, Asert Public Relations.

Two years later, she was recruited to join Rhyme & Reason Communications as Senior Account Supervisor. In addition to creating publicity plans for artists ranging from Bootsy Collins and Buddy Miles to Doug E. Fresh and Vernon Reid, she lent a hand in organizing the now-infamous “Free Slick Rick” petition campaign, which was an integral factor in the legendary rapper’s release from prison. After the company closed its doors, Sanders refocused her energy on her company (which she renamed TreMedia) and hit the ground running by signing No Limit Records and So So Def Recordings as clients.

In 1996, she assumed the role of Director of Marketing and Media Relations for Roc-A-Fella Records where she formulated marketing strategies for the label and its co-founding, marquee artist, Jay-Z. In addition to overseeing budgets, she coordinated advertising campaigns targeted toward rap, mainstream and trade publications. Following her tenure with Roc-a-Fella, she signed a six month contract with Interscope Records. “Once I was able to secure a loyal clientele, my primary goals were to cultivate my relationships with the media and strengthen my brand. My reward for starting small was an income increase of over 500% within a five-year span.”

Sanders later joined Loud Records as Vice President, Publicity, and led a staff of eight in developing media and lifestyle campaigns for Wu Tang Clan, Luther Campbell (aka Uncle Luke), Three 6 Mafia, and Xzibit, among them. Along with securing mainstream bookings for her artists on both daytime and late night television as well as across print and new media platforms, the most notable achievement of her tenure was instituting a comprehensive system for Wu-Tang Clan to ensure that each of its nine members received equal coverage during press days, television appearances and photo and video shoots.

Following her tenure with Loud, she once again established herself as an entrepreneur. By adding brand marketing to TreMedia’s portfolio, she would broaden her client roster to include Toys “R” Us, the Marine Corps’ “Toys for Tots” campaign and the award-winning “Together RX Access” campaign. In 2007, Sanders’ client, Geffen Records, courted her to lead their urban public relations initiative and guide the media efforts of their established chart-toppers including Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Keyshia Cole and Common. After completing her contact with Geffen, Sanders retained her active projects as TreMedia clients. “I firmly believe that when you work hard and your clients know your worth, you’ll never be without a job,” she notes with confidence.

Looking toward the future, Sanders, who’s been quoted in The New York Times and The Village Voice, and was most recently a member of Billboard Magazine 2013 Power Panel welcomes the challenge of growing her business even further. “My career has taught me the importance of promoting the client as well as their product. That lesson continues to serve me at every turn,” she notes. “Moving forward, I want to continue transferring my branding, marketing and public relations skills to a wider net – I welcome every such opportunity.”

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