The Very Best Story: The Magic of Loving Your Work
Erin Allweiss and Melody Serafino are the savvy communications duo working to bring positive, thoughtful ideas into the world on behalf of the world’s leading thinkers and artists. The duo immediately hit it off when they met at their last job—they shared an office—and soon they were sharing much more, like how they would run their own company one day. When they turned 29 a few weeks apart, they decided to make their dream a reality, and, taking what can only be called an epic career leap, they busted out on their own and founded the media relations firm No. 29.
“The writer Ann Friedman talks about the power of 29 – an ode to being almost 30 – and that totally captured how we felt at the moment of starting No. 29,” says Allweiss. “We thought, let’s create something that lets us work with people, companies, artists and things we love.”
The earnest honesty driving their core philosophy has attracted major talent. Among the clients they work with: the TED Prize and TEDx; artists Prune Nourry and the major photography exhibition This Place; art and science institute Pioneer Works; innovative French design technologies Boom Boom and Keecker; and real estate Developer/Lowline board chairman David Barry.
Here they reveal some insider tips on how to craft a good message and build a brand (such as cut the BS!), as well their favorite neighborhood hangs.
What’s the philosophy behind No. 29?
Melody: Our core rule is we only work on things we believe in, so our work is basically an extension of our personal lives. Essentially we’re telling the stories we’d want to read, which makes our jobs much easier and much more fun. Every one of our clients is moving the needle in some way: artists who are shifting how people look at the world, business leaders who are making change, and some of the coolest gadgets we’ve come across.
Another key aspect of our business is building partnerships among our clients, as there’s often a common thread that could be mutually beneficial. We’re natural connectors in life and work, so this is what we love most. We recently introduced Boom Boom – our absolute must-have French speaker that records 3D sound – to the Future of Storytelling Summit (FoST). It was a perfect fit. Same as when we introduced musician Jon Batiste to fashion designer Billy Reid. It was a match made in music/sartorial heaven.
Last, and perhaps most important of all, is building strong company culture. At the center of this is respect – for one another, our clients and the people we employ. Life’s too short for mean-spiritedness.
How would you describe your working relationship?
Erin: We’re frighteningly similar and totally different. There are moments when we read one another’s minds. I’ll call Melody to tell her something she simultaneously emails me about. But it’s a total balancing act, and we joke that we’re life partners. We’re incredibly supportive of one another’s work and personal decisions – in large part because we have a lot of respect for our differences – and are constantly brainstorming and bouncing ideas off one another. There’s no doubt that we’re stronger as a team, and it’s a good reminder to surround yourself with smart, inspiring and talented people. Especially when starting a business.
What three tips can you share about trying to get a message into the world successfully?
>Be honest and authentic. It seems simple, but it’s critical. People can and will call BS on inauthenticity.
>Don’t rush! It’s exciting to get a story out into the world, but doing it too soon – before a project is complete, before a product is ready, or before you’ve considered every question you might get – is one of the oldest mistakes in the book.
>Tell a good story. Ultimately our job is to find the story in the bigger picture. We are constantly thinking about what people are reading and what journalists want to write about. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing someone we work with making news for his or her achievements.
What are your three go-to places in your neighborhood?
Erin: I live in Carroll Gardens and can’t live without Nightingale 9 and Frankies. SO good. And Strumpet is the best clothing boutique I’ve seen in ages. It’s also dangerously nearby. If I’m in the city, Narcissa is a must. I dream of their spinach side (trust me, and thank you, John Fraser!)
Melody: I live in Greenwich Village. When I was decorating my apartment, my go-to store was Nadeau. I still pop by to peruse even though my apartment is bursting at the seams at this point. Cones on Bleecker Street has mouth-watering South American-inspired gelato. Their dulce de leche is my vice. Bus Stop Café was one of the first places I discovered when I moved to New York. It’s cozy, casual and serves up delicious comfort food. Their grilled salmon wrap is still one of my favorites.
What’s your favorite place to take visitors when they come to visit?
Erin: Prospect Park for a walk (summer) or ice skating (winter) and Pioneer Works for Second Sundays or any of their openings! It’s an incredible art and science space in Red Hook. It’s a tad off the beaten museum path, which is what makes it such a gem: the exhibitions are spectacular, the space beyond stunning, and their team is the best. It’s worth the walk every time.
Melody: On a warm summer day, a walk on the Highline to the West Chelsea art galleries. If it’s cold or rainy, the Rubin Art Museum is where I go to get inspired and zen out. I think it’s one of the city’s more underrated art institutions.