He might be only 26-years-old, but Matthew Cancel has a resume that belies his age. Indeed, the ambitious communications professional sees it as a major attribute as he launches his own boutique agency, Cancel Communications. His position on the cusp of both the Millennial and Gen Z age brackets also shows in the broad range of talent in the roster he’s launching with. Think: influencers, nightlife legends, pop stars, a fashion photographer, and more! Furthermore, Cancel will also continue to serve as an external PR comms rep for Instagram (ever heard of it?!) working with their various partnerships teams. When we heard he was setting up shop, we were dying to know more! Not to mention, what he really learned under the renowned Kelly Cutrone…
How did you know it was time to go out on your own?
It was not an easy decision. Opportunities continued to pile up and it became difficult to balance all of them with a full-time job at an agency. It was especially difficult because my former team at Metro PR was extraordinary and Tess and Laura (Metro’s CEOs) are the best leaders in the industry. Deciding to go out on my own was scary, but also thrilling. I am so excited to launch today and speak with the Daily Front Row exclusively!
Did you always imagine you’d launch your own agency?
I actually didn’t until very recently, and I did not imagine this was going to happen so soon. I have learned important opportunities do not stay available for long, and moments like these are fleeting. I had to trust my gut, take a chance, and make the jump!
Tell us about the clients you’re launching with!
I am launching with an incredible line-up of talent. I will be representing some of the most innovative artists and professionals in nightlife, comedy, music, social media, and fashion including Aly & AJ, Susanne Bartsch, Larissa Muehleder, Chris Olsen, Ian Paget, Vincenzo Dimino, Caroline Vazzana, Davis Burleson, and Martin Soto.
What do you think attracted them all to working with you?
This is a curated roster of trailblazing individuals who have broken into their respective industries in unconventional and remarkable ways. Working with talents like Aly & AJ and Susanne Bartsch is an actual dream come true. These women define contemporary pop culture and their artistry has profoundly inspired me. My relationships with all my clients are built on a foundation of honesty and trust. Strong connections, bespoke treatment, deep knowledge of the industry, and demonstrated results are central operating principles for Cancel Communications, and I believe those principles are responsible for attracting the client roster we have at launch.
Overall, what kind of services do you offer these and prospective clients?
Cancel Communications is dedicated to providing its clients with a personalized scope of work. No two individuals are the same and each requires unique services. Cancel Communications will work with clients on: securing red carpet/event appearances at major entertainment, music, and fashion events; strategizing their brand and social media persona to frame public perception; securing tactical PR features across broadcast, social, online, and print media; expanding their network to build career opportunities.
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What does network expansion entail?
Network expansion as a service is not offered at most agencies. Cancel Communications recognizes network expansion is a crucial component of the overall PR process. Whether a client needs to network more designers, editors, photographers, creators, celebrities, and/or PR agencies for their career, Cancel Communications will work with them to ensure those relationships are constantly facilitated.
Let’s go back! What originally made you want to pursue PR?
I have always enjoyed amplifying important voices and I knew from an early age that my communication skills were going to get me far. I love learning how people represent themselves, and how that representation is perceived by the world at large. I wanted to find a way to make a career out of meeting new people while also finding ways to connect them organically. I love that my job is focused on trying to find the synergy within all of us and highlighting the aspects that bring unique people together.
You had your first job with Kelly Cutrone! Tell us everything….
Truly my first PR role model. Working for her was such a pivotal time in my life and career. Growing up I was OBSESSED with The Hills and I remember seeing Kelly for the first time on TV and being enamored with her persona, work ethic, and authority. I landed an internship at People’s Rev when I was 20, which then turned into a summer job where I helped manage the showroom alongside my phenomenal supervisor, Simone Francese. Simone and Kelly brought me to my first fashion show during NYFW, helped me make my first round of connections with editors and celebs, and taught me that tenacity, perseverance, and hard work will get you everywhere. They both gave me my start and believed in me in a way no one had before. I will always be grateful for that.
What’s something invaluable that you learned under her?
Falling in line, staying quiet, and being inauthentic will hurt you in the long run. She taught me that I constantly had to be comfortable challenging myself and the authority around me if I wanted to make a difference.
Who were some of your earlier fashion clients and how did that experience shape you?
My role at KCD was project-based and I could only continue working there if I killed it on each project/event I was given. It kept me motivated to earn the next project, and the clients tended to get bigger and bigger. I helped manage Michael Kors for three seasons, and I would go in-house with their team two weeks before Fashion Week each season. I loved that team— their personal/professional connection and sense of humor were unlike anything I experienced within the industry. The Met Gala 2019 was also a highlight of my life and career—when I got selected for that I nearly fainted! Madigan McGovern was my supervisor and mentor at KCD; I learned everything from her. She has since gone on to launch her own event management agency titled McG Projects and I am still in awe of her work ethic and intelligence. I owe so much to KCD and Madigan for these incredible experiences.
And you worked with Instagram! Is it as fun as we would expect?
It is SO much fun. I love, love, love the entire team at Instagram and all of the activations I get to work on with them. I am excited to announce that alongside my talent roster, I will continue to serve as an external PR comms rep for Instagram working with their music, fashion, beauty, and entertainment partnerships teams.
What’s been the biggest hurdle when setting up your own agency?
The legal and accounting process! [Laughs.] I think I have become a lawyer, accountant, business analyst, and coder over the past few weeks with the number of new skills I have had to learn. Key pieces of advice if you are starting a new company – hire a good lawyer, a top-tier accountant, and do not be afraid to ask for help if you do not know the answer!
What’s been the most rewarding element so far?
Being able to personally curate each of my client’s roadmaps to fit their specific needs. I love working directly with each client to creatively and strategically achieve each of their goals while setting new ones along the way.
You’ve done so much for someone who’s 26-years-old! How is your age and perspective an attribute in the industry?
I’m using the humorous slogan that I’m “Not a Gen Zer, and not yet a Millennial,” because depending on the source I am either a Gen Zer or a Millennial—but I am on the cusp of both. I know exactly what is happening on every side of TikTok, but I also remember a time where print magazines and tabloids were the main sources of consuming pop culture news. It is interesting to watch older millennials and younger Gen Zers clash in the professional landscape and I am one of the few who speak both languages. Every communications professional around my age has a special point of view because we understand the value of traditional media like a print feature in a prominent fashion magazine, but we also understand the nuances and importance of non-traditional media like social media takeover with the same publication.
What are your biggest goals for 2022 with Cancel Communications?
To begin to onboard incredible talent to work at Cancel Communications! I am already in talks with some of my colleagues to start working together in the new year and I cannot wait to fill you in on more over the next few months.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Probably that I do not take myself too seriously! I love my job and I am committed to working hard. I am also committed to not losing myself along the way. Maintaining a sense of humor in any field is crucial. It will help level set what is important and what you should shake off.
Number one dream client to work with? Let’s manifest it for you….
Dua Lipa! Her music and talent are unmatched and her persona is fascinating. Her Instagram account keeps me both laughing and inspired. She is one of the biggest stars in the world, but never takes herself too seriously—that is the ideal client to work with collaboratively.