by Rodney Wilson
Editor, NKU Magazine
It is, to say the least, an interesting time for American politics.
No matter where you land on the political spectrum, it’s hard to deny that our legislative landscape’s taken on some new and unfamiliar features in recent years. What comes next is anybody’s guess, but one thing’s for sure: These days, there are unusual politics at play in politics as usual.
If you think all this is a lot to keep up with on your social media feeds, consider what it must be like for Marc Banks. The 2014 graduate of Northern Kentucky University’s public relations program followed an internship with Sen. Kristen Gillibrand to a full-time job as public relations specialist for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF)—which means he’s up close and personal with Capitol Hill every day.
And he’s having a blast.
“Specifically where I’m at right now, with the mission and goal of what I’m doing,” says Banks. “I love it. It’s enjoyable.”
Banks, who was recently named as one of the Huffington Post’s “Top 25 African American PR Millennials to Watch,” is referring to the core goal of the CBCF—and it’s a guiding mission that Banks shares wholeheartedly.
“We focus mainly on providing fellowships, internships and scholarships for African-American students to have that experience and get on Capitol Hill,” he explains. “Diversity in Capitol Hill is imperative. We live in a diverse America, and the people making our laws and legislation should represent our country, not just in race but in disability, in where they come from, in life experiences.”
Banks knows a thing or two about diversity of life experience. Brought to Cincinnati by his grandmother at an early age for better educational options (he graduated from Springer School, which offers specialized education to students, like Banks, who live with learning disabilities), the Atlanta native’s path to a high-energy career in Washington, D.C., was hardly preordained. But if there’s a starting point for his journey, it was his time at NKU, where he found the individualized attention he knew he needed for classroom success.
“NKU offered small class sizes, and I felt like I would get more attention,” he says. “You’re not just another number in class, and you feel as though the teachers know your name—the teachers know if you weren’t there or they know if you’re struggling and can give you more attention or point you in the right direction.
“It was the people at NKU that made it such a great place to learn and study.”
Originally enrolling as a journalism major, Banks soon found himself drawn to PR, which spoke to a desire to perform a wide variety of tasks while still maintaining a role in the journalism field (though now he gives answers instead of asking questions).
“I think PR appealed to me because it gave me an opportunity to still dabble in journalism—kind of be the flip-side of that coin—but also give me some business experience, as well as events experience and all that,” he says. “PR was more encompassing of what I wanted to do and gave me options to do a little more.”
Not only did Banks learn about PR in the classroom, but on-campus opportunities gave him real-world experience with the subject matter that would guide his career path. In particular, a working relationship with a fellow student on a campus radio show led directly to production work at RadioOne’s The Wiz.
“I went on Norse Code Radio with Jeffonia Wynn [a/k/a, Cincinnati media professional and public personality, Ms. Ebony J],” says Banks. “She brought me in to pull together some of the branding and communication tactics for her show, things that would build her outreach. I also helped with securing some of the people who came on to the show for her to interview. Eventually, I went on to work with her when she went to Cincinnati’s WIZF.”
Also during his time at NKU, Banks interned at the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, where work advocating for minorities and underrepresented individuals fueled the passion that eventually carried him to Capitol Hill.
And while his day job influencing our nation’s politics is deeply fulfilling to Banks, the young professional’s zest for public relations led him to start his own freelance entertainment PR company, Bankable PR Management & Services, of which he is founder and CEO.
“I’ve worked with FOX, Warner Bros., BET,” he says. “A lot of networks. We’ve done a lot of screenings for TV shows.” Banks goes on to rattle off a list of television programs, including “Star” and “Shots Fired,” that Bankable’s worked with, as well as a who’s who of notable celebrities who show up to his events. But when asked if he likes entertainment or political work better, Banks doesn’t see a reason to choose.
“I definitely think they scratch different itches for me,” he says. “Political communications can be fast paced—it’s intense. You feel the effects of it a little more and they can be a bit longer lingering. But the entertainment PR’s fun. I enjoy it. I think it gives me access to a different world.
“What I really enjoy is merging the two,” he continues. “Finding places where entertainers and people who have some celebrity to them can insert themselves into the political sphere and put that influence behind a cause that advocates for social rights and human rights.”
And while this merging plays heavily into what Banks sees in his future, when you ask him directly about his plans for the days ahead, his answer is one commonly heard around Capitol Hill.
“I’m weighing some different things,” he says. “I’m looking forward to 2020 to see what will happen.”