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Unflappable Laker Launches Silver Seas PR Firm

River Laker announces Silver Seas as only he can.
River Laker announces Silver Seas as only he can.

First he was the Carless Brit, selling his ride on a whim and relying on a bike to get around Roanoke – which he still does. Then River Laker set out to beg, barter and steal for a month – not buying anything, but making do by trading services and goods with others. He has also started up a band,” The Laker Experiment,” and wrote songs despite not having any real background in music.

All the while British-born Laker was working for the Roanoke City Library system, scheduling events like the Emerging Artists Series at the main library branch downtown, showcasing local artists of all stripes that may or may not be very well known.

It all came apart after five years however when Laker decided to do a strip tease while taking part in a bachelor auction for charity at 202 Market. The management there wound up in trouble with ABC and Laker was reprimanded at work. He filed a grievance over that, saying the incident didn’t happen on the job, asking for the entry to be struck from his record. That soured things between him and the library system, leading to Laker’s resignation last fall.

“It’s time to move on,” said Laker, and that’s what he has done.

Laker isn’t going away however – along with two partners he’s created a publicity and marketing firm, “Silver Seas PR,” which focuses on working with lesser known artists in Roanoke and across the country, helping them gain more visibility. Think the Emerging Artists series on steroids, perhaps. One early client will be announcing their new novel by sailing a yacht up the east coast, stopping along the way for appearances that will be handled by Silver Seas PR.

Laker, the company president, said he left with “mutual respect” between him and library services director Sheila Umberger; in fact he hopes to be able to use the city library system as a venue for local Silver Seas clients. Laker still gets plenty of support from people in the community, including those who were on his side during the dispute with the library system over the reprimand. “Keep doing what you’re doing,” one person told Laker at the Grandin Theater recently. “I love affirmation,” he chuckles.

That urge to think outside the box has only “come to the surface in the last couple of years,” said Laker, a former teacher who was at it again in announcing the launch for Silver Seas PR – appearing on city streets downtown, with his bike of course, draped in chains and carrying a sign that read “Unchaining Creatives.”

Laker’s Silver Seas PR partners include Gina Holmes, a local novelist whose third book, Wings of Glass, is set to launch next month. The other principal is Jessica Dotta, who has a background in public relations. The stated goal on the website (silverseaspr.com) is to “help cultural creatives get media coverage.”  The media coverage will be focused and personalized in many cases.

Laker knows all about getting media exposure, something he has mastered over the past few years. Traditional media outlets like print, radio and television are still the target and more aligned with the demographic Laker feels will be most receptive, although social and “new” media are part of the mix. “We’re very fluid and will transition as time goes on,” he adds.

Laker says the term “cultural creatives” is “extremely loose,” and can include visual artists, writers and creative types of all stripes. Sometimes those sorts of people don’t concern themselves with marketing or don’t know how to go about it – that’s where Silver Seas PR hopes to come on, helping the artist reach a wider audience. “Not dumbing down culture, but helping to popularize it,” noted Laker.

Staging shows, readings, sending out press releases and reaching out to the media are on the to-do list. Silver Seas only wants to take on clients they feel having something to offer – the focus is nationwide said Laker, “but we’d love to work with Roanoke artists.”

In true Laker fashion he planned a vacation to Miami, Montreal and London just a few weeks before Silver Seas PR launched – leaving him in a financial hole. “I thought it would motivate me to work harder. It has been stressful but at the same time it’s incredibly freeing, knowing you have to rely on your own efforts to succeed. It’s a whole different world.”

Laker believes everyone has a creative side, it’s just hidden at times behind the struggles of life. “I love to display that – hopefully in not too irritating of a manor,” he laughs. As for Silver Seas, clients have to be doing “something that thrills us. Then we can work with them.” The goal is to then make sure those artists thrill others.

By Gene Marrano

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