Public Relations Maven, Naomie Pierre-Louis, Committed to Shaping Narratives
Updated: Feb 15
When envisioning the Movers & Shakers section of Caribbean Essence, I particularly wanted to highlight those who are making a difference in their communities no matter the scale. Individuals who embody the entrepreneurial spirit, and represent their culture with pride. Keeping this goal, and idea in mind, Naomie Pierre- Louis, Founder and CEO of Percipi Global, epitomizes them to a T! You don’t have to know her personally, for her dedication to the advancement of her community, not only as a Haitian woman but a Black woman is evident in her professional and personal journey. Pierre- Louis, not only engages in varied and important dialogues but shapes narratives. Though she is busy running her company, Pierre- Louis is always ready to support and uplift friends’ and colleagues’ endeavors. And as for her clients, she strives to position them at the forefront of their messages.
Photos credit: Samira Rashid, Embassy of Haiti and Naomie Pierre-Louis
CE: Though you’re still quite young, you’ve carved a dynamic career in the field of communications, public relations, and you’ve now started you own communications and public relations firm, Percipi, what has your journey been like?
NPL: My journey has been challenging, unexpected, audacious, and fulfilling. I’m glad you began the question with the age factor because it’s often at the forefront of my interactions and engagement throughout my career. At times, not to my advantage per se. I would often find myself in rooms where I was the youngest or the only minority. As a young black woman executive, it’s important that we are present in the rooms where the decisions are being made not just for ourselves but for those who will come after us. The challenges facing our society globally, including in the Caribbean, are vast and diverse. They require new approaches and innovation. That’s where Generation Y the millennials or digital natives) and Generation Z (the centennials) come in. Their inclusion or integration is equally a part of practicing inclusive representation.
Whether you’re sitting around the table or creating one and inviting others to it, the journey requires that you find your voice. We all have one, and each unique based on our life’s journey and experiences. Each experience shaping us into who we are today and preparing us to, eventually, speak up. You have to go through the process of finding out who you are and why you’re here on this earth (that’s a whole other conversation). Once you figure out these two things (the who – your identity and the why – your purpose), the rest are details, and nothing can stand in your way. In short, the journey has been adventurous. I wouldn’t change a thing.
CE: Why venture out, and start your own company? Was it always your goal to become an entrepreneur?
NPL: Becoming an entrepreneur was certainly not my goal. I enjoy stability. I like solid ground. But this thing called purpose doesn’t always come with stability. I first started law school to pursue human rights law and left to pursue Government after the first semester. I wanted to understand why certain nations fail and others prosper. What was the secret sauce? After graduation, I dived into internships and fellowships to expand my knowledge and get hands-on experience working with those calling the shots. In short, there is no one answer to this question. But we all have a role to play. For me to play my part, I had to find my role. That role was communications. Communications has the power to build bridges, influence policy, foster open and meaningful dialogue, and bridge gaps. There is an ongoing mistrust between government and the public it serves. This is a global issue, by the way, not unique to Haiti or the Caribbean region. I created Percipi to help bridge that gap. To help move beyond the single stories that often cripple progress.
CE: What are some of the pros and cons of being a young entrepreneur?
NPL: Well, young is relative right? At 32 years old, we’ve been on earth long enough to either see or experience some of the wrongs in our society and have some idea of what role we’d like to play. That’s where my push to become an entrepreneur came from. We’re more equipped than we think. We don’t give ourselves enough credit at times.
Entrepreneurship is one of the most challenging decisions you’ll make, but you’ll thank yourself for it. I say yourself because being an entrepreneur is about meeting a need, closing a gap but doing it through who you are and everything you have at your disposal. As an entrepreneur, you are the CEO, CFO, CCO, but at the same time, it’s equally important to surround yourself with experts and identify supportive groups. When you become an entrepreneur, sure you are contributing to society, but in essence, you are choosing yourself and saying yes to this thing you believe you were created to do. The first step I would say in starting a company is not registering it but believing in yourself and believing you can do it. Consumers buy you, not necessarily what you are selling. Anyone thinking of starting a business or organization, I say go for it. Choose you.
CE: Prior to working at the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C., you were among the first group of University graduates and early professionals who participated in a program Ambassador Paul Altidor launched? What was that experience like?
Naomie Pierre-Louis and Former Ambassador Paul Altidor
One of the best moments or highlights of my time at the Embassy -and there were many. The Haiti Future Leaders Exchange Program was rewarding both professionally and culturally. It re-introduced me to a Haiti I never knew, although I was born there. As a child, I was sheltered. The Haitian Diaspora always joke about the 3 Ls (l’Ecole, L’Eglise, Lakay). Culturally, these 3 locations were the only places a young girl growing up in Haiti were restricted to. A woman was held at a higher standard, regarded as a treasure, and it was the parents’ duty to make sure they preserved that treasure, which entailed sheltering us. So, traveling to Haiti for the fellowship opened my eyes to a different Haiti culturally. After workdays, we left our hotels and explored the city and all that it has to offer. On the weekends, we toured the south and the north regions while learning about the ins and outs of the culture, history, and heritage.
The six of us were positioned at different government institutions throughout the capital, from the Palace to the Prime Minister’s Office. I was stationed at UCLBP (Housing and Public Buildings Construction Unit) , where I had the opportunity to collaborate with some of Haiti’s brilliant and dynamic young professionals in communications and project management on a national project and documentary to open the line of communication between the government and the people to foster more transparency. But most importantly, we had an opportunity to experience firsthand the decision-making process of policymaking. It is not all that’s portrayed in the media headlines. (But then again, that’s probably another interview).
CE: What stands out the most?
NPL: What stood out the most was the parts that the media often leaves out the news stories and headlines. The resilience of the people, the beauty of the island, and the inspiration of the history and its contribution to the social advancement of the larger global community.
CE: You served as the Director of Communications and Public Relations at the Embassy of Haiti in Washington, D.C. What was that period like?
NPL: Exciting times. When I joined the Embassy under the leadership of Ambassador Paul Altidor, there was momentum both on the ground in Haiti, at the Embassy and among the Diaspora. The mission was simple: protect our narrative and legacy as a country and as a people. Every team member understood the weight of this mission and equally invested in it. Every initiative was put under a microscope to assess and strategized around how it portrayed a positive image of the country, regardless of what was happening on the ground. The goal was to go beyond the headlines and introduce the American public to a different side.
CE: What types of opportunities were you afforded in this post?
NPL: Beyond building a network of colleagues who are now family, I connected with those leading the decision-making process on the ground at the highest level and witnessed the intricacies of Haitian diplomacy, most specifically Haiti’s bilateral relations with the U.S. Grateful for the experience, but like every opportunity, you get what you put into it.
CE: How do you remain connected to your roots as a Haitian American (i.e., the radio, certain sites, food, or trying to visit often)?
NPL: After leaving the Embassy to work with PREVENTS, a White House Taskforce dedicated to changing the culture around mental health and suicide at the national level, I stayed connected to the Haitian community in Washington, DC. Unlike Miami, New York, or perhaps even Boston, the Haitian community in DC is small, but it’s present. We now have 2 Haitian restaurants, Giselle and Port-au-Prince, which both serve as a hub for the community. I also stay abreast with what’s happening on the ground through my network, Le Nouvelliste, and well, social media.
CE: What does it mean in your own words to be Caribbean American?
NPL: It means to be part of a community, a region that is rich in spirit and heritage. It means to be a part of a people with a legacy of resilience, however diverse the Caribbean region may be. It means being raised in two distinct cultures, with one foot in emerging economies and another in advanced/developing economies. While every country or region is different, being Caribbean American means to be a resource to the global economy.
CE: Do you have a favorite activity or place to visit in Haiti?
NPL: Too many. MUPANAH, Furcy, Asu Lounge, Citadelle, Le Picolet, Grotte Marie Jeanne, Port Salut, Jacmel, okay I digress. Just about ready to book my next ticket. One of my favorite things to do in Haiti is to lay on the beach, eating grilled conch (lambi boukannen), barefoot, rum in one hand, dominos on the other.
CE: Where do you hope to see yourself and Percipi five years from now?
NPL: We started Percipi in my DC Apartment in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic with a group of 3, which grew to 6 and now 8 in less than a year, and I think the interest of those joining the team goes beyond having a job. What we do at Percipi is more than branding, it’s representation. It’s being a reminder that perceptions matter and are shaped by ongoing narratives. It’s ensuring that our clients are positioned at the forefront of their messages. It’s ensuring that their narratives are led by them rather than for them. It’s ensuring that we are amplifying underrepresented voices, uplifting cultures, and celebrating diversity. In 5 years, I hope to have 3 departments (public relations, public affairs, public diplomacy) in place with the expertise in-house to service our clients doing great work in these areas. I hope to continue creating jobs for early professionals who understand the weight of partial or misled narratives and those who want to play a role in leaving the world a little better than we found it.
CE: For anyone who hasn’t been to Haiti, how would you describe the island and its people?
NPL: Adventurous. Both Haiti and its people are full of life. It’s true what they say, the Caribbeans are hospitable, relaxed, and a joy to be around, not to be confused with laziness. Haitians are some of the most hard-working people I know. My mother, for example, started a business with 3 Haitian dollars selling watermelon as a merchant as a 16-year-old girl. When she traveled to the states, prior to working she was able to purchase a place to live, a car, and a business in a short time span. She’s just one example of the many Haitian women pillars who invest their all in their children for a better life. She believed in the American dream and believed education was the vehicle. So, she did what she must to put her kids through school in Haiti, preparatory fine arts, and college stateside.
Policy advisors and policymakers have argued that the nonchalant of the Caribbean region, most particularly Haiti, is a contributing factor to the poverty level. I share a different view. I believe it’s our competitive edge, an advantage. For Haiti, the leaders and the people alike just need to identify how to make that advantage work for the advancement of the nation.
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