A large pool of similar divisions work within the entertainment industry to advertise, market, and promote bands, actors, movies, and TV shows to the public. Within this pool is the publicist. This individual may work in-house for a record label or film studio or for an outside publicity firm, but in either case publicists work hard to remain experts in the demographics and popular press of their geographic region or market segment.
A junior staff publicist will be given, at first, only a small range of responsibilities, such as gathering information for press kits, working check-in at events, and writing simple press releases. The junior publicist will work under the direction of a senior publicist and may act as an assistant, returning phone calls, replying to email, and maintaining the senior publicist’s schedule and contact directories. As the junior publicist gains experience he or she will be given additional responsibility, writing more creative press releases and working with artists to develop publicity strategies.
In crafting a press campaign, the publicist will work with the artist, label or studio to select a photographer for promotional photos, hire a freelance writer to write bios for the press kit, and work with the online marketing division to design and update social networking pages. From there, it’s the publicist’s job to send out press kits to announce the client to the world media. In doing so, the publicist must analyze the market to determine which publication, radio, and television outlets best reflect the client’s genre and personality. A good publicist is constantly in contact with press to schedule interviews and on-air appearances to generate media buzz. The publicist coordinates press conferences and sends out advance copies of albums or film screeners to critics and other members of the media; a savvy publicist will also host parties as an opportunity to network with press contacts. It is the publicist who works with the talent bookers at Saturday Night Live, MTV, and the late-night shows to get clients performance slots or sit-downs to plug a new project. An in-house publicist acts to drive album sales or box office revenues, as this is the company’s primary source of income. A personal publicist aims to build his or her client’s brand recognition and career longevity, working in tandem with corporate PR.
Skills & Education
Most publicity firms prefer job candidates who have a degree in communications, media, music, or entertainment business. Coursework in marketing, public relations, and advertising are all of great use in this position. Those hiring for junior-level positions will accept professional experience of at least one year, but internships—which are readily available at the larger companies—give that extra boost to your résumé. Many companies have an internship or career development program for students and recent grads. A publicist must be the proverbial “people person”: charming, friendly, and able to create and maintain lasting relationships with contacts in the industry. Your Rolodex and your phone (or phones) are your lifeline in publicity. A publicist must also be a great problem-solver, organized, and extremely knowledgeable about both the entertainment and publication/media industries. Creativity, resourcefulness, and excellent communication skills are essential.
What to Expect
A good publicist never clocks out. You are expected to be available at any hour and at a moment’s notice. If Vanity Fair finally calls you back to set up an interview with your client, you can’t afford to make them wait. If Sting cancels on Letterman the night before taping, you can’t afford to let their talent booker reach your voicemail and not you. A publicist is a salesperson, and sometimes a spin artist who must constantly try to control and influence the flow of information. You will get to know your clients better than your own family; and your clients need to be able to trust you implicitly with their secrets.
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