Essentially, the profession of a publicist is a lot like sales wherein you work for a person, product or company that wants to get its message out. Your job is to persuade journalists to cover your client, whether it's in a front page, news article or a few minutes on a local TV show. It can also be your role to respond to journalists when they ask unflattering questions about your clients.
The job of a publicist is to pitch a client or a company to the television media, newspapers, magazines, and advertising agencies. They write press releases when a musician releases a new album, set up press conferences when major corporations merge, and subdue the media, in case the stars are involved in a scandal.
The career of a publicist is apparently one of the easiest and most attractive with enough scope for imagination and creativity. It doesn't require special academic achievements and the work offers the chance to shine as an individual.
A publicist of an artist in show business or in the music business has regular access to the artists and gets to observe their work at close quarters. For some people this may seem to be an appealing bonus, even adding a touch of glamour to the working lifestyle.
For a publicist, job satisfaction is linked to the volume and quality of positive media exposure gained for the employer or client. There are equal job opportunities for women and men in the publicist field, more so in favor of women, as they tend to be more persuasive and effective when dealing with journalists of both genders.
Publicists to film stars do have a creatively pleasing opportunity to work directly and closely with artists they represent but the work is extremely demanding in many ways and involves stress. One does not frequently get to meet someone called a publicist attached to a star but their secretaries or PR consultant/ advisers, managers, agent, etc fulfill similar functions.
The Publicist must have knowledge of the activities of the artist or company he represents. When required, he responds negatively to requests for interview or photo facilities but is expected to offer a credible explanation, to protect the client's interests. Publicists keep mailing lists updated and categorized into sections to suit different purposes and occasions.
It is a publicist’s responsibility to work on image building based on the style of performance, the appearance and the personality of the artist. Over a period, they may visualize a change in career direction through a new film/concert or a fresh album/ project.
A publicist of a star or performer would be setting up interviews with appropriate agencies; would know how to stimulate media interest; arrange photo opportunities; receptions and conferences.
It may not be necessary to write to professional journalistic standards, but it is useful if a publicist can churn out factually reliable, well constructed, conveniently presented news stories, or biographical pieces at reasonable speed with a high standard of accuracy.
New ways of transmitting information and delivering entertainment have broadened the work base of the publicist. Besides press coverage, they need to oversee a wide spectrum of communication media, particularly television, radio and now, the Internet.
Those who like conventional, planned predictable workdays should definitely not consider this job. A publicist's priorities during the day may have to be re-arranged many times. A routine day's work includes phone calls to clients and journalists to discuss specific plans or merely to 'stay in touch', lunch with a particularly useful media contact, a session of press interviews for an artist who has something new to promote and an appointment at a photographer's studio to supervise the shooting of some new publicity pictures.
For a music artist’s publicist, it could mean a conference with a record company to lay the foundations of a new PR project. Variations on this theme could be endless, and almost always, it adds up to a long and busy working day. Evenings and nights may be spent working rather than doing your own thing.
If you are one of those who tend to be stimulated and invigorated by urgency and pressure presenting a positive challenge, then this work will suit you best. A publicist should have the following attributes:
- A nose for a promising news story,
- A well-developed sense of loyalty and discretion,
- A degree of genuine devotion to the job,
- The willingness to work crazy hours plus a wide spread of skills and capabilities, some of which need to be almost instinctive while others are far from easy to learn and cannot be acquired through an academic course.
Apart form the basic industrial knowledge and a liberal minded appreciation of music or films or whatever line of work your client may be in, the publicist requires
- Mental and physical stamina,
- Patience and persistence
- A lack of inhibition
- A vivacious personality
- General intelligence, an ability to communicate without discomfort in both business and social circumstances and hands-on journalistic work experience in some sector of the media count for much more if not more than specialist academic qualifications.
There are no standard routes for entry into the career of a showbiz publicist. Mass Communications / PR/ Journalism degrees or qualifications may provide a sound theoretical base but no more. A journalistic / media background would be useful as you then already have contacts that can be tapped for your work. Experience in film/music or a related glamour industry could be a starting point as also any type of public relations, promotion or publicity/advertisement work.
Certain basic office abilities, like familiarity with word processing, along with the use of modem and electronic mail are necessary today.
There are no direct routes and little awareness of the potential in these jobs; people with the right personal attitudes, drive, enthusiasm and energy can carve out an excellent career as a Publicist.
A publicist may operate on one's own or as an employee of a PR consultant or a celebrity management outfit assigned to a particular star. There are no fixed hours or specific rules on how to do the job, giving an individual enough room to create his work profile and employment opportunities.
Publicists of celebrities eventually set up their own agencies or get involved in the business of the area of their client’s expertise. Some use their contacts with bigger stars to move on to more important clients who may be having a more vibrant spell. There are no chalked out hierarchical patterns and if you excel in the role, you are free to go as far as you wish to and in the direction of your liking.