A publicist gets press coverage for his client. The publicist is often the middleman between the high-profile personality and members of the media. He usually wants his client to receive positive acclaim, but many publicists surveyed noted the old adage that “the only bad publicity is no publicity.” Politicians and captains of industry require a little more specific spin on their press-they want to be seen as forward-looking and confident-but other professions are less picky, as in the case of the rock star who reveals the sordid details of his seamy nightlife to cultivate a rough image. Publicists also perform damage control, attempting to counteract any undesirable press coverage the client receives. This position as “last line of defense” is what distinguishes the adequate publicist from the extraordinary one. Good publicists can turn scandal into opportunity and create valuable name-recognition for their clients.
Publicists don’t only work for the famous. Sometimes they work for a little-known person or industry and create reasons for them to receive press coverage. In a case where a company desiring publicity is hampered by its esoteric nature or technical jargon, the publicist must translate its positions into easily understandable language. A major part of the publicist’s day is spent writing press releases and creating press packets, which have photos and information about the publicized person or company. Publicists spend a lot of time on the phone. They put in long hours, and most receive little financial reward in return. They operate under hectic conditions and must adhere to strict deadlines which coincide with publicity events, such as the release of a movie or the publishing of a book. They have to ensure that they get the appropriate information to the media in time for the event they are generating publicity for, such as a record release or automotive sale. They must always be available for comment (even when that comment is “no comment”) and remain friends with the media, no matter how demanding the desires of both clients and the reporters on whom they depend. But at the end of the day, they go to the hottest parties in town, the ones for their clients.
The most appropriate bachelor’s degree for a publicist to hold is in communications, but business degrees are also looked upon favorably by employers. In college, aspiring publicists should study public relations, public speaking, and writing. Candidates should also have some experience with copyediting. Depending on the publicist’s desired area, other elective courses may include labor relations, economics, and politics. Most publicists recommend interning at a firm before plunging into this job-a low-responsibility position allows them to see the pace of the profession firsthand. Besides, it helps to make as many contacts as possible in this “it’s-who-you-know” field. Some publicists have graduate degrees, although they are not required by any employer. All publicists start at the same entry-level positions and work their way up. Experience is the key to obtaining a good job, especially in the entertainment industry, which is the hardest to break into. The music industry is most likely to acknowledge and reward fresh insight given by new employees.
Public relations, marketing, and event planning are closely linked to the publicist’s field. The event planner creates events to generate interest in whatever the publicist is promoting. Marketers study the community to determine how the client is perceived and how its members feel his image could be improved. Advertisers and writers often create the materials used by publicists. Programmers determine where and how frequently the company should advertise. Booking agents are responsible for procuring venues for publicity and anticipating the effect the events will have on the client’s image. For instance, he may have to weigh the exposure that comes from being a guest on a major talk show against the potential friendliness or hostility of the host. Information officers perform many of the same duties as publicists, only they respond passively to inquiries and publicity, while the publicist actively seeks an interested audience.