The career of a publicist appears to be among the easiest and most attractive of all careers today. It offers abundant scope for innovativeness and off-the-cuff creativity. Most importantly, 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 ample opportunity 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. But, if you are an awe-struck stargazing publicist, you will be an all-round liability.
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. In fact the bias may well be in favour of women, as women tend to be more persuasive and effective when they are dealing with media persons.
Nature of Work
Publicists of stars do enjoy the creatively pleasing opportunity to work directly and closely with the artists they represent, but the job is extremely demanding in a number of ways and has a fair bit of stress and tension to it. One does not frequently get to meet someone called a publicist attached to a star but similar functions are fulfilled by their secretaries or PR consultant/advisers, managers, agent, etc.
The publicist must necessarily be thoroughly informed about the activities of the client/s he/ she represents.
He/she will return calls even when it is to respond negatively to requests for interviews or photo facilities. A negative answer ought to be accompanied by a credible answer or explanation which protects the client's interests as much as possible.
Publicists keep mailing lists updated and categorised into sections to suit different purposes and occasions.
They look into promotion and protection (especially when damage control is required). It is a publicist's responsibility to work on image-building by a style of performance plus appearance and personality in the normal course. Over a period, they may visualise 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 the appropriate agencies; know how to stimulate media interest; arrange photo opportunities, receptions and conferences.
Hand-holding and ego-massaging which are some aspects of a social secretary's duties are also required when you are working for a performing artist.
It may not be necessary to write to professional journalistic standards, but it is useful if publicist can churn out factually reliable, well constructed, conveniently presented news stories, or biographical pieces at reasonable speed with a high standard of accuracy
Introduction of new ways of transmitting and delivering information and entertainment has broadened the work base of the publicist — so you will find them not only concentrating on press coverage, but paying equal attention to a wider spectrum of communication media, particularly television, radio and now the world wide web.
There is no typical day in the publicist's life. 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 during the day. The mix of the routine day's work includes phone calls to clients and journalists, either to talk about 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 people 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.
Physical and Psychological Requirements
If you are one of those who tend to be stimulated and invigorated by urgency and pressure presenting a positive challenge, then the work of a publicist should be right for you. A publicist should have 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 from any textbook or solely via a university or college course.
Quite apart from 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, ingenuity, patience and persistence, a lack of inhibition, and 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 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 who can be tapped for your work. Experience in film/music or related glamour industry could be a starting point as also any type of public relations, promotion or publicity/advertisement work.
There are no direct routes and with too 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. Possessing familiarity with word processing, and developing ease in the use of information technology in the workplace is a must.
A publicist may operate on one's own or be an employee of a PR consultant or a celebrity management outfit assigned to a particular star. They must forget any concept like 'office hours'. Since this is a pretty fluid kind of position, there is a lot an individual can create as his/her work Profile and employment opportunities.
Publicists of celebrities have eventually set up their own agencies or got 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. If you excel in the role, you are free to go as far as you wish to and in any direction you please.
The Institute of Public Relations, The Old Trading House, 15 Northburgh Street London EC1V OPR
Public Relations Society of America Inc., 33 Irving Place, New York, NY10003 www.prsa.org
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