If you have ever read details about a celebrity’s adoption or an athlete’s carefully worded apology, you’ve seen the work of a publicist.
Publicists are public relations professionals who promote their clients in the media, or in the case of arrests and apologies, try to minimize the damage to their clients’ reputation. Publicists’ clients can be anyone in the public eye, such as actors, singers, authors, politicians, and athletes.

Publicists can also represent businesses, organizations, or specific projects such as films.

Publicists’ main goal is to get journalists to write about their clients. How do they do this? Some publicists write press releases, announcements sent out to newspapers, magazines, and television stations. Reporters will pick up the story and maybe even contact the publicist for more information or ask to set up an interview with the client.

A more effective way to promote a client, however, is to cultivate genuine relationships with media professionals. Talking to a magazine editor on the phone, taking a television producer to lunch, or schmoozing with newspaper reporters at a party can generate much more press coverage for a client than an e-mail or fax that can easily be lost or ignored.

More and more publicists are also taking advantage of online media outlets to promote their clients. In this venue, publicists will feed information to high-traffic websites or arrange for popular bloggers to interview their client. Some publicists will even work with fan sites to set up live chats or audio interviews, which are later turned into articles and podcasts, with clients.

While it may seem that publicists are at the mercy of media professionals, their relationship is actually a symbiotic one. If the celebrity does something foolish, is involved in a scandal, or just part of an important project, the media must rely on the person’s publicist to get the inside scoop. A savvy publicist will share the most titillating or intimate information with journalists who have given the client the most positive publicity.

The life of a publicist may sound glamorous and, in some ways, it is. You get to meet famous people and attend exciting events, but celebrities can be self-absorbed, highly demanding, and difficult to work with. They keep odd hours and expect their publicists to be available 24/7.

It also can take years to develop enough relationships with media professionals to be an effective publicist. You need to spend countless hours on the phone and at social events, chatting with people and networking. If you are not naturally extroverted, this can be draining, and you probably will not succeed at this job.

If you are a social butterfly who thrives on high-pressure situations, the job of a publicist may be a great fit. You can start preparing for a publicist career by taking college courses in communications, business, and public speaking. English courses in writing and editing also help since you must be able to communicate clearly and effectively to represent your clients well.

Pursue an internship with an experienced publicist before seeking a full-time position. This will allow you to observe the day-to-day responsibilities of a publicist. Publicists often work long hours and their lives revolve around publicity events, such as movie and book releases. Completing an internship will also give you the chance to start making media and industry contacts.

Most publicists start in entry-level positions, as assistants to veteran publishers, and work their way up the ladder. Junior publicists are expected to do some decidedly un-glamorous jobs, like getting coffee for the client or picking up her dry cleaning. You may also get to attend social events with celebrities, and you will be making important contacts. In time, you will be given the chance to generate publicity for one of the boss’s less prestigious clients. If you are successful with the small jobs, you will gradually be given bigger clients.

Salaries for entry-level publicist jobs are low: $20,000 is typical for a junior publicist, even at the major public relations firms, but with time and experience, you can earn much more. Your salary is most closely tied to your client list, and the more famous you make the client, the more money you can command for promoting him/ her.

Publicity, like acting, is a very difficult field to break into, and you should be prepared to spend years working your way into the fray. For most publicists, the long hours and occasionally difficult clients are entirely eclipsed by the immense satisfaction they get helping artists, athletes, and public servants achieve their goals.


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