Advice From the Pros

What Does a Publicist Do?

Writing is an essential skill for this popular role

You’re a strategic thinker, problem solver and, like, the best writer ever. If you’re not a publicist, you should be. Not convinced? Maybe a couple of public relations experts can convince you. Check out what they have to say about the job of a publicist. You’ll be applying for publicist gigs in no time.

What exactly does a publicist do?

At the most basic level, publicists communicate a business or brand’s messages to the consumers they hope to reach, impact, and influence, says Sakita Holley, CEO of House of Success PR. “So the primary function of the role is to work with the brand to decide what those messages will be, how they will be delivered, who will deliver them (and on what platform), and how to engage and maintain a conversation with this target group of people and/or the market.”

A publicist generates and manages publicity for public figures, businesses, films, movies, and the like. A lot of writing is involved: press releases, press kit materials, speeches, media alerts, bios, and social media content—you didn’t think your favorite celebs wrote all their own tweets, did you? A publicist also stays busy managing the public image of clients and setting up publicity events such as book signings. Other responsibilities include pitching clients to journalists and influencers, arranging interviews and press conferences, managing crises, developing media lists, and tracking media coverage.

So inquiring minds want to know: Is all publicity good publicity?

No, says Holley. But you can definitely spin a negative story into something positive.

What skills does a publicist need?

“Writing has always been a core part of public relations, but with the proliferation of technology and social media, publicists [now] spend more than 90 percent of their time writing and/or crafting copy for everything from emails, proposals, and pitches, to tweets, social media captions and marketing materials,” says Holley. If you want to succeed in this field, you must write well.

You also need attention to detail, says Jessica Janik, owner of a wedding public relations agency, The Invisible Bridesmaid. A wrong number or address, for example, can be a big deal. Could you imagine sending out a press release with the wrong contact number or an invite with the wrong address? Yikes!

You also need problem-solving skills to manage and avert crises and experience in public relations software such as Cision to help enhance public relations campaigns.

What does it take to excel in this position?

“Being confident while speaking in front of a large group of people is so important,” says Janik, who recommends joining Toastmasters to sharpen your skills. Articulating your thoughts and your client’s story in front of an audience, your coworkers, and the media will open many doors, she says.

How can I break into this field?

A degree in public relations or journalism is good stuff, but experience is more important than your major. “The best route is applying for an internship at a public relations firm in the field you are interested in,” advises Janik. “If it’s fashion, look for a designer you would like to work with or for the public relations agency that reps different brands/companies you admire, and apply.”

What tech skills and tools do modern publicists need?

Hey future PR superstars, let’s talk tech! In today’s digital whirlwind, being a top-notch publicist isn’t just about your killer writing skills or your knack for spinning stories. It’s also about the tech tools you have in your arsenal.

First up, social media management tools – think Hootsuite or Buffer. These bad boys are like your personal command centers for all things social. They let you schedule posts, track your client’s online presence, and engage with audiences across multiple platforms without breaking a sweat. And let’s face it, in a world where tweets can make or break a brand, you need to be on top of your social game 24/7.

Now, let’s talk about media monitoring. Tools like Mention or Brandwatch are your eyes and ears in the digital universe. They track who’s saying what about your clients, giving you the superpower to jump into conversations, manage potential crises, or ride the wave of positive buzz. It’s like having a crystal ball that shows you every mention, hashtag, or trend that could impact your client.

But wait, there’s more! Contact management systems are your Rolodex on steroids. They help you manage your ever-growing network of contacts, keep track of your interactions, and ensure you never miss a follow-up. Remember, in the PR world, your network is your net worth.

And for the love of analytics, don’t forget tools that measure the impact of your campaigns. Understanding the reach, engagement, and overall effectiveness of your PR efforts is key. It’s not just about making a splash; it’s about knowing the size of the waves you’re creating.

Last but not least, let’s not overlook emerging tech like AI and big data. These aren’t just buzzwords; they’re revolutionizing how we understand audiences and tailor messages. The future of PR is about data-driven strategies, and keeping up with these technologies will put you ahead of the pack.

Stepping Into the spotlight: your publicist path awaits

So, think you’ve got the chops to be the next PR whiz? The world of public relations is vibrant, fast-paced, and ever-evolving, and it’s calling out for strategic thinkers and stellar writers like you. Remember, as a publicist, you’re not just a behind-the-scenes wizard; you’re a storyteller, a crisis manager, and a brand builder all rolled into one.

If you’re nodding and thinking, “Yes, this is me!” then what are you waiting for? Dive into the world of pitches, press releases, and publicity stunts. Sharpen those writing skills, keep your details in check, and maybe give Toastmasters a try to boost that public speaking prowess.

Becoming a publicist might start with an internship or a leap into a new industry, but it’s paved with opportunities to shape stories, influence perceptions, and make a real impact. So get out there, start crafting those narratives, and who knows? You might just be the mastermind behind the next big headline. Here’s to stepping into the spotlight – your publicist journey starts now!

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