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What is PR and What Does a Publicist Do? Four Publicists Chime In

Anyone who studied public relations or PR is familiar with Ivy Lee, regarded as the originator of the public relations counsel, and Edward Bernays, often referred to as the father of modern public relations.

However, many do not know about activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, known as the Black PR Pioneer, who had a significant impact on the public relations community through her use of the press to expose wrongdoing and promote civil rights. She led several major civil rights initiatives, including forming the National Association of Colored Women and serving as a founding member of the NAACP.

The number of times someone confuses a publicist with that of a marketer is downright disrespectful. And I get it. Our duties sometimes flow into the areas of a digital marketer and other related fields. However, PR is a distinct profession that has more than enough responsibilities.

A boxing match on Clubhouse between a social media and digital marketing strategist and her former client proved that most people do not know what PR is and what a publicist does. It prompted me to send a survey to 100 people posing two questions: 1. Define public relations and 2. What is a publicist?
The response was disappointing yet enlightening.

So, what is public relations and what does a publicist do? PR is not an easy profession to define. In 2012, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) accepted a few thousand submissions before agreeing on one: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

According to HubSpot, a public relations professional creates and executes a PR strategy, helping a business or individual cultivate a positive reputation through various unpaid or earned channels and formats, including press, social media, and in-person engagements. They also help clients defend their reputations during crises that threaten their credibility.

The above definitions are spot on however, there is more to what a publicist does. It depends on who the client is, the client’s objectives, the industry, the budget, the weather, current events, and anything else that may throw a monkey wrench into a well-planned day.

My journey as a publicist comes with many responsibilities. In my early years, I traveled with my clients extensively. I was there for their every need. From ensuring they spit their gum out before a performance or interview; to driving a client’s SUV from Los Angeles to San Francisco so his car would be there after his appearance. And when a client forgot her bra, I took mine off backstage, and gave it to her minutes before she was to hit the stage.

Today, my duties include strategizing, creating content, securing interviews, responding to queries, sourcing opportunities to secure thought leader positions, leveraging prior media coverage, scanning social media for opportunities, re-purposing media coverage, jumping on Clubhouse for ideas and networking, blogging, media training, media pitching, ghostwriting, and brainstorming with client’s and staff.

I asked a few PR experts to define the role of a publicist and give us insight to their daily responsibilities.

Pam Perry
Owner & CEO, Pam Perry PR

Pam Perry PR specializes in personal branding and platform building for Authors and speakers; For those authors/speakers that have established brands and a platform, her company creates full publicity campaigns and produces podcasts for them.

A publicist is one who is part of your marketing team that outreaches on your behalf to the media. A publicist is also your “connector” providing you with contacts to move your brand forward to get you out there and get known.

My daily responsibilities include media relations, writing, pitching and securing interviews and follow up. I manage a team of content creators and digital marketers for the authors/speakers. I am also on Clubhouse, blogging and podcasting providing information about PR, marketing and branding.

Classic Cauley
Founder & CEO, Classic PR

Classic PR specializes in lifestyle Public Relations for brands ranging from entrepreneurs, cannabis, and art.

A publicist’s role is to bring awareness to what makes a client’s or clients brand special by utilizing relationships with media contacts, pitching story ideas and brand stories to media to generate media coverage which also includes the writing of press releases, media alerts, bios, press kits, setting up publicity events, arranging interviews, press conferences, developing media list, tracking media coverage, and more.

My daily responsibilities include client calls, email follow-ups, media calls and emails to pitch clients’ brands, updating media list, tracking media, creating marketing materials from press kits to event decks and some social media management if needed.

Nicola Millington
Founder, FP Comms

FP Comms is an ethical, small and growing business, using PR to promote the Determined, the Rule-Breaker, the System-Disrupter, the Revolutionary & importantly, the Creative. These are the CEOs, Entrepreneurs, Business Owners, founders, Directors and Legacy Builders, who are tackling issues head on and with an absolute passion and fervor.

The role of a publicist is to help business owners and entrepreneurs to hone their voice. Supporting them to utilize the art of communication to educate, encourage and empower stakeholders into understanding and building sustainable and profitable relationships, and align their communication with their business goals.

Therefore, integrity is so important. If you do not believe in your client’s goals or understand their vision, you cannot communicate effectively. Communication is more than just words or pretty pictures, there is an innate and spiritual alignment that should take place between the two parties for effective and authentic communication to take place.

My daily responsibilities include strategy building and delivery of a pre-agreed plan, building and leveraging relationships with media outlets and powerful voices, preparing and implementing all the communication strategies that is aligned with the business plan, and working alongside marketing teams, design teams and social media teams to align messaging.

Taylor Baker
Founder, Resilient Innovation

As an International publicist, I specialize in establishing my clients as thought leaders and experts in their field. Providing roadmaps to some of the largest stages in the world, I support and work with innovators and market disruptors to amplify their impact.

A publicist is the person who handles a brand’s communication with the media, in terms of image, messaging, interviews, and placements. A publicist is also the person who keeps a steady beat on the opinion and reputation of the brand to the public. When a crisis happens, a publicist is the one to guide a brand through the storm with minimal damage and a path to recovery. A publicist can be the powerhouse of the brand.

My daily responsibilities include social listening, corresponding with media, following up on pitches, sourcing and targeting future media opportunities, media training, and strategy updates. Generating content ideas, crafting articles, networking, and client check ins.

So, what exactly is PR and what does a publicist do? The definitions are expansive and ever-changing however, one thing is for sure, a publicist’s job is never done.

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