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What does a publicist do?

This article caught my eye on PRDaily. It seems that every week, someone is asking me what a publicist does.

My short answer is “a publicist is a connector.”

I say this because after 20 years as a book publicist, I find that I do so much more than just pitching or writing press releases. Naturally, my goal is to maximize the visibility of my clients and their books, but I spend a great deal of my time connecting likeminded people. Just as Rebekah Polster says in this article, it’s not enough to be able to write a good press release. It’s about building solid relationships with people; being authentic and reliable; constantly putting yourself out there as a great resource. I often reach out to reporters, freelancers and editors to simply remind them that I am here for them as a resource if they need one. And I make that call without pitching anything at all! The more I’m connecting (and re-connecting) on a genuine and personal level, the better it is for my authors and clients. Read on and remember to reach out… in a meaningful way.

By Rebekah Polster | Posted on @PRDaily April 7, 2015
Recently I sat across from some restaurant “publicists” at a dinner. As I listened to them and fed them ideas for promoting their client, I was amazed and a little appalled at their lack of understanding.
I asked myself, “Does anyone think they can write a release, get it out on PR Newswire and call themselves a publicist?” It occurred to me why my industry has such a lack of empathy from the world: People who don’t put in the effort expect a grand pay off. Is that a millennial thing? Naiveté? Idiocy?
When people ask what I do, I say public relations for alcohol. I’m sure many think I just drink all day and tinker around. OK, sometimes. But in all seriousness, I consider myself a fantastic publicist, and yes, I say publicist. I’m not ashamed. For those naysayers out there, it’s considered one of the hardest jobs in the U.S.
Public relations is about perception.
It’s all about how one perceives the topic of conversation and approaches the situation that enables a publicist to “sell” a product.
Wikipedia defines a publicist as “a person whose job it is to generate and manage publicity for a public figure, especially a celebrity, a business, or for a work such as a book, film or album.”Add products or brands to the list and the definition still holds true. The essence of public relations is media and relationships, or, what a publicist does: knowing the people writing the stories and getting the word out. As the daughter of a journalist, I saw from an early age the influence of PR. It’s the job of the publicist to derive perception. Without that, brands get lost in the shuffle.Speaking of writers, it’s the relationships that make the profession. I value my conversations and experiences with writers, especially those who write about booze. It’s a common ground for us, and we see eye-to-eye (depending on who I’m representing, of course). I value their writing and their opinions, and they trust our relationship enough to give me honest feedback. I want to stress the word: relationships. Without these relationships with writers, you are not a publicist.

In the days of yore, PR for consumer products was about packaging a brand in a nice, pretty bow and shipping it off to reporters, in hopes that they would relay the message points correctly to their readers. Today, it’s the same way, just integrated with social media, advertising, creative, research, insights and many other topics. This is a necessary move.

We are in a digital age that is changing every second, and we need to keep up. But I disagree with those who say public relations is dead. How can it be when relationships are still at the core of business? Publicists understand better than anyone else how to negotiate perception and how to word the brand, whether you’re dishing it out via Facebook or through ad copy. Public relations is about relationships, and you can’t get that by sitting at a desk all day hiding behind a platform.

To those out there who think anyone with a brain can call themselves a publicist, I ask you: name five journalists you can call up right now and have a pleasant conversation with while pitching the latest product. I dare you.


Rebekah Polster is an account supervisor at PadillaCRT’s New York office. A version of this article originally appeared on the Buzz Bin blog. Thank you to Rebekah Polster for letting me share this great post with my readers.

Here’s another great article about building relationships with journalists.


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