Publicists: The Inside Scoop

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Posted: October 31, 2012 2:12 P.M.
by Nicole Hohman

Image is everything.

For those in the entertainment industry, image is a crucial factor of being successful. Though image may not be the only component (raw talent is also preferred!), having a unique, positive image can be essential to a celebrity’s career.

This is where the publicist comes in.

Take Lindsey Lohan for instance. Lindsey has been dubbed “The walking PR nightmare.” She has been plastered on the front pages of tabloids since her first public debacle — not in a positive way, I might add. From one mug shot to the next, most people wonder how a single person can damage her image over and over again. From a PR perspective, I wonder how a publicist would even be able to tame her, much less improve her image.

Her latest fiasco caused her publicist to resign.

As an aspiring actress working toward a PR degree, I want to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Throughout the course of my collegiate years, I have learned that publicists play an integral role in shaping and maintaining a celebrity’s image — among other responsibilities.

Here are a few common misconceptions about publicists:

Beware of the glam — it’s all just a sham

Some may call the work of a publicist deceiving, but in my opinion, it is just the opposite. Rather than having a business or organization as a client, publicists represent an individual (or team in the sports area of the entertainment industry). Just as a PR professional would form a communication plan to brand a client organization, so too would a publicist create a plan to brand her celebrity.

Party hoppers

The media has chalked up entertainment PR to be a glamorous, party-filled career. Shows like The Hills portray publicists as being able to casually mingle with celebrities, plan top-notch events and take clients to red carpet premiere?s. This is far from accurate. While being social and attending promotional events with a client is a vital part of the job, publicists are rarely off the clock.

It’s all about who you know

Yes, cultivating relationships and networking are important — as they are in most careers. Knowing names at every media outlet may get a publicist media coverage of her client, but it will not ensure positive coverage. Publicists must be persistent and dedicated in order to successfully execute the tasks conceptualized by the professional and approved by the client, not just call up their contacts in the industry.

Socially irresponsible or not?

Working as a background actor and stand-in on the CW’s T.V. show The Vampire Diaries, I have learned quite a bit about authenticity. Though it may be hard to believe, some celebrities are not simply participating in social responsibility missions to improve their image. Some celebrities don’t participate in social responsibility projects at all, and that is their decision.

Just like any communication plan, social responsibility may be incorporated if the client is willing. How convenient would it be for a publicist to deal with a client who has the genuine desire to make a difference?

Here is a perfect example: Ian Somerhalder, principal actor on the show and heartthrob (called Mr. Smolderhalder by fans), is also a philanthropist. It may come as a surprise, but Ian is one of the most authentic people I have encountered in the industry. Ian has his own foundation (The Ian Somerhalder Foundation). Behind the scenes, Ian has a vested interest in the environment, and it is one of his primary topic choices in conversation. His foundation may be promoted by a publicist, but the interest is all his own.

Though there are various misconceptions about celebrities and entertainment PR, there is often much more to a publicist than meets the eye.

4 Comments

  1. Erica Davis

    I completely agree: some people get the profession of being a publicist confused with an event coordinator. This career choice is multifaceted and definitely requires more work than what meets the eye. I can see how it can be easy to get confused by the glitz and glam. As you mentioned, “Rather than having a business or organization as a client, publicists represent an individual…” I think it’s important for PR professionals to remember that. Good article, I often follow Lindsey Lohan’s career just to see what kind of PR disaster she will get herself into next.

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  2. Sara Wiliamson

    I enjoyed this blog post because it identified some of the problems and misconceptions in the public relations field. The author had subtitles of different slogans and lines that are misconceptions in the PR field. The subtitle, “beware of the glam- it’s all just a sham,” had a catchy title that grabbed the reader’s attention. From the PR classes I have taken over the years, we have talked a lot about the stereotypes of public relations professionals. Public relations professionals do represent clients and organizations and work together to improve their images, instead of trying to deceive them. The public relations field is not a completely stable one because it is one of the first areas to have to make cut backs. This blog post emphasized the good role and responsibilities that public relations professionals do have.

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  3. Juliana Harless

    You point out the misconceptions of PR publicists perfectly. The media often paints a picture that the job is all glamorous fun, such as Samantha Jones’s job on Sex and the City. Clearly being a publicist has many more facets than meets the eye. Giving the example of how difficult it would be to be Lindsay Lohan’s publicist shows just how challenging this job can be. Though you may do everything you can to help your client, it still may be an unattainable job. Having a client like Ian is one that any publicist would desire. The key difference between him and Lindsay Lohan is their willingness to help themselves, and your job too, throughout their own career. If a client is not willing to work with you and try to protect their image as much as you are, there is only so much that you can do as their publicist. Without a publicist, a celebrity would be lost in a vicious world of media scrutiny.

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  4. Jennie Fisher

    As an aspiring public relations professional myself, I certainly do not want to associate myself with the partying, crazy socialites portrayed to be publicists on television. The first time I remember seeing PR widely misrepresented on television was on MTV when Lizzie Grubman had a reality show. The cameras followed Grubman (and her equally wealthy, attractive and outspoken team of female interns) around to P. Diddy’s annual white party and to events on the UES in Manhattan. However, we never saw Grubman write a press release or contact the media about her clients using any medium other than text messaging. The glamorous life of celebrities does not extend to the people who represent them.

    However, I’m curious as to how the author feels prepared to defeat this stereotype as an aspiring actress pursuing a degree in PR. It may give her the opportunity to change stereotypes of both industries from the inside out.

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