Learn About Publicists

Politician talking into reporters' microphones
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Publicists are hired to get press coverage for their clients. What does this mean? Publicists are the media world’s version of cheerleaders, to an extent. Their job is to get journalists to write about their client, whoever it might be.

Press Releases: a Publicist's Pom Poms

How do publicists get the press to write about their clients? They issue press releases. Most people have come across a press release at some time and these general announcements are sent out en masse to the press to alert them of news and, hopefully, generate stories. Publicists usually write these press releases and, to get a sense of what a press release is like, check out Google’s archive of press releases. These press releases, as you might assume, make announcements about new initiatives and business developments the company is involved in.

Publicists Relationships With Journalists

Beyond press releases, which are generalized announcements, publicists also cultivate relationships with journalists in order to place stories with them. Good publicists understand the inner-workings of the media so they can recognize the stories that certain journalists want to write about.

Certain stories are obvious and don’t require much in the way of publicity: If you’re a publicist who works for Ford and GM buys Ford, there’s no need to generate press interest in that story since it’s major news in and of itself and journalists will be all over it.

If you’re a publicist who works at Random House, however, and you’re trying to promote a book, you may need to hand-deliver possible stories about the book to journalists. To do so, you need to understand what kinds of publications might be interested in certain stories.

Is there something interesting about the author that might make for a good story? You need to think about the book’s subject matter. If it’s a debut novel about a family in crisis, stories about it might work better in women’s magazines. If the book’s about running, and you’re trying to publicize it, you should be talking to the editors at Runner's World. And so on, and so forth.

Where You Can Work

Publicity work is wide-ranging. So you can work in the book publishing field—book publishing houses have teams of publicists that work to promote individual books—or in various other industries. You can work for a corporation, promote the company itself (and its image), or on its specific products. There is also a need for publicists in the movie industry to promote a studio's films.

Skills & Education

There’s no set degree needed for a job in publicity. But, as a job which requires writing, it’s good to be proficient and comfortable in this area. Beyond education, attitude is important. A publicist’s job is to make the product they’re working on, whatever it is, sound interesting and good. If you don’t like the idea of talking up things you might not be interested in or passionate about, this isn’t the job for you.

Jobs in publicity are often easier to get, and higher-paying than those in the editorial area. Publicity is also a wide field, meaning you work for virtually any kind of company. Non-profits, Movie studios, book publishers, Fortune 500 companies: they all have publicists, which means there’s plenty of job opportunity in all sorts of fields. A combination of creative and corporate work, publicity can be ideal for those who have a flair for writing but might not want to put up with the low salaries and fierce competition typical for journalism jobs.