How to Become a Publicist
A publicist is a professional agent who is responsible for managing the public image of a client. While it may sound simple, the job of a publicist is often never-ending: not only are they expected to generate a positive image for the client, it also falls on them to spin negative press and dispel rumors in order to protect the client’s reputation. Becoming a publicist is a good career path for those look for an exciting, fast-paced opportunity to work with distinguished individuals and companies, and requires strong communication skills, personable character and an understanding of the media.
Receiving an Education and Building Skills
Research schools offering degrees in related fields.Typically, new hires in public relations firms are expected to hold an undergraduate degree in a field generally relating to the work performed by press agents; some of the most common degrees earned by those seeking employment as publicists are public relations, marketing, advertising, communications, rhetoric and English. All of these specializations impart the skills needed to fulfill the functions of public image management.
- Employers will look for potential hires that have are organized, can process large amounts of important information, are able to think critically and can write and communicate effectively; a large percentage of a publicist’s work involves writing detailed press releases, employing problem-solving to think up new campaign strategies and speaking publicly in support of the client.
- A few of the colleges with the highest rated public relations and image management programs include Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, the University of Florida and Boston University. These school are rated based on test scores and project success, the sophistication of their curriculum and the satisfaction of former students seeking employment within the field.
Take a variety of courses.Whatever major you choose, sign up for many different classes within the same basic focus that will give you a more comprehensive understanding of the business and how to succeed in it. For instance, classes like principles of marketing, public relations and advertising copywriting will all translate to the type of work you will be doing as an official press agent.
- Some colleges with large public relations programs feature courses that deal directly with explaining the duties of professional publicists.
Search for internship opportunities.While you’re working your way through school, be on the lookout for internships in public relations or a related field. This will provide you with valuable real-world experience and will also give you something to add to a resume when you begin looking for jobs. Many degree programs require internship participation and will help you find one that suits you and begin the formative stages of business networking.
- Even if an internship isn’t a requirement to graduate, it is advisable to try to secure one as an undergraduate student. Those with the practical experience offered by an internship will have a leg up on those without it.
Build a portfolio of your early work.Keep any press releases, newspaper features or other files you generate during your college coursework and internship and compile them in a portfolio you can show off to potential employers. This will show the employer that you already possess the know-how required for the position and have experience beyond simply studying in the classroom.
- Always carry your portfolio with you to job interviews to have physical documentation of the types of projects you’ve worked on at hand to give to employers.
Getting Your Career as a Publicist Started
Start looking for public relations work.Once you’ve completed your degree, begin searching for jobs in the public relations or communications field. Websites like journalismjobs.comand prsa.orgare great places to share your resume or search through job listings, but many area businesses will also advertise openings in your local newspaper. Contain your search to positions specified as "entry level" or "assistant" if you don't have any professional experience; employers understand that the applicants for these positions are often straight out of college or just breaking into the career field.
- Relate any major projects, rewards or achievements you garnered for yourself through your education or internship to prospective employers during the interview process.
Develop your own professional image.After all, your intended career is based around promoting a positive public image. Whether it’s your first interview or your first day of work, be sure that you’re dressed appropriately and professionally, you’re ready to meet and share ideas with new people and you have everything you need to get to work. Publicists often speak for their client in front of the cameras as well as in print, so many employers demand a personable attitude, friendly demeanor and professional bearing.
- How you carry yourself reflects on your capabilities as a public relations expert every bit as much as the image you manage to construct for your clients. You are your own first PR project!
- Publicity can be an excellent career choice if you consider yourself a “people person,” as the type of work it entails is centered around establishing and maintaining positive relationships and interactions between a single person or group and the public at large.
Work your way to the top.Attaining one of the more coveted and high-earning publicist positions, like public relations director, can take many years of taxing work. Be prepared to spend your first few years writing press releases and taking care of basic administrative tasks before you make it into the big leagues being trusted with high-profile projects. Stay focused and put your best ideas out. If you work hard enough for long enough, you’re bound to be noticed and rewarded for your efforts.
- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t land your dream job right away. Publicity is a complex and evolving profession that can often be very competitive, and as you gain experience, you’re sure to move ahead in the runnings for bigger opportunities, more important assignments, and higher wages.
Consider going back to school.Returning to school to pursue a master’s level degree or higher can help keep you marketable and make you a sought-after commodity after a few years in the industry. Many publicists who represent important entertainment and business luminaries got there by furthering their education and gradually taking on bigger, more important assignments as their expertise grew.
- Should you ever wish to teach public relations courses at a university level or operate your own PR firm, having a graduate degree may give you just the advantage you need.
- In general, the higher the level of education you’ve achieved, the more qualified you will seem to employers heading the field.
Polishing Your Craft
Constantly improve your skills.Don’t be content with simply landing a job in the publicity field—avail yourself of every resource available to you to hone your craft and continue advancing. Accept challenging projects graciously, form beneficial connections with as many industry heavy-hitters as you can and always look for new ways to make your work stand out. Where you end up depends entirely on how willing you are to keep learning new things.
- Periodically attending workshops and seminars can give you fresh ideas and motivation to stay at the top of your game.
Become adept at rhetorical arguments.When engaged in public relations work, you need to know how to present compelling addresses and written materials that frame your client in the best possible light. This falls under the heading of rhetoric (the art of being convincing through language) and it is arguably the most essential skill any publicist or marketing specialist should possess. Even when you’re not actively trying to convince the public of any one particular fact, every strategy should be formulated as though you were making a logically-supported, directed appeal. Your credibility as a public relations expert will be assured with an understanding of the central tenets of rhetorical discourse.
- Use the “rhetorical triangle” model to structure your statements and press releases: understand the relationship between yourself (the presenter), the audience and the context of an argument. This will help ensure that argument takes hold in the minds of your audience.
- Always have a clear goal in mind whenever you begin a project, no matter how minor or routine. The language of your press materials should be centered around this goal.
Practice creative exercises.A good deal of public relations work involves taking negative or confusing circumstances and recasting them in a positive light. This requires you to be able to call upon your creative faculties and make them a well-worn tool in your arsenal. Study the habits of creative people, take notice of even the smallest details and learn to improvise. The better you are at thinking up ways to elevate your client in the public eye, the more status you’ll gain in your profession.
- Try incorporating brief creative mental exercises into your daily routine, such as concocting fictional histories for people and places you’ve never seen before, or highlighting one word per line in a newspaper column to tell a short story.
- The term “spin” deals with changing the appearance of circumstantial details to preserve one’s reputation, not fabricating those details. You should never lie or alter the facts in order to make your client look better.
Have the best interest of the client in mind.As a publicist, you haven’t done your job unless you’ve enhanced the visibility, demand and public approval of your client. For this reason, how well you yourself do is primarily a matter of what you’re able to accomplish for the people you serve. Though you may sometimes be called upon to speak on behalf of your client or act as a mouthpiece for a publicity campaign, much of your work will be done behind the scenes and will help inform the actions of your clientele. Every evolving situation, good or bad, should be viewed as an opportunity to improve your client’s standing.
- Work closely with the client or their manager or agent to devise guided and effective PR strategies.
QuestionHow much time does it takes for a publicist to work up to a decent salary?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe answer to this question will depend largely on where you end up finding employment, but after a few years of gainful employment you could expect to make a median salary of around ,000 or higher.Thanks!
How can I find a publicist that is just starting out?
- Join the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) to become a part of the community of professionals within the field. There, you can make use of the resources offered by the site, connect with other public relations specialists, sign up to attend conferences and submit your work to be judged in annual PR contests.
- If possible, find a paid internship while you complete your education that will give you a chance to gain valuable job-related experience while providing you with the income you need.
- To be a good publicist, you must have the ability to treat all your clients with equal consideration. If you're the star-struck type, or if you find the idea of working with anyone but the most famous celebrities boring, it may benefit you to adjust your attitude and expectations to align with the everyday realities of the industry.
- Not all of the big PR contracts are with celebrities and entertainers. PR firms are frequently hired to publicly represent entire corporations, and these contracts creative quite prestigious and lucrative opportunities.
Video: How to Become a Celebrity Publicist: An Interview with Nicole Garner
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