How Do I Become a Publicist?

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Large-scale companies, independent businesses, contractors, and self-employed entrepreneurs all have one thing in common, which is the practice of selling themselves to the general public. However, there are professionals that are tasked with doing this for people, using skills that the companies themselves might not possess. Publicists are essential for providing brand notoriety to customers, coordinating marketing strategies, and building good press. But how are they defined, and what are the skills required to become one?

Publicist and Public Relations Jobs – Important Things to Know

A publicist is a professional whose responsibility is to manage publicity for a public figure, business, organization, or even a brand. In addition, a publicist might work on particular projects, including a motion picture or book. In basic terms, a publicist is a public relations specialist that represents the image of an individual or entity.

Publicists essentially brand their clients by obtaining positive coverage of them in the media and elsewhere. In addition, publicists are tasked with addressing negative publicity relating to a client. The typical top-level publicist works in private practice, either on his or her own or as part of a firm.

Education for Becoming a Publicist

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Education is an important element of becoming a publicist. A publicist in this day and age typically has a bachelor’s degree in one of several different areas of study:

  • communications
  • journalism
  • marketing
  • public relations

A person interested in pursuing a career as a publicist need not pursue an advanced degree. As part of the education process, a person wishing to become a publicist needs to seriously consider undertaking an internship. The reality is that while classroom learning is useful in preparing for a career as a publicist, hands-on experience is vital to really lay the groundwork for success in this type of profession.

The importance of an internship cannot be overstated. In addition to providing hands-on experience that will prove beneficial in a job search, an internship might lead to a full-time position after graduation. Many firms, businesses, and other entities hire interns that do solid jobs as full-time employees when the need for a new employee exists.

Early Career Moves

Once a person obtains a suitable bachelor’s degree and completes an internship, the time arrives for seeking an initial position that will lead to a career as a publicist. In this regard, the odds of bouncing out of college and obtaining a position as a publicist are unlikely. Rather, the immediate objective should be to find a position in public relations more generally.

There is a relatively broad array of entry-level career opportunities in public relations. There are positions typically available with public relations firms, larger businesses and corporations, and different types of organizations, according to Forbes. If a person’s ultimate goal is to be a publicist in a particular industry, finding an entry-level position in that industry is advisable.

Private Firm or Private Practice

Once a person has worked in the PR field for several years and begun to make connections and garner experience, the time may arrive when an individual can become specifically engaged in work as a publicist. Depending on a person’s specific background and portfolio of experiences, he or she may be able to join a firm or even establish his or her own private practice as a publicist.

There are approximately 270,000 public relations specialists, including publicists, in the United States today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the course of the coming decade, the number of positions is expected to increase. The growth rate is anticipated to be about six percent, which is an increase compared to the overall labor force in the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

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1. Who benefits the most from having a publicist?

In general, corporations have the most to gain from using publicists. Most large corporations have their own PR departments, in which publicists will generally participate during the course of their typical duties.

Smaller companies may hire publicists to work with them, in which case the publicists are tasked with providing clients the interaction they want with customers, partnerships with other corporations, and exposure in the media when it matters. Companies that are seen by the general public in a good light owe much of this to publicists, whose job it is to ensure that a company doesn’t fall out of favor when issues occur.

2. Why are publicists needed?

Without a publicist, it would be harder for companies to market themselves, maintain a loyal customer base, or foster partnerships with sponsors and other corporations. Interaction with the population at large can make or break a company, particularly with the speed at which information is shared through social media and messaging applications.

Outside of dealing with the public, publicists help companies when they attempt to sell new goods or bring innovations to their niche. They may contact news media to set up press releases for clients, make reservations for conventions, and even assist marketers in advertising campaigns.

3. What kinds of media do publicists use to generate publicity?

Publicists manage publicity using the following media sources:

  • Newspapers – Major newspaper publications remain a source for people to get information about companies. Since many publications now have a large portion of their readers online, they can easily reach audiences and post or provide information that’s requested of them from their clients. In some cases, publicists may even buy advertising slots for newspapers or purchase a segment on the front page to address readers.
  • Social media – Many of today’s publicists are most active on social media. They use social media to help build a following for companies, post updates to businesses, and clear up controversies. For example, many major corporations maintain active Twitter accounts, where they inform the public and news media about any number of events and subjects. They can also clear up inconsistencies and misinformation when controversies arise, letting people quickly know how a problem is being solved.
  • Other Websites – More and more, publicists rely on marketing, analytics, and PR for company exposure. They can help drive keywords through search engine optimization, or SEO, to create trending topics that lie within a company’s niche.
  • Sponsorships – For this, a publicist may collaborate with an organization’s marketing team, generating interest that potential sponsors look for when choosing a new business to advertise their product with. Since so many companies within the entertainment industry, news, and social media rely heavily on sponsors to generate revenue, publicists with backgrounds in journalism are oftentimes hired to constantly seek out new sponsorships.

4. How big of a role does marketing play in a publicist’s duties?

By definition, marketing is the use of advertising to drive the sales of a company. A publicist’s job is to facilitate positive interest in a business. Therefore, marketing and PR go hand in hand. While marketing typically is done for conversions, a publicist makes sure that marketing is successful by giving people better knowledge of the business’s existence.

However, publicists also help provide integrity, keeping a business’ reputation on good terms through amicable notoriety. For publicly traded companies, this can also translate into happy shareholders.

5. Do college graduates have a greater span of employment opportunities in fields related to being a publicist?

In some cases, they can. However, if you take a look at the job description of a typical publicist, you can see that much of what they learn and do requires hands-on activities outside of a classroom setting. The fields of public relations, marketing, business, and journalism are the same, though more positions and jobs for those with a four-year degree could open up that are linked to public relations.

Many firms with publicists have employees that began work with the company as interns. They may attend school while working for a company, which raises their chances of being hired by that company after they’ve become familiar with the job.

6. What does the typical day of a publicist look like?

Depending on the location, the first thing that most publicists do in their job is to scour the web for information about their clients. Negative stories, misinformation regarding company practices, or details gathered concerning what people are saying about clients relative to their keywords. This info is taken by publicists and emailed to clients, who then take it to the appropriate people in their marketing and PR departments.

Publicists research a number of topics during their work. They’re expected to know all details relating to clients from various news websites. Emails from news media and news aggregates are often relied upon.

When clients must reach the media, it’s usually done through email, phone calls, messaging, or video calls. This strategy is known as a pitch, and it is a common way that reporters for news agencies obtain needed material for updates to anticipated press releases, conference meetups, and interviews.

7. Is publicist work for small businesses the same as working for a large corporation?

There are similarities and differences between publicist duties in smaller companies and those in larger businesses. Since a lot of big companies maintain their own PR firms, the duties of a publicist in that environment may only span a small area. Smaller, self-employed groups could require a publicist that is capable of performing the duties of a manager, a promotional adviser, or even an event planner.

Take note that such responsibilities change according to the company, so it is never certain what all the duties of a publicist will be in a small company. Individuals also hire publicists, particularly people in the business of arts and entertainment. Solo musicians, bands, and producers heavily rely on publicists, which could be provided by a record label or hired independently.

8. How long do publicist and PR internships usually last?

Internships have their advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious disadvantage is the lack of pay. Most internships related to the role of a publicist will last anywhere from one month to a year. Like other details concerning publicists, the firm and the businesses they’re hired out to as clients can heavily factor into this. But, interns are generally the first in line to receive employment from a PR firm.

Some colleges may have programs allowing students to begin their internship while taking classes relating to it, such as journalism. Potential employees can learn how to network better, pick up their connections early in their career, and start a normal job as a publicist fully engaged in the profession, with hardly any learning curve.

9. What kind of experience do future publicists need?

Technology is driving publicists away from traditional methods and more towards the internet.

Communication with sources that speak to the general public is done by publicists. This will become easier to manage in the future, whereby future publicists will have easier access to events related to clients as they happen. There will be access to greater web tools for finding out crucial details without the use of reporters, and there will be easier ways to get client messages out to the media and customers.

Some of these have already happened, such as with the aforementioned improvements made to social media. But soon, the tools publicists use for networking will become even more streamlined, allowing clients to have on-the-spot knowledge to boost profits through better exposure.

10. Is public relations a fulfilling career?

Being a publicist or a PR specialist is a rewarding career choice for many, whether it’s through a company or from work being done independently. There’s no shortage of businesses that need good publicity and a way to easily communicate through popular forms of media. Pay is good, with average earners taking home a little over $50,000 annually. Work is mostly available in urban areas, since they tend to have more headquarters for corporations needing publicists than rural settings do.

To be a publicist requires a great deal of attention to detail. The ability to speak to people and arrange meetings quickly is required for every publicist. They must learn to research and gather information on events as they occur. In projects involving some clients, travel might be a necessity.


A picture of a microphone and reporters for our article on how to become a publicist

A publicist can be many things to the clients that hire them. For some clients, they’re essential for gathering facts concerning unwanted problems that develop between a company and the consumer market. Alternatively, a client may need a PR firm with publicists contracted to work for them for several months, or even years. All companies need improvement, but a publicist’s job essentially is making the general public approve of their business.

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This concludes our article on what a publicist is and how to become one.