Recently I sat across from some restaurant “publicists” at a dinner and as I listened to them and fed them ideas for promoting their client, I was amazed (appalled?) at the 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 suddenly 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? Naivety? Or idiocy?
Needless to say, I was annoyed, upset and a little shocked. 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, and I’m not ashamed. And 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 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. And, in my opinion, 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.
And 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 the media, 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. At the end of the day, public relations is about relationships and you can’t get that by sitting at a desk all day hiding behind a platform.
So, 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.