I had a call the other day with a leader in an emerging industry, one set to legalize in a few months 🙂 and she asked me an excellent question as we went over the ins and outs of building her thought leadership campaign: what is the difference between a PR Professional and a Publicist?
Perhaps, surprisingly we don’t get this question very often. Usually it’s more along the lines of “what is PR?” “How is it different from advertising?” “Why is this not newsworthy?” My response to her was brief: a publicist works with someone who already has a achieved some notoriety whether it’s Doug the Pug or a celebrity. Unlike PR Pros representing brands or thought leaders, a publicist isn’t normally tasked with stalking media to make their pitch, they are more in the business of shielding their famous client from being stalked by very interested media. They are in the business of killing stories; giving their clients the heads up if a negative story is set to break or if someone from their past is writing a tell-all book. Potentially, if the celebrity happens to be outspoken, opinionated, intoxicated (you get the picture) Publicists get to do a lot of media training and crisis management as well.
While I’ve never actually worked as a publicist in my prestigious and storied career, I have worked alongside them on behalf of brands; even more so now with the rise of the influencer. One of my first opportunities to work with a publicist occurred back in 2008. I had a client whom manufactured longboards and made a stick to ‘land paddle’ with (think SUP but on pavement). They wanted a super fit celebrity to basically validate the new sport category they created. So, I called Matthew Mcconaughey’s publicist. Just googled her and called her right up. I explained a little about the the sport – it helped that SUP was really starting to take off – and she casually said “yeah, sure, send it over to me and I’ll make sure he gets it.” Fast forward a couple days and sure enough there was Matthew Mcconaughey on TMZ land paddling shirtless. Then all the celebrity focused weeklies and online blogs followed suit! I still feel pure love for that publicist.
In the future I wouldn’t be surprised if the lines between the two professions didn’t blur as our Instagram Famous society makes celebrities out of cats with eyebrows and the adorable little Evan from EvanTube (um, 3 billion channels views?! – I bet this kid not only has a publicist but is also hit up by PR Pros daily)