What is a publicist? (Including definitions and tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 10 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Publicists manage the public brands and reputations of their clients. Their role is to generate publicity for clients, specifically positive media attention. This includes writing press releases or articles, developing websites and social media profiles, organising events and even speaking with the media on their client's behalf. In this article, we answer the question 'What is a publicist?', outline their typical responsibilities and key skills and explain how to become a publicist.

What is a publicist?

To answer 'What is a publicist?', publicists are publicity agents who market people and projects. Potential clients of publicists include brands, celebrities, authors, musicians and movies. They're experts at getting their clients' names in the news and generating positive press. Arranging interviews, press visits, appointments and press conferences are also among the main duties of helping to create publicity for a client.

Related: The difference between publicity vs. public relations

What are the duties of a publicist?

A publicist is responsible for crafting and managing their clients' public image. The typical duties of a publicist include:

  • Writing speeches: Publicists write speeches, responses and announcements on behalf of their clients to ensure they convey relevant information to the media and stakeholders in the most positive way.

  • Creating press releases: A publicist makes sure a press release contains all of the important information for the media, such as relevant dates or direct quotes from their client.

  • Publishing media alerts: A media alert may act as a call to attention when a publicist's event is more suited to certain visual types of media.

  • Managing social media content: A publicist creates briefs for all kinds of social media content, such as images of the client or products, and encourages interaction from their followers.

  • Writing bios for clients' websites: Publicists do these for clients they're working for and it's usually the first thing someone reads when searching for information about them.

  • Creating website content: Alongside a bio, a publicist may also write the rest of the content on the website to promote their client, whether it be an event or a product with lots of interactive features, such as giveaways or competitions for customers.

  • Designing pitches: To help market a product successfully, a publicist may also write pitches for clients to encourage organisations to sell their products.

Related: What is a PR campaign? (Including definitions and tips)

What skills benefit a publicist?

Though a publicist's responsibilities vary depending on the needs of their clients, public relations (PR) skills are typically useful for a publicist's career. Examples of PR skills include:

Explaining information clearly

A publicist knows how to pitch stories about their client's products or services clearly and concisely. Good publicists know who to contact for specific kinds of stories and how to reach journalists who've already written about similar subjects in other publications. This is beneficial, as journalists are more likely to write things that are clear and easily digestible to their audience.

Creating tactics and strategies

Publicists are also strategic thinkers. Strategies are plans with long-term goals, and tactics are the techniques and processes that help to achieve these goals. For example, the goal of a publicist may be to generate as much coverage as possible for an organisation. They may think strategically about how best to do this, such as by pitching press releases.

Working in a fast-paced environment

Publicists benefit from being able to respond to situations quickly, as news stories and public relations may develop unpredictably. For example, if a news outlet cancels an interview with their client, the publicist may be asked to find a different way for their client to spread their message. Therefore, publicists benefit from being solution-focused and quick thinkers.

Using creativity

As a publicist, creativity is a useful skill. For example, creative writing skills may help a publicist to create press releases that are engaging and captivating to an audience. Creativity may also help a publicist plan and manage unique marketing strategies for their clients, helping them stay ahead of their competition.

Keeping up with social trends

A publicist's work involves getting their clients as much attention as possible. This means that they benefit from being up to date on the latest trends and news to pitch relevant stories and ideas to reporters, bloggers and columnists. They also know what's going on in their clients' personal lives so that they may tailor their pitches accordingly. For example, if a celebrity is about to marry someone or have a baby, it might make sense for the publicist to pitch stories about these events to create an influx of interest from media outlets.

Networking with other publicists or clients

Networking skills are invaluable for publicists, as they may work with clients in a wide variety of fields, from fashion to music. Therefore, the ability to network is essential for any publicist looking to build their client base and grow the organisation they represent. Publicists meet new people, build relationships with them and convince them to hire their client's services or products. Communication skills also help with networking, as communicating clearly with possible connections makes other parts of the job significantly easier.

Related: Your complete guide to networking at events (with steps)

Understanding marketing techniques

Publicists benefit from having strong marketing skills so they may market their clients in ways that are positive and memorable. Marketing is the process of promoting a product, person or organisation. Marketing may also include branding, which involves understanding how people think so you may encourage and guide their behaviours or thought processes.

Related: 11 PR strategies and how you can use them successfully

Being confident

Confidence is a beneficial skill for a publicist to have. Many aspects and requirements of this role involve speaking to large groups of people, so having the confidence to do so successfully is useful. Coherently marketing a client's product or message to a large audience helps ensure the key elements of the news are clear.

Related: What are public relations skills? A complete guide

How to become a publicist

If you're considering a role as a publicist, it's beneficial to understand the steps for becoming one. Steps to becoming a publicist include:

1. Study a relevant degree

Most publicists have some form of higher education qualification, whether it's a bachelor's or even a master's degree. While studying for a degree, students learn skills and techniques that benefit them throughout their careers in PR. Relevant degrees to becoming a publicist include:

  • public relations

  • journalism

  • English

  • marketing

  • media and communication

  • advertising

  • business

A master's degree isn't usually necessary to secure an entry-level role as a publicist, but it may help to support your application or allow you to secure promotions later in your career. Some publicists may pursue a master's qualification part-time while working in PR.

2. Gain work experience

Applying for an internship or work placement is beneficial for aspiring publicists as it helps them gain real-world experience in the PR sector. Some of these opportunities may be unpaid, yet they offer valuable insight into the working world. Another option is to work as an assistant in a PR firm or ask to shadow a publicist to learn more about their daily duties.

Related: What does a PR agency do? (A guide to public relations roles)

3. Tailor your CV

A CV tailored to a publicist role may help you secure a job opportunity, as it showcases your relevant education, achievements and work experience. A portfolio may also help you show your achievements in public relations. For example, your portfolio may include social media posts or any press releases you've written. Ideally, job candidates highlight the keywords in a job advertisement and ensure their application includes the same keywords to increase their chances of passing any automated checks.

4. Network

Aspiring publicists may find it useful to attend industry events and network. Publicists typically rely on having a strong network of connections to build relationships with the press on behalf of their clients, so building these relationships before securing a job as a publicist may be beneficial. Joining online networking sites and staying up to date with industry news may also help. For example, a publicist may wish to subscribe to an online industry newsletter or physical magazine.

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