What is a Publicist?

Publicist Vocalzone

Broadly speaking, a publicist’s role is to manage and generate publicity for a public figure, brand, company, artist or act. Publicity refers to information shared from the media to the general public to promote something. In the case of a musician or musical act tours, singles and albums are promoted. Whilst this isn’t an exhaustive list, types of publicity will include reviews by journalists of an act’s show or product and interviews with the act in print, on TV, radio or online.

Pitching Stories

Also known as a Press Agent, a Publicist puts together suggested stories for journalists. To do this they must acquire an enviable list of press contacts. They will also use the talent they have access to as leverage for publicity of other acts on their books. For example, if you have a new act putting out a debut single you may bargain with a journalist offering an interview with a big act in return for a mention of the single.

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Press Kits

Publicists pre-package information about an act, image assets and tour or release dates. This is an invaluable resource for journalists as they’re always struggling for time and can access everything they need in one place without asking the – equally busy – Publicist endless questions.

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Press Releases

A press release is an official statement issued to journalists. In the context of the music business a press release can be used for a variety of reasons including; a new album or single launch, a tour announcement, to address rumours related to the act, to confirm the exit or addition of a band member or as a crisis management tool if the act hits the news for any reason. There is a definite art to writing a press release with the potential reader always being of vital importance. Putting yourself in the reader’s shoes, is this genuinely news worthy? Does it contain all the information they need? Is it written in concise punchy sentences? Is it accompanied by appropriate, engaging imagery and or video?

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Working with Photographers

Publicists are often required to work with photographers on projects. In order to promote their acts they need eye catching photos. Negotiating the photography world certainly requires having a trusty list of contacts. A publicist will spend a great deal of time acquiring a contacts list with names from a variety of areas and with a range of specialties.

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Flexible Approach

Although the majority of Publicists work a standard 9 – 5 day in an office, they are often required to work evenings and weekends covering particular events. It goes without saying that this means you can’t have a ‘clock in / clock out’ mentality as a Publicist. You must love what you’re doing and get a kick out of being at the heart of what your acts or artists are doing. If you’re not a fan of live music then this probably isn’t the job for you, but at the same time you’re unlikely to be able to relax and watch a whole performance pint in hand – you’re there to work!

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Extreme Introverts Need Not Apply

Being a Publicist requires talking to people from all walks of life with ease. You must be outgoing, enthusiastic and a hard-working champion of your clients’ work. It’s not enough to just get in touch with your media contacts when you want something from them; it’s a give and take situation, so you’re going to need to work on building and maintaining these relationships.

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Show Me The Money

Publicists are generally salaried if they’re employed by a PR firm, record label or other music organisation. However independent Publicists negotiate a set fee with their clients and claim expenses, which will be paid at predetermined intervals. They may be indefinitely working for an act or hired on a campaign basis, perhaps surrounding an album launch for example.

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Entering the Profession

The usual route into the profession is to begin as an intern. Internships can be set up by researching and contacting local PR firms or independent publicists. Networking at music industry or PR events is also beneficial. Very specific courses are now also available for training in the profession.

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They’re Not Magicians

Whilst having a Publicist on your team will give you access to their vast contacts and experience, they’re not magicians. If there just isn’t a compelling enough story in what they’re putting out to media, it won’t get picked up. There’s only so much leveraging they can do and so many favours they can pull.

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Timing for Working with a Publicist

We’ve mentioned the key tasks a Publicist undertakes, so by now you’ve probably established that essentially their role is to help shape your brand as an act or artist. For this reason, it’s vital that you maintain a healthy relationship with your Publicist and find one you can trust. Many Publicists specialise in specific musical genres. Whether you’re the member of a band or an artist in your own right, what is the right time to utilise the skills of a Publicist? You’re likely to get the most from working with a Publicist if you already have a solid foundation of awareness for them to build on. Key indicators of this would be a significant social media presence, plenty of audio and visual content and having some strong performances under your belt.

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Written by Laura Thomas

Social Media and Marketing Executive at Vocalzone. The Simpsons, The Wicker Man (original!), real crime shows, metal, punk and the new punk (grime)