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A publicist is a person whose job is to generate and manage publicity for a company, a brand, or public figure  – especially a celebrity  – or for a work such as a book, film, or album. Publicists are public relations specialists who have the role to maintain and represent the images of individuals, rather than representing an entire corporation or business. [1] Publicists are also hired by public figures who want to maintain or protect their image. [1] Publicists brand their clients by getting magazine, TV, newspaper, and website coverage. Most top-level publicists work in private practice, handling multiple clients.


The term publicist was coined by the legal scholar Francis Lieber to describe the public-like role of internationalists[ clarification needed ] during the late nineteenth century. [2] Publicists are sometimes called flacks which traces back to Gene Flack, who was a well-known movie publicist in the 1930s. [1]


In the world of celebrities, unlike agents or managers, publicists typically take a monthly fee for serving a client (whereas agents and managers tend to take a percentage of their client's gross income). Publicists can be on a local, regional or national level. For example, a small restaurant seeking only local publicity would want a local publicist – whereas an author seeking nationwide visibility would want to search for a national publicist.

One of the publicist's main functions is to generate press coverage on behalf of their clients and serve as the bridge between clients, their public and media outlets. A publicist manages campaigns and performs other public relations functions. It usually takes many years to develop the media contacts, experience and relationships necessary to be an effective publicist.

Some publicists specialize in representing ordinary members of the public to procure the maximum possible fee for stories they wish to sell to newspapers, television stations and magazines. A number have now sprung up on the internet and work as media agents gaining members of the public multiple deals with publications.

An older meaning of the term is closer to pamphleteer: someone who circulates ideas by publishing them, perhaps in ephemeral forms. This term is still in use in some countries, such as Israel.

Types of publicists

Role of publicists

The main role of publicists is to get good press coverage for their clients. One way that publicists can do this is by sending press releases to journalists. A press release is written like a news story; including a headline, and attention grabbing quotes. However, because of the high traffic of e-mails, today, many press releases sent by publicists are lost within the other e-mails that journalists receive. [1]

Publicists tend to have good working relationships with journalists, TV news producers, and producers. In order to have these relationships, publicists usually network with these media professionals. [1] To protect a client's image, publicists will often ask journalists what questions will be asked during interviews to prevent any surprises and discussion of any unwanted topics. [1]

Publicists determine how to manage a person's or brand's image by what is being said about them in the media. [3] This pertains to websites and social media. [3] More recently, publicists have the need to network with bloggers and scope out their websites to make sure the content on their client is appropriate. [1] Celebrity publicists usually schedule their client's press tours, which includes everything from making the travel arrangements and locations. [1]

A typical day for a publicist consists of being on the phone, networking through e-mails, and can make themselves available at all times of the day for when conflict arises. [1] Out of the office, publicists go to gatherings to network with media professionals. [1]

Skills used

Publicists are usually skilled writers, as well as motivated to promote individuals. [4] Furthermore, publicists need to be able to handle the stress associated with crisis. For example, if a client is arrested for a DUI, they need to release press coverage with details explaining how the client will resolve the situation. [1] In terms of education, publicists will often major in communications, journalism, or public relations in college. [1] When starting out as a publicist, one will have to work their way up in regards to position. Usually, it is helpful that aspiring publicists intern at a public relations firm while at college to gain experience. [1] Schools that offer communication and public relations degrees consist of Ashford University, Colorado Technical University, Seton Hall University, American University, and the University of Florida. [5]

Publicists in the Hollywood industry

Hollywood publicists create and manage relationships between film stars and the array of other media channels through which the identities of stars are circulated. Stars have a dual relationship with publicity, for they publicize films but also, and importantly in the freelance market, have an interest in self publicity. It is for the latter reason that while many stars continue to regard managers as an optional luxury, today the majority of stars in Hollywood hire publicists to manage their media visibility. In other words, celebrities hire publicists who will be able to get their name out to the public preferably in a positive light.

Compared to channels of paid advertising, publicity generates exposure which is relatively "free". Publicity is at work whenever stars make personal appearances at press conferences or film premieres, give television interviews, are displayed on magazine covers, or allow the press to cover a private event. Independent publicists include Hollywood stars and studios as their clients, alongside corporations and individuals from the worlds of entertainment, sports, finance, technology, retailing, and other business sectors. [6]

The role of a publicist in Hollywood has changed and has become more challenging in recent years. With the enormous increase of entertainment news outlets such as Perez Hilton, TMZ, and Page Six, it has become much more difficult for publicists to control negative stories. Publicists must also work much harder to keep some of their star clients relevant in the media with the entertainment options in Hollywood continuously growing. Even booking a star for an interview or on a television talk show has become a challenging task, because if something goes awry, the publicist and the star could both be highly criticized by the media. [7]


The average salary for a publicist in the United States is about $45,000 per year. [8] However, celebrity publicists' salaries can vary depending on the clientele they cater to. [5]

Salaries for corporate PR specialists by experience

See also

Related Research Articles

Celebrity Prominent person or group who commands some degree of public fascination and appears in the media

Celebrity is a condition of fame and broad public recognition of an individual or group, or occasionally a character or animal, as a result of attention given them by mass media. A person may attain a celebrity status from having great wealth, their participation in sports or the entertainment industry, their position as a political figure, or even from their connection to another celebrity. 'Celebrity' usually implies a favorable public image, as opposed to the neutrals 'famous' or 'notable', or the negatives 'infamous' and 'notorious'.

Public relations Broad term for the management of public communication of organizations

Public relations (PR) is the practice of deliberately managing the release and spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations (PR) and publicity differ in that PR is controlled internally, whereas publicity is not controlled and contributed by external parties. Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. This differentiates it from advertising as a form of marketing communications. Public relations aims to create or obtain coverage for clients for free, also known as 'earned media', rather than paying for marketing or advertising. But in the 2010s, advertising is also a part of broader PR activities.

Rendon Group public relations firm that has assisted a number of U.S. military activities

The Rendon Group is a public relations firm headed by John Rendon.

A movie star is an actor or actress who is famous for their starring, or leading, roles in movies. The term is used for performers who are marketable stars and whose names are used to promote movies, for example in trailers and posters.

In marketing, publicity is the public visibility or awareness for any product, service or organization. It may also refer to the movement of information from its source to the general public, often via the media. The subjects of publicity include people of public interest, goods and services, organizations, and works of art or entertainment.

A talent agent, or booking agent, is a person who finds jobs for actors, authors, broadcast journalists, film directors, musicians, models, professional athletes, screenwriters, writers, and other professionals in various entertainment or broadcast businesses. In addition, an agent defends, supports and promotes the interest of their clients. Talent agencies specialize, either by creating departments within the agency or developing entire agencies that primarily or wholly represent one specialty. For example, there are modeling agencies, commercial talent agencies, literary agencies, voice-over agencies, broadcast journalist agencies, sports agencies, music agencies and many more.

A media consultant is a marketing agent or public relations executive that is hired by businesses or political candidates to obtain positive press coverage. Media consultants usually draft press releases to highlight positive achievements of a business, organization, or individual. In politics, media consultants create advertisement campaigns to plant a desired image in the minds of voters.

Film still photograph taken during production of a movie or television

A film still is a photograph taken on or off the set of a movie or television program during production. These photographs are also taken in formal studio settings and venues of opportunity such as film stars' homes, film debut events, and commercial settings. The photos were taken by studio photographers for promotional purposes. Such stills consisted of posed portraits, used for public display or free fan handouts, which are sometimes autographed. They can also consist of posed or candid images taken on the set during production, and may include stars, crew members or directors at work.

A superstar is someone who has great popular appeal and is widely known, prominent, or successful in their field. Celebrities referred to as "superstars" may include individuals who work as actors, musicians, athletes, and other media-based professions.

Warren Cowan was a prominent American film industry publicist. From 1950 to 1992, he was a co-founder and named partner in Rogers & Cowan, the world's largest publicity firm; he established his own firm Cowan & Associates in 1994. At the time of his death, he was described as "one of Hollywood’s most powerful and innovative publicists", known for his creative use of independent publicity.

Media Relations involves working with media for the purpose of informing the public of an organization's mission, policies and practices in a positive, consistent and credible manner. Typically, this means coordinating directly with the people responsible for producing the news and features in the mass media. The goal of media relations is to maximize positive coverage in the mass media without paying for it directly through advertising.

Lee Solters, born Nathan Cohen, was an American press agent who used his flamboyant style to represent celebrities from stage, movies and sports including 26 years with Frank Sinatra.

Henry C. Rogers was an American publicist in the entertainment industry.

Dale C. Olson was an American writer and publicist who represented prominent actors and films directors during his career, and an early gay rights activist.

Harry Brand was an American press agent. Described as "the mastermind who made Shirley Temple the most famous child star in history, Betty Grable a GI Joe pinup girl and Marilyn Monroe a sex goddess," Brand was the head of publicity at 20th Century Fox from 1935 until 1962.

Henry C. Rogers was an American publicist in the entertainment industry. He worked with notable actors and singers, such as Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Dean Martin, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Paul McCartney, and many others. Rogers wrote four books, titled Walking the Tightrope: the private confessions of a public relations man, Rogers' Rules for Success, The One-Hat Solution: Rogers' Strategy for Creative Middle Management, and Rogers' Rules for Businesswomen: How to Start a Career and Move Up the Ladder.

Andrea Sue Jaffe was a prominent Hollywood publicist in the 1980s and early 1990s. Jaffe initially worked as an assistant at marketing and public relations agency Rogers & Cowan before working for PMK and establishing her own publicity company, Andrea Jaffe and Associates. Her clients included Tom Cruise, Farrah Fawcett, Oliver Stone, and Dustin Hoffman.

Lois Smith (1928-2012) was an American entertainment publicist. A "trailblazer who brought big changes to a business dominated by men," she represented Marilyn Monroe, Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Warren Beatty, and Liza Minnelli, among others. Smith is noted for her impact on the practice of entertainment PR; rather than seeking to generate as much media coverage as possible for her clients, Smith limited the media's access.

Leslee Dart American publicist and entrepreneur

Leslee Dart is an American publicist and entrepreneur. She is the founder and co-CEO of the Dart Group, now known as 42West, which prior to its 2017 acquisition was the largest independently-owned public relations firm in the entertainment industry.

Robert "Bobby" Zarem is an American publicist. After starting his own publicity agency in 1974, Zarem created lengthy, personalized pitch letters, a business style, and many campaigns. His clients have included Dustin Hoffman, Cher, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Michael Douglas, Michael Caine, Sophia Loren, Ann-Margret, and Alan Alda, among others.


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  5. 1 2 "Celebrity Publicist: Salary and Career Facts" . Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  6. McDonald, Paul; Wasko, Janet (2008). "The Star System: The Production of Hollywood Stardom In The Post-Studio Era". The Contemporary Hollywood Film Industry. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 173–175.
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  8. "Publicist Salary". Retrieved 2018-03-28.