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Every time we tell someone we work in PR, it’s, “What parties do you go to?” “Do you work with celebrities?” It’s totally not glamorous most of the time. The ditzy party publicists — that TV show with Lizzie Grubman, even that guy with the Kardashians, or that show Spin — it’s not at all what the industry is really like.
It’s a lot of strategy — it’s research, it’s writing. We put together a lot of reports and timelines. We have to be familiar with columns and read a lot of magazines and newspapers — we feel like we’re salespeople when we’re pitching reporters.
In PR, the client and the reporter are always right. One of the most frustrating parts of the job is that everyone thinks The New York Times cover story or The Wall Street Journal cover story is going to bring them fame and fortune. Or, they’ll go on the Today show and will get two sales out of it when some story that went viral on the web sold them out completely. It’s hard to convince clients that traditional print media is not always the best way to go.
Clients are also very impatient, and that’s something that’s changed dramatically over the past seven or so years. We’ll send out a press release at 10 a.m., and they call us at 11, saying, “Where am I getting covered?” And we have to say, did you think when we sent the press release out that every reporter who got it is going to drop everything they’re doing? We can’t call them half an hour after we sent it out because the reporters think we’re crazy — they’re not like, “The first thing I did this morning was check your email!” And it’s not “Is this going to run in tomorrow’s newspaper?” — people want it up instantly.
We’re kind of on call all the time. A client from L.A. might want us to email them at 8 p.m., which is 5 p.m. over there. A client in Europe will call you at 3 a.m. asking for a conference call at 5 a.m. because that’s their end of day. Sometimes clients aren’t conscious of the fact that we’re in totally different time zones.
But I know if something major is happening with the client, I can’t sleep anyway. So I probably will check my phone and answer emails in the middle of the night. If I have a major TV segment the next day, I can’t sleep because I’m worrying about every little thing — that the client knows where the studio is, that the anchor doesn’t mispronounce the name of the company or client, that the producer knows how to spell on the Chyron.
You usually know when you need to be on call. From 5 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. one morning, you know the client might call you and say, “I can’t find the studio” for a TV segment. I had to use Google Street View to get a client to a studio one morning. Or I’ll have to work all weekend with a reporter who has a Monday deadline.
Though it doesn’t take up most of our time, we manage red carpets at events sometimes. Dealing with personalities can be difficult — some celebs don’t want to walk the red carpet. Some celebs only want to talk to certain media outlets but not others. Some celebs are so surprisingly easy and nice and will walk down a red carpet and be totally chill and thank us for helping out, but then you’ll get another one who seems like the nicest person on the planet but ends up being not a nice person at all.
And any event where we have a press check-in, we have all these crazies showing up. And I’ve had people lie to me about who they were — “I spoke to Mike and he said we could come,” they’ll say, thinking Mike is a common name, so we must have someone named Mike working with us.
I had one person trick me. I checked her in, she forgot I was the one who checked her in — and she told me later that she scammed her way in! She told me she was from a major magazine and walked in, and later when press check-in was done, she was like, “Oh my god, you should just find an editor’s name that you think you might look like and just walk into these parties. I just went to a fashion week tent.”
We have a “no fly” list at these events that says “these people are not allowed in under any circumstances.”
As told to Amy Odell.
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