Publicists are hired to get press coverage for their clients. What does this mean? Publicists are the media world’s version of cheerleaders, to an extent. Their job is to get journalists to write about their client, whoever it might be.
Press Releases: A Publicist's Pom Poms
How do publicists get the press to write about their clients? They issue press releases. Most people have come across a press release at some time and these general announcements are sent out en masse to the press to alert them of news and, hopefully, generate stories. Publicists usually write these press releases and, to get a sense of what a press release is like, check out Google’s archive of press releases. These press releases, as you might assume, make announcements about new initiatives and business developments the company is involved in.
Social Butterflies Wanted
Beyond press releases, which are generalized announcements, publicists also cultivate relationships with journalists in order to place stories with them. Good publicists understand the inner-workings of the media so they can recognize the stories that certain journalists want to write about. Certain stories are obvious and don’t require much in the way of publicity: If you’re a publicist who works for Ford and GM buys Ford, there’s no need to generate press interest in that story, since it’s major news in and of itself and journalists will be all over it.
If you’re a publicist who works at Random House, however, and you’re trying to promote a book, you may need to hand-deliver possible stories about the book to journalists. To do so, you need to understand what kinds of publications might be interested in certain stories. Is there something interesting about the author that might make for a good story? You need to think about the book’s subject matter. If it’s a debut novel about a family in crisis, stories about it might work better in women’s magazines. If the book’s about running, and you’re trying to publicize it, you should be talking to the editors at Runner's World. And so on, and so forth.