What does a publicist actually do?

Publicity has an aura of mystery to a lot of people and I’ve often been asked to describe what a publicist actually does.

If you’re a Bridget Jones fan, you’ll know publicity is just fannying about with press releases and you probably assume that in between there is lots of glamorous hobnobbing with high profile names.

The reality is, predictably, a bit different. Champagne swilling (or rather cheap wine guzzling) makes up about 2% of the job. A good publicist is a jack of all trades, they are…

A detective. They will mine your past and your project to come up with great angles to get you coverage.

A psychologist. They know landing your first radio interview or speaking engagement is a big moment, but also a nerve wracking one. They will prepare you and support you through it.

A wedding planner. They’ll be frantically working behind the scenes to make sure your big day goes off without a hitch, whether that’s a launch, interview or festival appearance.

A nanny. With a handbag to rival Mary Poppins, a publicist is never caught without pens, plasters, pain killers and snacks. They’re also pretty good at managing tantrums if need be (!).

A politician. Only in the sense that a publicist needs thick skin as they’re often the central point between many competing parties (editor, author, bookseller, journalist…) who all need to be kept happy. They also need a small ego though, so a life in politics wouldn’t go well.

A taxi driver. They’ll get you from A to B, parallel park like a pro and appear completely calm when you’re stuck in traffic and the minutes are ticking down to a flight’s departure.

A tight rope walker. Rolling out a media plan requires some delicate balancing to make sure everyone gets the exclusive they require and no one’s coverage bolts early. Steely nerves are required.

A cheerleader. They will sing your praises from every roof top (or Tweet deck) and should be your biggest champion.

And, hopefully, a friend. The publicity ride can be intense, so it’s much more fun if you can get through it with good communication and plenty of humour.

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