What is PR and What Does a Publicist Do? 4 Publicist Chime In

Anyone who studied public relations or PR is familiar with Ivy Lee, regarded as the originator of the public relations counsel, and Edward Bernays, often referred as the father of modern public relations.

However, many do not know about activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, known as the Black PR Pioneer, who had a significant impact on the public relations community through her use of the press to expose wrongdoing and promote civil rights. She led several major civil rights initiatives, including forming the National Association of Colored Women and serving as a founding member of the NAACP.

The number of times someone confuses a publicist with that of a marketer is downright disrespectful. And I get it. Our duties sometimes flow into the areas of a digital marketer and other related fields. However, PR is a distinct profession that has more than enough responsibilities.

A boxing match on Clubhouse between a social media and digital marketing strategist and her former client proved that most people do not know what PR is and what a publicist does. It prompted me to send a survey to 100 people posing two questions: 1. Define public relations and 2. What is a publicist? The response was disappointing yet enlightening.

So, what is public relations and what does a publicist do? PR is not an easy profession to define. In 2012, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) accepted a few thousand submissions before agreeing on one: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

According to HubSpot, a public relations professional creates and executes a PR strategy, helping a business or individual cultivate a positive reputation through various unpaid or earned channels and formats, including press, social media, and in-person engagements. They also help clients defend their reputations during crises that threaten their credibility.

The above definitions are spot on however, there is more to what a publicist does. It depends on who the client is, the client’s objectives, the industry, the budget, the weather, current events, and anything else that may throw a monkey wrench into a well-planned day.

My journey as a publicist comes with many responsibilities. In my early years, I traveled with my clients extensively. I was there for their every need. From ensuring they spit their gum out before a performance or interview; to driving a client’s SUV from Los Angeles to San Francisco so his car would be there after his appearance. And when a client forgot her bra, I took mine off backstage, and gave it to her minutes before she was to hit the stage.

Today, my duties include strategizing, creating content, securing interviews, responding to queries, sourcing opportunities to secure thought leader positions, leveraging prior media coverage, scanning social media for opportunities, re-purposing media coverage, jumping on Clubhouse for ideas and networking, blogging, media training, media pitching, ghostwriting, and brainstorming with client’s and staff.

I asked a few PR experts to define the role of a publicist and give us insight to their daily responsibilities.

Pam Perry

Owner & CEO, Pa