Confessions of a Publicist - How I Coped During 2020

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Picture red carpet, thousands of sparkly cocktail glasses and flashing cameras which click furiously. A trail of brilliant sequins, perfect hair and a perfect smile of what surely can’t be real teeth, and you will find a Publicist, just in the shadows, slightly off camera, looking proud. The work for the moment is done. You’ve got them there. Dressed, presentable, with a reputation to die for, immaculate image, cool, out of this world, looking a million dollars in front of willing and waiting press with a backdrop of hundreds of fans who have camped out since the night before.

This is the work of a Publicist.

It can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. You create a vision, a legend if you’re lucky. You can what your person has and you shine a brilliant, perfectly angled light on it. You are at the top of your game, and thankfully, because of you, so are they.

Yet, many Pubs don’t get to see the Hollywood glamour, the expensive parties or even the A list of the L.A set, most of us are sleeves rolled up, sweaty hard workers who collapse at the end of a day at 10.30pm exhausted, surrounded by some unanswered calls and a mass of tomorrow’s papers.

That can be the reality. So, for those of you who are keen to know what it’s really like, then I invite you to take a step into my world for a day and I will show you what this Publicity world, to me, is really like:

It begins...

I wake up around six, lie under the duvet for a few minutes and get my thoughts together. Ok, so what first? (Apart from the obvious wash, dress, Rice Krispies etc) I check emails, social media sweep and calls but first, I grab my iPod from the bedside table and flick through the News items of the day. Depending on who I am working for, that might mean a quick hashtag search on any mentions. I check my Google alerts for around the world items which are related. Nope, today, the coast is clear. I am able to at least, make it to the office unscathed.

The office, for me, is the other end of the hall in my house. That’s not a Covid world thing – it has always been there so the commute might only be held up by an eager Spaniel or a reluctant teenager. Yet either way, I know what the day is going to hold – there will be some excitement, a few air punches, a couple of head in hands moments (but that’s often because I have forgotten to get milk) but overall, the aim is to be once step further toward my client’s end goal.

You would think each day in my world is mapped out beautifully. This call will happen at X o’clock and meeting with happen at Y with Z and other letters of the alphabet. Yet it very rarely is. I work from the minute I wake up to the minute I plug headphones in at night for 7 hours of black screen and thunderstorm sounds. My mind is constantly functioning in Pub mode (and I don’t mean Public House, we’re not all obsessed with alcohol) I think about new ideas, strategies, I analyse current SMART goals and targets whilst stirring a pan of stewed something, I hold virtual team meetings in the boardroom inside my head (yes, even with virtual assistants) and bat back and forth solutions, creatives and campaigns. My head is a business in itself, complete with tea lady and office gossip around the water butt. It’s the bit of my job that I love. It is the bit that most other Publicists can’t stand – that inability to switch off, yet I thrive on it. Which makes me the perfect candidate for therapy, yet it also makes me good at what I do. Forever the workaholic.

What I can't live without

The most important part of my PR toolkit is not my mobile (I still have backups for every contact, spreadsheets to literally a little black book) and it’s not my laptop (although I am proud to say I am a desktop girl myself) but my notepad and large selection of different coloured pads at my disposal. I have been known to trance off in a café, rummage in bag to locate pen and paper. Old fashioned perhaps, but that’s the journalist in me. As flexible as I need to be, no client is ever a wrong fit. I have been just as successful with celebrities as I have in wealth management. Always ready to mingle, connect with, and join up someone else’s dots if I can’t do it myself, I have often wondered if I should start an introduction agency on the side.

The problem is, is that I love people. One of the hardest things I have had to deal with during 2020 is not being able to see people, hug them, shake hands, pat them on the arm, buy them a drink, share contact cards and chat over a bowl of cheesy somethings. I miss the personal contact as this is where I make my biggest connections, my longest friendships, my most important contacts. During 2020, I have relied on these past chums in the press world – we have all learned to keep each other afloat. Nothing now is taken for granted and in the PR world, there is nothing more precious than your network.

My world during 2020

So, what has happened client wise during 2020 for me? Well, it has to be said, it has been a year of branching out into far off lands. Where many of my clients are often UK based (when they are not backpacking around the Amazon and I don’t mean shopping,) this year has seen my clients come from across the Atlantic. Picking up from past half shelved projects, I have loved jumping on calls at silly o’clock and revamping old conversations which start ‘hey, remember that project we were working on in 2019, all the time on my hands has made me revisit it again!’ Catch me at 3am and I will almost certainly say ‘Sure! Let’s do it!’ I have enjoyed such calls like that.

Forever, the storyteller, I enjoy brainstorming. I dabbled in advertising back in my youth, landing a job at an agency in Marble Arch, it taught me about deadlines, as if I didn’t know anything about them during my reporter days, and I clearly didn’t. My boss at the time was deadly. No, just deadly. I injected every ounce of emotion I could get into my pages. If it wasn’t a tear jerker or a gut wrencher, I wasn’t interested. I think my boss like me that way.

The hungry beast within

I guess the one thing that I genuinely love about this PR world is that it’s never really done. You might have got them on the stage that night, looking out onto a packed house but your job is never truly over. There is always something else that needs to be improved on. Something else you could add. For me, I live for those ‘back by popular demand’ and ‘more dates added’ lines. You know you are onto a winner. Lovely jubbly! But, for the PR, that suits us. What good is hanging your boots up and closing the office door? That is a better fit for the project managers of this world. For PR and Publicists, we want the next challenge or there is no hunger required. We want to wake up the next day and consider the next big campaign. We have conquered this, now let’s conquer that!

You’ve made a difference to their lives, but it doesn’t stop there. It can’t stop there. Lives do not stop. PR does not stop. It beats within us. It makes us who we are and who we want to be. That’s why there is no industry like it. You love it and hate it at the same time. It makes you, stretches you and teaches you every day. Just when you think that there is nothing else to know, bang, something else arrives and you learn. You might get rejected by a reporter or a channel might not even acknowledge your pitch (that doesn’t happen that often to me it has to be said but it used to, all the time.) But you still keep going. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – I will wager that was first said by a Publicist.

So, if you are lucky enough for this industry to choose you (and it does, you don’t ever choose it) embrace it, devour it and make it your own. You are one of the chosen ones. Live it. It is one of the greatest services you can genuinely do for someone else. Do it well and you will reap the benefits, on all levels, but above all, get it right, and you will see your client soar. There’s no feeling like it.

Grab a glass and join me for an hour or two:

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