What Does a Publicist Do? (Plus Common Skills)
Updated 9 June 2023
Publicists play a vital role within the media world. They have various responsibilities that often depend on the type of clients with which they work. Learning about a publicist's duties may help you decide if such a role is the right choice for you. In this article, we discuss the everyday job responsibilities of publicists, provide a list of their skills, describe their work environments and give an example of a publicist job description.
What does a publicist do?
A publicist is a person who generates publicity for an organisation, product or individual through the use of techniques in advertising, marketing and public relations. Publicists are responsible for promoting their clients. They usually do this by pitching ideas to journalists to capture media attention. Some also spend their time organising events that can generate publicity for their clients.
Common publicist duties include:
defining a marketing objective
creating a strategy to reach that goal
putting together a media plan
negotiating contracts with agencies, journalists and blogs
creating talking points for interview requests
managing relationships with influencers, bloggers and journalists
managing the process to file all press releases with directories like PR Web
writing media alert emails that reach reporters and bloggers via email
identifying target markets for an individual product or company and developing a strategy to target those markets
drafting original content, such as whitepapers, case studies and surveys
compiling analytics reports to show trends in coverage, communications strategies used and conversions from efforts
developing templates that other publicists can use when pitching stories or requesting interviews
creating an executive summary for press releases that highlight key details about the event, company, product or company team
creating and managing editorial calendars and coordinating pitching and publication schedules
managing the process for pitching news releases online through press release distribution services
managing relationships with traditional media, including newspapers, magazines, TV news channels and radio stations
developing a list of relevant contacts at each of these media outlets
identifying target markets for an individual product or company and developing a strategy to target those markets.
Related: How To Become a Journalist
Here is a list of common publicist skills, with a description of each skill:
From developing campaigns to promote an organisation or event to negotiating media buys and producing marketing materials like print ads or online banners, publicists often have well-developed marketing skills. For example, when developing a public relations plan, publicists frequently create a marketing plan that includes media releases and news stories in addition to handouts and other promotional materials. To develop marketing skills, you may focus on classes that cover marketing, advertising or business management.
Publicists not only have a strong sense of public relations and marketing strategies, but they also produce a wide range of written materials designed to promote an individual or an organisation. Many publicists have a background in journalism or communications and may have worked as writers or editors before entering the public relations field. In addition, many offer proofreading and copyediting services as part of their service offerings.
To develop writing skills, you may take writing courses that focus on refining your grammar and punctuation skills. These courses can introduce you to the elements of good writing, such as organisation, structure and style.
Relationships with media professionals, writers and communications experts are one of the essential elements of publicist positions. Publicists also use their network to ensure that the appropriate contacts distribute press releases and other materials. To develop this skill, you may try event management or networking class that includes methods for developing relationships.
One aspect of publicist roles is the emphasis on social media. Many publicists use social media platforms to promote their clients, events and products and share information. In addition, developing a website may be part of a publicist's role. To develop these skills, you may take classes that cover social media or website design.
Together with project management, planning skills are key components of a successful PR campaign. Publicists plan events, develop strategies for promoting an event or a product and oversee the execution of these plans. As part of this process, they often organise work schedules and delegate tasks to ensure that they meet deadlines on time. To develop these skills, you may take classes that cover project management and organisational skills.
Publicists use critical thinking skills in many different ways to evaluate ideas and come up with solutions for problems. For example, they may need to assess the overall effectiveness of a marketing campaign and consider alternative approaches to improve it. To develop these skills, you may focus on classes that help you learn how to reason logically, solve problems creatively and analyse complex issues.
Publicists may need to be able to plan and manage their time effectively to meet deadlines. In addition, they may need to organise their schedule effectively to work with a variety of professionals and provide individualised service to their clients. To develop these skills, you may take classes that cover project management and time management.
In public relations work, collaboration is a key skill for creating successful campaigns and businesses. Publicists often engage in teamwork with several parties to accomplish a project or event successfully or promote an organisation or product effectively. To develop this skill, you may focus on classes that cover group project development.
How to become a publicist
You can follow these steps to become a publicist:
1. Earn a degree
A bachelor degree in public relations or journalism can help you become a publicist. Other bachelor's degrees for a publicist include marketing, English, communications or advertising. If you want to gain additional knowledge in one of these fields, consider earning a master degree.
2. Gain work experience
An internship or part-time work is essential for a publicist, especially in a public relations firm or with a media outlet. Internships are especially important in this field, as they can help you build a foundational knowledge of marketing and communications with experienced professionals. You can also gain experience as an assistant with a PR firm to gain experience.
3. Become a member of a publicist organisation
There are no required certifications to be a publicist. However, being a member of a publicist organisation may be beneficial in helping you make connections with other professionals in the marketing and public relations industry. These organisations can develop your networking abilities and help you find valuable business opportunities.
4. Build your resume
You may have a professional resume that showcases your education, accomplishments and relevant work history. You may create a robust portfolio of well-written press materials. Finally, you may create a list of media contacts and industry contacts that you've met personally and can reach out to when you're ready to apply for publicist jobs.
Publicist work environment
The workplace for a publicist varies as their clients range from actors to singers to big corporations to hospitals. While some publicists work a traditional eight-hour workday, many find that weekend, evening, holiday and irregular hours are necessary. Many publicists work on an on-call schedule as needed. A publicist may work from an office, but they also travel to meetings, press conferences and events.
Publicist job description example
Here is an example of job description you may find for a publicist position:
SparkFast is a growing start-up agency specialising in public relations, content and thought leadership. We focus on highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, biotechnology, government and more! We offer a competitive salary, insurance, vacation, retirement, paid holidays and paid sick days.
We at SparkFast hustle hard, dream big and demand more for our clients. We have guided our clients through acquisitions and launches, crises and celebrations, exits and IPOs. The publicist reports directly to our vice president of public relations.
Bachelor degree in a relevant field
minimum of four years of experience in an agency or public relations firm
strong knowledge of the PR field
experience in media relations, client communications, crisis management, press campaign development and execution of communication plans
superb time management
exceptional communication skills
ability to prioritise and handle multiple projects
ability to work both independently and as part of a team.
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