Entertainment Public Relations

Communicating with Audiences

by Carol Ames (Author)
©2016 Textbook XIV, 316 Pages


Every show needs an audience. How do we find them? How do we reach them? How do we motivate them to buy tickets? This informative book provides an essential look at the public relations strategies, tactics, and tools that have put Hollywood entertainment at the center of global popular culture. It uniquely focuses on the public relations cycle in each segment of the entertainment industry. PR cycles connect strategy to benchmarks in product development, production, and distribution, as well as to seasons and industry events.
Chapters focus on the basics and challenges of successful public relations for: blockbuster movies; independent films; network, syndicated, and streaming television; personal publicity and celebrity representation; award events; music; video games; sports; and tourism. Also discussed are charity tie-ins, public service campaigns, and corporate public relations, as well as the use of digital and social media for two-way conversations with
Sidebars give examples and instructions for writing effective entertainment media releases, media alerts, press statements, pitches, PSAs, social media postings, and campaign proposals. Other sidebars analyze the ways industry organizations use events such as the Academy Awards and the Super Bowl to build public awareness and place their industries at the center of popular culture.
This book is a valuable resource for those who already know the basic strategies, tactics, and tools of PR and for those who want to learn them in the context of the rapidly changing field of entertainment and tourism marketing.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1. Introduction to Entertainment Public Relations Jobs and Media
  • Chapter Overview
  • Defining Public Relations
  • The Title Is Publicist; the Job Is Entertainment Publicity; and the Field Is Public Relations, Colloquially Known as PR
  • Defining the PR Goal: Why Do Entertainment Companies Do PR?
  • Taking Advantage of an Opportunity or Solving a Problem
  • The Concept of the PR Cycle and the Stages of the Business Cycle
  • Jobs in Entertainment PR
  • Entertainment Media Relations
  • Providing News for the Journalist’s Audience
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—The Media List
  • The Uses of Digital and Social Media
  • Conclusion
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 2. PR Plans, Audience Segmentation, and Storytelling with Media Releases
  • Chapter Overview
  • Entertainment News Stories and Their Origins
  • Audience Segmentation for Entertainment
  • Public Relations Objectives
  • Media Relations Strategy, Tactics, and Tools
  • Media Releases
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Media Releases
  • Conclusion: Repurposing Media Releases as Online Content
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 3. Public Relations Ethics and Uncontrolled vs. Controlled PR
  • Chapter Overview
  • The Ethics of the Public Relations Profession
  • The Conflicting Ethical Precepts of PR Practitioners and Journalists
  • Professional Codes of Ethics
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—PRSA Code of Ethics (Excerpt)
  • Uncontrolled and Controlled Public Relations, Then and Now
  • Entertainment Ethics Online
  • Conclusion: Ethical Implications for the Practice of Entertainment PR
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 4. Hollywood Red-Carpet Events—How the World Knows the Business
  • Chapter Overview
  • Introduction
  • PR Objectives of an Event Strategy
  • The Five Elements of Any Party
  • An Award Event as a Public Relations Strategy
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Media Alerts
  • Parties with Hollywood WOW Factors
  • Who Produces the Oscars, the Emmys, and the Grammys and Why?
  • Sidebar: The Biz Markets Itself—The Emmy Awards
  • Other Entertainment Industry Events
  • Conclusion: Implications for the Practice of Public Relations
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 5. The Network Television Public Relations Cycle
  • Chapter Overview
  • Introduction
  • The Management Structure of a Television Network
  • The Goal of Network Television Publicity
  • Understanding TV ratings
  • Achieving the Ratings Goal and Objectives Using Traditional Media Relations
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Writing Goal and Objective Statements for Public Relations Plans
  • Achieving the Goal and Objectives Using Digital and Social Media
  • The Network Television PR Cycle
  • Conclusion
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 6. PR Cycles for Syndicated Shows, Cable Channels, and Streaming Services, Plus the Celebrity PR Image-Repair Cycle
  • Chapter Overview
  • Introduction
  • The PR Cycle for Off-Network Syndication or Reruns
  • The PR Cycle for First-Run Syndicated Series
  • Publicity for Premium Cable Series
  • Publicity for Basic Cable
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Press Statements and the Celebrity PR Image-Repair Cycle
  • Subscription Streaming Services and the Binge-Viewing PR Cycle
  • Conclusion
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 7. The Blockbuster Motion Picture Public Relations Cycle
  • Chapter Overview
  • Introduction
  • Blockbuster Motion Pictures—Expensive to Produce and to Market
  • A Publicity Plan’s Background and Situation Analysis
  • SWOT for Blockbusters
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Crisis Management
  • Bankable Elements Are Strengths and Opportunities for Publicity
  • The PR Goal for Blockbusters
  • Audience Segmentation for Film Publicity
  • Marketing Research for Movies
  • Blockbuster Releases Are Timed for Summers and Holidays
  • The Blockbuster Motion Picture PR Cycle
  • Publicity Types and Media Targets Depend on the Stages of a Film’s Life
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Cross-Brand Tie-Ins and Licensed Merchandise
  • Is It a Hit or a Flop?
  • Conclusion
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 8. The Independent Film PR Cycle and the Film Festival Circuit
  • Chapter Overview
  • Introduction
  • Independent Films Differ from Blockbusters
  • Finding the Money to Make an Independent Film
  • The Independent Film Publicity Cycle
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—PR Proposals (RFPs)
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Prepping the Client for Media Interviews
  • Film Festivals Play Two Roles in the Indie Cycle
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Guerilla Marketing Stunts
  • Sidebar: The Biz Markets Itself—The Oscar PR Cycle
  • The Typical Distribution Pattern for an Independent Film
  • Conclusion
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 9. Sports PR Cycles, Celebrity Endorsements, and PSAs
  • Chapter Overview
  • Introduction
  • Public Relations Jobs in the Sports World
  • The Sports PR Cycle
  • Sidebar: The Biz Markets Itself—The Super Bowl
  • Key Publics
  • Media Targets for Sports Stories
  • Using Social Media and Innovative Technology to Engage Fans
  • Sports Celebrity Endorsements for Products
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the Sports World
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
  • PR Problems or Crises in Sports
  • Fantasy Sports: Skill or Gambling?
  • Conclusion
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 10. The Music PR Cycle: Singles, the Album, Awards Shows, the Tour, and Festivals
  • Chapter Overview
  • Introduction
  • Music Industry Media Relations
  • Digital Media—Effective and Mostly Free
  • Masters of Social Media
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Breaking the Rules
  • The Music PR Cycle
  • Sidebar: The Biz Markets Itself—The Grammy Awards
  • Launching a Tour Nationally and Publicizing It Locally
  • Music Festivals
  • Conclusion
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 11. The Video Game PR Cycle: Mobilizing Fan Communities
  • Chapter Overview
  • Introduction
  • Gaming Platforms and Games
  • The Video Game PR Cycle
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Navigating GamerGate and Other Controversies
  • Publicizing Blockbuster Games
  • Publicizing Independent Games
  • Publicizing Casual Games and Apps
  • Kickstarter, Early Access, and Other Crowdsourcing Platforms
  • Making Allies of the Gaming Community
  • eSports, Twitch, and YouTube
  • Conclusion
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • Chapter 12. Tourism, Attractions, Travel, and Hospitality: Seasonal PR Cycles
  • Chapter Overview
  • Introduction
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Pitching
  • The Goal of a Tourism Plan
  • Selling the Dream
  • Nature’s Four Seasons Plus High, Low, and Closed
  • Having News or Making News Year Around
  • Sidebar: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Responding to Unusual Press Queries
  • Two seasons: Open and Closed
  • Stretching One Season to Multi-Season, Multi-Activity Attractions
  • Making One-time Visitors into Regulars
  • Conclusion
  • Key terms
  • Suggested reading and resources
  • References
  • Index

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This book is the culmination of many years of entertainment industry and public relations experience; of daily reading The New York Times and Los Angeles Times entertainment and business coverage and reading the daily Hollywood trades, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety; of learning every day from my entertainment and public relations colleagues and clients; and of being questioned and schooled by insightful journalists such as Michael Cieply, now of The New York Times, and Brian Lowry, a living encyclopedia of television.

I am grateful to California State University, Fullerton, particularly to the Faculty Professional Leaves Committee and to Communications Chair Jason Shepard for the semester’s sabbatical leave that allowed me the time to complete this book. Thanks also to my CSUF colleagues, especially Dr. Andi Stein, whose book writing is an inspiration, and to Dr. Ed Fink, who first encouraged me to return to academe to share my entertainment expertise.

Thank you to Acquisitions Editor Mary Savigar for encouragement and support and to the wonderful production team at Peter Lang.

I am also grateful to my able, succinct graduate student assistant, Jessica Gray, and most especially to my COMM 465: Entertainment PR students, whose eagerness to learn about the entertainment business inspired me to organize my knowledge for class and then to shape it into this book. To all my readers, I wish you success, great media coverage, and high audience engagement.

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· 1 ·


Chapter Overview: When you finish this chapter, you should be able to answer the following questions:

What does the term “public relations” mean in today’s entertainment and tourism industries?

Why does this book use the terms Publicist and Publicity?

What is the goal of entertainment PR?

Why do entertainment clients hire PR representation or have on-staff practitioners?

What is a public relations cycle?

What jobs can I find in entertainment PR?

What media will I work with to achieve PR goals for entertainment clients?

Why will media outlets agree to convey a public relations message to their audiences for no cost?

What are the public relations uses of digital and social media?

SIDEBAR: The Entertainment PR Toolbox—Media List ← 1 | 2 →

Defining Public Relations

Every show needs an audience. Who are they? Where are they? How do we find them? How do we reach them? How do we motivate them to buy tickets? To bring their friends? To buy extras? To become fans? To become active participants in our fan communities?

“Being entertained” is an audience’s experience. So as a concept and an experience, entertainment depends on the presence of the audience and the audience’s response—they laugh, they cry, they tell their friends. No audience—no response—no entertainment.

As a business, entertainment also depends on the audience. Without ticket sales to audience members, movie producers wouldn’t recoup their $100 million-plus production costs. Without ratings indicating a large audience, television networks and channels wouldn’t be able to sell airtime to advertisers. Without buyers for albums and music downloads, the artists and record companies wouldn’t be paid for their talent and time.

Stakeholder relationships

In entertainment, working with advertising, promotion, and marketing, the public relations function locates and communicates with the audience to motivate the largest possible number of people to commit money, time, and attention to an intangible experience—being entertained. Entertainment PR also fulfills numerous other strategic functions that will be covered in subsequent chapters.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently modernized its definition of the field: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics” (PRSA, 2012). The gold standard in public relations is two-way symmetrical communication—communicating back and forth with audiences (Grunig, 2001). This definition emphasizes the “relations” in public relations. Public “relations” means listening and responding to stakeholders’ comments, concerns, questions, and suggestions, not just pushing out promotional messages as advertisers, marketers, and promoters often do. In these definitions, publics and stakeholders mean not just customers. These terms for the wider audience for public relations messages include all of the various constituencies that are affected by and interested in the client, including: employees, stockholders, residents of surrounding communities, opinion makers, various levels of government, and fans. ← 2 | 3 →

Entertainment brands and companies—movies, television, music, video games, sports, stars, and celebrities—are at the center of popular culture. To keep them at the center of public consciousness, their entertainment public relations practitioners have been in the forefront in using new media and in taking creative approaches to communications and marketing. Much of the innovation in social and online media usage has come from the entertainment arena, whether it be Ashton Kutcher’s April 15, 2009, challenge to CNN to become the first Twitter account with one million followers (Ames, 2012, p. 97), or stars live-blogging with fans. Cutthroat competition between subsidiaries of the major, publicly owned conglomerates means large budgets and do-or-die deadlines to gain audience attention (opening weekend for movies, premiere week for television series). Entertainment communications departments set creative standards that smaller entities in other arenas such as non-profit and community organizations may later try to emulate on whatever scale their own budgets allow.

The U.S. entertainment industry

Most of America’s entertainment options are owned and controlled by six major conglomerates: CBS, Comcast (which now holds the majority stake in NBC/Universal), Disney, News Corp., Time Warner, and Viacom (“National Entertainment State,” 2006). With their many subsidiaries and entertainment brands, as well as their wide reach, these corporations influence how we live our lives and how we see the world. These companies set much of the public agenda through their own news operations and influence taste and trends through their entertainment operations.

Digital relationships

In recent years, digital technologies such as websites and apps have made it possible to communicate directly with the audience without going through an intermediary such as a newspaper that publishes a story. Today’s technology also makes it easier for the audience to send their own messages directly to the company. For example, to complain about sexual innuendo in a television show, a disgruntled viewer is no longer restricted to sending a letter of complaint to the CEO. The viewer can make a negative comment on the company’s website or on an industry forum. Or the unhappy viewer can start her very own company-hater website. Today, to go public with a complaint about unsanitary conditions at the county fairgrounds, an attendee doesn’t have to ← 3 | 4 → write a rational and articulate letter to the editor. He can tweet a nasty comment and a gross photo or post a video on YouTube.

Fan relationships

Now it’s also easier for fans to find and communicate with one another. For example, in-person fan activity is no longer limited to attending a yearly Star Trek convention. Message boards, online forums, and fan sites make fandom a year-round, communal experience. Fan opportunities such as live chats with stars and sensitive, responsive participation by a company representative can make these particularly loyal and impassioned customers feel appreciated and special. Direct company two-way communication can make avid fans even more motivated to generate positive word of mouth, which can help ramp up anticipation for an upcoming sequel or a new version of a video game, for example.

Technological advances have made two-way symmetrical PR communications feasible. This gold standard of PR, however, is especially challenging in the field of entertainment, because the number of potential audience members—and therefore of potential audience commenters—is immense. In order to understand the challenges of the gold standard, it’s necessary to understand for whom and to whom the entertainment PR person speaks and how messages are transmitted to and from the audience.

The Title Is Publicist; the Job Is Entertainment Publicity; and the Field Is Public Relations, Colloquially Known as PR

In the American entertainment industry, no matter the level of responsibility, the scope, the budget, or the complexity of strategic planning, the ubiquitous name of the job is publicist. The work is called publicity or sometimes PR. The name of the professional organization is the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society (EPPS). The name of the labor union, which is part of the International Cinematographers Guild, is the ICG Publicists of Local 600, IATSE. Many academics and communications professionals in other industries hate the terms publicity, publicist, and PR. They always refer to the job as public relations (or now sometimes strategic communications), and they call a person working in the field a public relations practitioner. ← 4 | 5 →

Following the custom of the entertainment industry, however, this book uses the term publicist interchangeably with public relations practitioner and PR interchangeably with public relations. This book uses these terms interchangeably with the respect the professionals have earned in a high-risk industry that values the work.

Defining the PR Goal: Why Do Entertainment Companies Do PR?

Public relations activities should be strategic, not ad hoc or random. To be effective, publicity initiatives should be part of a public relations plan. Also called a request for proposal or RFP, a PR plan looks analytically at a specific situation; determines an achievable goal; and defines the strategy, target publics, objectives, tactics, and tools for achieving the goal in a finite time period within an approved budget. Except for the budget, which varies widely depending on circumstances, location, and finances, the elements of a PR plan will be covered as the chapters progress.

The PR plan goal should be clear and measurable, and it should support the overall business goal of the company (Scott, 2011, pp. 33–34). Therefore, for entertainment clients, the goal should be delineated in financial terms—either dollar numbers or numbers that are translatable into dollars. For blockbuster movie clients, for example, that means a goal of hitting specified box-office grosses for opening weekend and for the second weekend of release. The distribution arm of the studio, as well as marketing, will be involved in the discussions about the goal, which will be based on historical data for similar films released on similar dates. Like all aspects of a publicity plan, the target is confidential and should not be discussed externally or with the media. For a venue performance the goal can be stated in total ticket sales. A publicity plan for a television series would specify the goal in terms of Nielsen rating benchmarks for the premiere, as well as for each week through the end of the season. Ratings are “dollar-equivalent,” because the ratings determine the price that can be charged for advertising in the particular timeslot, as discussed in Chapter 5.

Taking Advantage of an Opportunity or Solving a Problem

A client or company hires public relations representation for one of two reasons: to take advantage of an opportunity; or to solve a problem. Much of the ← 5 | 6 → work of entertainment PR is to take advantage of an opportunity: a new product’s debut in the marketplace, for example. Even a celebrity—or the career of a celebrity—is a kind of product that benefits from branding and from strategic thinking to take advantage of opportunities, such as invitations to awards events like the Oscars or the Emmys, which offer media exposure to vast audiences.

Entertainment PR problems that benefit from professional counsel include negative advance buzz about a movie, and crises such as a star’s arrest for driving under the influence. (See the SIDEBAR in Chapter 6). Ongoing two-way communication with audiences, corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives (see Chapter 9), strong branding, and charitable activities are examples of strategic public relations efforts to avert crises before they happen, or to mitigate damage when they do.

The Concept of the PR Cycle and the Stages of the Business Cycle

This book offers a unique contribution to the fields of public relations and entertainment studies. The public relations cycle is a pattern that the author, a seasoned insider, recognized from her 20 years of public relations work in entertainment. Each entertainment industry’s public relations cycle connects public relations objectives, strategies, and tactics to benchmarks in product development and/or with a recurring calendar of industry events such as major trade fairs, seasons, or stages of a product’s development, production, and distribution.

The cycles are different in each part of the entertainment business. In many cases, the cycle is based on the stages of product creation and release, which usually are: development; production; post-production; and distribution (often known in the entertainment business as a premiere). During each stage, the public relations objectives, media targets, target audience, tactics, and tools are different. As one example, during development, the PR objective is industry visibility. Therefore, the target audiences are industry insiders and product fans; the media targets are the trade press; and the main tactics and tools are trade news releases and trade events.

Jobs in Entertainment PR

Jobs in entertainment range from product publicity to corporate communications. In the entertainment industry, most practitioners are hired to take advantage of opportunities. ← 6 | 7 →

Figure 1.1: Typical stages of the entertainment PR cycle.

Personal Publicist

The job most readers will have seen glamorized on reality television is the personal publicist, who represents an actor, director, musician, or celebrity as an individual. The work, which is discussed in greater depth in Chapter 4, includes escorting a client on the red carpet to secure interviews by the most important broadcasters.

The discussion of personal publicity also introduces the concept of the celebrity PR image-repair cycle, which is discussed in more detail in the SIDEBAR in Chapter 6. In this cycle, a celebrity’s missteps with a DUI arrest, addiction, accident, or offensive comment necessitate a careful public relations program of reputation rehabilitation, i.e., solving a problem for the client.

For example, the movie Hancock (2008) stars Will Smith as Hancock, a fallen superhero with a drinking problem and a bad attitude. In the film, a public relations practitioner played by Jason Bateman guides Hancock through a basic celebrity PR image-repair cycle: issuing a press statement with an apology to fans; disappearing from the public eye; and reemerging into the ← 7 | 8 → spotlight as a chastened and changed person capable of an immediate success. Most of the cycle is clear in the movie trailer for Hancock, which is available on IMDb.com, the Internet movie database, a well-respected entertainment industry wiki. The celebrity PR crisis cycle is discussed in more detail toward the end of Chapter 6, along with the elements of a press statement, which a practitioner issues in crises and other negative situations to be used as a comment by journalists requesting information.

Product publicity

Less visible product publicity jobs include those at major media companies in publicity, promotion, or marketing departments. The publicists represent entertainment products such as a film; a television show; a music album; a special event; a sporting event, team, league, or venue; a digital content provider such as Netflix; an entertainment website; or a tourism-related business. Additional job functions at major media companies include production publicist for films, called unit publicist at film studios (Chapter 7); for television networks (Chapter 5); and for TV syndication companies (Chapter 6).

Corporate communications

Like all major companies, media companies also have corporate communications departments that handle PR opportunities such as: corporate image, for example Disneyland’s strong anniversary campaigns; business relations; community relations; and charity outreach or philanthropy. The corporate communications staff often also handles certain employee-relations duties including internal newsletters and communications; information distribution; and morale and loyalty initiatives such as employee-training events and social events, for example, the company holiday party.

“Corporate” also often handles PR problems. The chief communications officer (CCO) usually oversees crisis communications in consultation with the CEO, the head of legal, and often a specialty, outside crisis agency, such as Sitrick and Company. Examples of crises in entertainment include any death or serious injury on a film set; the mass shooting on opening night in a crowded movie theater showing the Warner Bros. Batman sequel; and the January 12, 2012, capsizing of the cruise ship Costa Concordia. Not only was there a tragic loss of life when the boat went aground, but the ship was not salvaged until September 17, 2013. The damaged ship lay near shore in plain ← 8 | 9 → sight for almost a year and a half. Photographs and video in the media continually reminded travelers of the potential dangers of cruising, so the incident became an ongoing crisis for the entire industry, not just Costa.

Staff publicity jobs

Most media companies have a core of full-time PR people on staff. Young hires start as assistants, because that is where they learn the players, the press, and the main strategies for their part of the industry, before becoming promotable into more responsible and strategic positions. In the film business, a publicist can work for the production company, the studio, or the distributor. Responsibilities can be for one or more specific films, or for an entire slate of films. In television, a publicist can work as a production publicist for a producer. At a network, a publicist might be responsible for several specific shows, the entire prime-time lineup, or the launch of the new fall season.

Numerous other kinds of entertainment companies hire PR staff and/or retain PR agencies to generate audiences for their entertainment products. Record companies use PR for an album or an artist. Producers of live events need to create awareness and excitement to sell tickets to a tour date or a fund-raising event. In sports, public relations people work for the league, the team, or the venue.

In the fields of travel, tourism, and theme parks, public relations is done by hundreds of destination companies, such as Disneyland, and by various business consortia such as local, regional, and state tourist bureaus. Cruise lines typically market heavily with direct-mail brochures to past customers; they also create high-profile special events to celebrate the launch of a new ship.

The senior in-house publicity staffers at entertainment and media companies usually do the most sensitive work, such as pitching feature stories to important and influential media, for example, The New York Times. For implementing the rest of the PR and marketing plan, the core staffers usually work with and oversee outside contractors.

PR agencies

Contractors include entertainment PR agencies, the oldest of which is Rogers & Cowan. Agencies may be broad, or they may specialize in only one area, such as film, television, personal publicity, or crisis management. ← 9 | 10 →

Some agencies handle only PR and some handle advertising as well. The term strategic communications means the combination of public relations and advertising with one team covering both. In entertainment, however, each of the areas is typically so complex and specialized that the work is done by separate teams, perhaps under a president or senior vice president of publicity or marketing.

Entertainment PR subsidiaries of large advertising/communications companies include BWR (formerly Baker Winokur Ryder), with offices in Los Angeles and New York. BWR is part of Ogilvy PR Worldwide, which in turn is part of WPP Communications, a global advertising and public relations agency with more than two thousand offices. Other PR agencies consist of only a few specialists, such as executive speechwriters or crisis communications experts. The field also includes numerous smaller PR firms nationwide that work on campaigns for local entertainment companies and do local campaigns and events for the major media companies.

A public relations agency may hire a junior staffer and initially assign work on several small to medium-sized accounts. Thereby, a junior publicist can quickly gain a broad understanding of a number of companies in a wide swath of the entertainment business. More importantly, the major media companies often look to their agencies for talented up-and-comers to hire when a staff position opens. An agency of record will usually agree to allow its well-trained talent to be poached by a major client, which helps solidify the agency-client relationship.

In addition to the large and small PR agencies, the entertainment business has a number of freelance generalists and specialists who can be retained for short-term projects such as special events.

Professional advancement

To succeed in any public relations specialty, entry-level job candidates should be able to write, pitch, and research, meaning “someone who is good at finding and analyzing information,” according to a 2015 survey of PR agencies. Additionally, the agencies desired that a new hire be an articulate, motivated, strategic thinker and team player, who is “client centric.” The candidate should also understand social media and PR practices, as well as marketing and business basics (Bates, 2015).

Within entertainment public relations, especially with agency work, people change jobs frequently, moving up the ranks in responsibility and title. ← 10 | 11 → Upward mobility is enhanced by keeping in touch and by being part of industry organizations, such as EPPS, or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose current president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, started as a publicist and became the first African-American woman to head the organization.

People in entertainment publicity keep current on job openings and individuals’ availabilities, so they know whom they can hire quickly or recommend to a friend who needs to staff up for a busy period or an increased workload. Because of urgency and deadlines, as well as the need to “know the work” and trust new hires, many jobs are filled without being posted. For speed, some legitimate PR jobs are posted on Craig’s List and filled within a couple of days. A job seeker, however, should carefully research a PR company’s website and office location. A number of legitimate PR agencies are actually run out of the principal’s house, but the interview should be in a safe, public place, such as the ever-popular local Starbucks.

Overview of jobs

Company staff positions allow a publicist to become a specialist in one part of entertainment. Staff positions are the most secure of the jobs discussed above, because they offer ongoing employment and benefits. Jobs at PR agencies, on the other hand, allow a publicist to develop a range of experience and skills, and full-time agency jobs also offer benefits. Agency jobs, however, depend on the agency keeping the client happy and retaining the account. Sometimes at an agency, it is better to work on several clients, in case one big client puts its account under review. The television series Mad Men made great drama for many seasons out of an advertising agency’s need to keep current clients and woo new ones.

Independent or freelance publicists have the challenge of always finding new projects with clients who can afford to pay (and who actually will pay) for the work. The big advantage of being freelance or starting your own PR firm with one or two other experienced people is flexibility, especially for practitioners who want to be present in their young children’s busy lives.

Entertainment Media Relations

The media are those in the middle, the go-betweens and technologies used by public relations practitioners to convey messages to entertainment audiences. ← 11 | 12 → Traditionally, media relations—working with the press—has been the single most important work of entertainment PR. The goal of media relations is to get non-paid messages to the audience in the form of news articles based on press releases; feature stories and profiles based on exclusive pitches to individual journalists; byline opinion pieces; and calendar listings, among others. Without good relationships with journalists and editors, the PR person used to have no inexpensive way to get the client’s story to the audience. Media coverage has the extra advantage of what is called third-party endorsement. Because the story has been reported and thereby vetted by journalists and editors, the audience believes it is more likely to be reliable and trustworthy than advertising content. PR uses media relations to augment the number, variety, and ubiquity of messages to the audience beyond what can be paid for by the advertising budget.

Digital alternatives

Up until recently, alternatives to media placements have been expensive. Print advertisements, television commercials (created and placed by the advertising department and the outside ad agency), client brochures, and printed newsletters have all been big-budget costs. The good news now is that digital technology has slashed the cost of creating and distributing newsletters, brochures, and even ads. “Printed” materials need never be printed! They can be created and distributed digitally. “Direct mail” need never be mailed! The brochure can be available on the client website and/or emailed to targeted distribution lists. “Theatrical trailers” aren’t just limited to theaters! The “premiere” of a trailer can be teased, posted, and commented about on a client website, featured on IMDb, available on YouTube, and “liked” on Facebook. Using the multiplicity of digital media to achieve public relations objectives is covered in detail in all of the following chapters.

Despite the multitude of company-created messages available on the Internet, however, third-party endorsements through media placements are still important. Nothing has replaced the impact and prestige of a cover story about your client in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday.

Providing News for the Journalist’s Audience

In order to generate media placements, a publicist must have a relevant entertainment press/media list and keep it updated, because journalists and editors ← 12 | 13 → move from job to job and from one beat to another. Important media include: the Hollywood entertainment trades and websites; the entertainment business press; consumer publications that cover entertainment, such as the entertainment sections of major newspapers and magazines, both in print and on line; local and national broadcast media; and for industry issues, controversies, and legislation, the opinion-maker media.

Media distribution lists should target the specific reporter on the specific entertainment beat, for example, the television reporter; and publicists should not send news releases or pitch features to people who are exclusively critics.

Journalists and media outlets know their readership or viewership and create content that is news (information that is new and of interest) to that specific audience. Therefore, a PR person must know the specifics such as demographics, psychographics, and geographics of the audience each media outlet reaches. When a medium’s target audience matches a publicist’s desired audience, the publicist can make a successful media placement. If there is a match between the story and a journalist’s readership, she will be interested in a news release or pitch. Journalists become annoyed if they are spammed with news releases that aren’t relevant to their beat or work assignment and ones irrelevant to their audience.


XIV, 316
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (July)
Entertainment Public Relations Public Relations Entertainment Communications Entertainment Marketing PR Movie Publicity Television Publicity Music Publicity Tourism Marketing
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XIV, 316 pp.

Biographical notes

Carol Ames (Author)

Carol Ames (Ph.D., SUNY Buffalo) is Associate Professor of Communications at California State University, Fullerton. After working for more than 20 years in entertainment corporate communications and publicity, she now teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in public relations, entertainment, audience studies, and communications projects. She is the co-author of The Public Relations Writer’s Handbook: The Digital Age (2007).


Title: Entertainment Public Relations
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332 pages