THE PUBLICIST: PR pros bridge the message and the money in Hollywood

Waste another day lounging around watching football? Or attend a publicity seminar to better my skills and glean something worthwhile for this column? For a dedicated pro like me, it was an easy call. But just as I got up to grab a beer and some Cheetos (8am is not too early for Cheetos, by the way) the damn cable went out. Disheartened by this unwelcome omen, I grabbed some notepaper and made my way to the Television Academy in North Hollywood. Nourished by complimentary Krispy Kreme donuts, I settled in like an eager schoolboy to learn some new tricks of the trade.

Waste another day lounging around watching football? Or attend a publicity seminar to better my skills and glean something worthwhile for this column? For a dedicated pro like me, it was an easy call. But just as I got up to grab a beer and some Cheetos (8am is not too early for Cheetos, by the way) the damn cable went out. Disheartened by this unwelcome omen, I grabbed some notepaper and made my way to the Television Academy in North Hollywood. Nourished by complimentary Krispy Kreme donuts, I settled in like an eager schoolboy to learn some new tricks of the trade.

The program was sponsored by UCLA Extension and the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society. I've considered joining the latter, but am uncomfortable with the word "professional." Call it the "Entertainment Publicists Wearing Black At All Times Society," and I'll gladly pay a year's dues in advance. The first lecture was from the publisher of Variety, Charles Koones. It was interesting. No other titles have as much direct contact with Hollywood publicists as do Variety and fellow trade The Hollywood Reporter. Both are read pretty much only in Hollywood, but by everyone in Hollywood, so it's all egos. Studio execs and big-shot producers don't like seeing counterparts get more ink than they do. More stories than those trades would care to admit emanate entirely from publicists. Indeed, Koones says, we live in the "era of the publicist." (Remember that next time someone dismisses what you do. He didn't say we live in the era of the molecular biologist, did he now?) "The crafter of the message sits center stage because there is a clear line between the message and the money," Koones contends. True. Stock prices and corporate fortunes hinge on buzz and perceptions. Next, CBS publicity did a great case study on the mega-success of Survivor followed by a New Line Home Entertainment presentation on the rollout of The Lord of the Rings DVD. I must confess, the first time I heard of the Fine Living Network was when its president took the stage to state how their PR drive has generated broad awareness. How did they miss me? Though former Paramount Pictures marketing president Arthur Cohen disappointed ("Only four minutes of a movie need to work"), NBC's case study of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was a gay old time. Tell you about that interesting campaign next week.
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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