As every seasoned Hollywood observer knows, the key to survival at a movie studio is being on the winning team - no matter who the captain is. It’s an adage that not only requires foresight, but also the ability to switch allegiances at the drop of a hat.
As every seasoned Hollywood observer knows, the key to survival at
a movie studio is being on the winning team - no matter who the captain
is. It’s an adage that not only requires foresight, but also the ability
to switch allegiances at the drop of a hat.
This, of course, puts publicists in a particularly tough spot. They
often strike up closer ties with their bosses than other executives.
They are publicly identified with them in the press. And, as it is hard
to tell whether an executive and publicist are going to bond, incoming
managers often bring in their own people.
Such a scenario might unfold at Warner Bros., where Bob Daly and Terry
Semel have quit after running the studio for 20 years. Observers believe
that the new chiefs, Barry Meyer and Alan Horn, will abandon Daly and
Semel’s old-school management style in favor of corporate
That could spell trouble for execs in Warners’ marketing and publicity
department, some of whom have been at the studio even longer than Daly
and Semel. Conversely, it could be good news for others, including
Barbara Brogliatti, the studio’s executive vice president of corporate
communications.She is well known to Horn and close to Meyer due to her
tenure in Warners’ television division.
Hollywood history is dotted with the graveyards of publicists who either
didn’t foresee change, or failed to adapt to it. In many cases, there
was nothing they could do - they were merely casualties of the
For example, in the wake of John Calley’s appointment as chairman of
Sony Pictures last year, both Bruce Reddit and Peter Wilkes, publicity
vets with the company since the mid-1980s, departed the studio. Calley,
who wanted to hire his own team, re-organized the department and brought
in outsiders Barbara Dixon and Jerry Giaquinta. Similar shifts have
occurred at other studios.
PR pros are tempting targets because they are easy to blame for the
failures of the previous administration. So what, if anything, can they
do to avoid being made the scapegoat? First, and this is probably easier
said than done, they must ensure that they are indispensable to the
company’s day-to-day operations. Second, they need to ingratiate
themselves with the new managers - if they don’t already know them.
But their secret weapon in this conundrum is artfully simple:
connections with the media. This is the time to call in a favor with
those pals in the press. Find a crisis to diffuse (and be sure to
diffuse it), or at least an important story to place.
Some publicists, alas, stumble at the first hurdle by failing to get
decent coverage for their new boss’ appointment. Those that don’t,
however, will last for 1,000 years. Unlike their boss.