DIARY: Tales from Tinseltown - When there’s change in studio guard, publicists better beware

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.

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

number-crunching.



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

situation.



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.



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