DIARY: Tales from Tinseltown - More personal publicists spoil the purpose of public relations

A personal publicist used to be a luxury enjoyed by a handful of top stars and directors. Now, every jobbing actor - not to mention producer and executive - seems to have one at his beck and call. Along with stock options, cappuccino-fetching assistants and fresh-cut flowers in the office, a publicist is a standard-issue item that today’s Hollywood high-fliers expect as a matter of course.

A personal publicist used to be a luxury enjoyed by a handful of top stars and directors. Now, every jobbing actor - not to mention producer and executive - seems to have one at his beck and call. Along with stock options, cappuccino-fetching assistants and fresh-cut flowers in the office, a publicist is a standard-issue item that today’s Hollywood high-fliers expect as a matter of course.

A personal publicist used to be a luxury enjoyed by a handful of

top stars and directors. Now, every jobbing actor - not to mention

producer and executive - seems to have one at his beck and call. Along

with stock options, cappuccino-fetching assistants and fresh-cut flowers

in the office, a publicist is a standard-issue item that today’s

Hollywood high-fliers expect as a matter of course.



The good news is that it means plenty of work for the public relations

industry. The bad news is that better publicity is not borne out of

groups of competing publicists - it irritates journalists and frequently

backfires on clients.



By far the biggest problem caused by this surge of activity is the

multitude of publicists commonly working on major press announcements.

Each of them is answerable to his/her client; few of them actually

communicate with each other.



Just last week, I was involved in a story of how two filmmakers -

director Stephen Herek and producer Toby Jaffe - were setting up a new

production company at New Line Cinema. Herek was represented by PMK,

Jaffe by Rogers & Cowan (they could at least have chosen different reps

at the same agency).



Yet neither of these agencies was authorized to make the announcement -

that was the sole perogative of a third publicist at New Line.



Naturally, PMK decided to go exclusively with its story to The Hollywood

Reporter - without informing either Rogers & Cowan or New Line, who were

already working with Variety.



Three dueling publicists pushing the same story clearly doesn’t make

sense. There was no need for any personal publicists at all in this

case.



Let the pros at New Line handle it - they’ve done it a thousand times

before, and could use their greater leverage to get better placement

than the agencies.



Neither is it clear how the agencies are benefiting. By entering into

such a messy situation, they risk alienating the media and getting the

blame when something goes wrong. It would be better to turn down a

small, one-off job such as this and fight to get the bigger corporate

account. Presumably, that is exactly what both agencies have in

mind.



The announcement may have been a test run for Herek and Jaffe to see

which publicist did a better job. But as of presstime, neither has

succeeded.



While Rogers & Cowan sent out a letter announcing that they have signed

Jaffe as a client, no mention was made of the new production

company.



In the long run, Herek and Jaffe will undoubtedly need independent PR

representation. And once they have something to shout about, they can

hire a chorus. All they have to do is make sure that everyone sings in

unison.



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