The Publicist:

Even top-dog agencies need to be mindful of their manners

Even top-dog agencies need to be mindful of their manners

The huge wave that rocked the big pond of PR agency PMK when Tom Cruise jumped ship has since been followed by some sizable swells.

Leslee Dart, one of the firm's longtime stalwarts, left abruptly last year after a fallout with founder Pat Kingsley, who perhaps was still reeling from the Cruise bruise. Adding insult to injury, Dart recently announced the formation of a new agency whose partners include another PMK defector, Robert Garlock, who bolted as suddenly as Dart. His seat was still warm when the press announcement hit the wire. Hope the door hinges are well-oiled at PMK's New York office.

I've dealt with many of the publicists at PMK over the years (including Garlock, on a Johnny Depp film). It's virtually impossible to be on a major movie that doesn't star at least one actor they represent. In fact, the last two projects I've done involved working with PMK publicists. Some I like, some I don't. But things do get done there. An unmistakable aura surrounds the place, perhaps stemming from the confidence of being the top dog. When I worked at Rogers & Cowan in the mid-'90s, it seemed we could give them a run for their money. R&C's Paul Bloch and Alan Neirob held the banner high with such clients as Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, and Denzel Washington. But since PMK's merger with HBH, the new entity has be-come the unchallenged titan of entertainment publicity.

Says a publicist at a rival firm, also referred to by its initials, "For the most part, [PMK publicists] reflect the personality of Kingsley - aggressive, on-the-ball, determined. Some of them lack a good bedside manner, however, which is how you accumulate detractors."

I'll second that. One of their best-known publicists, whom I just dealt with, has all the charm of Dr. Kevorkian. Sweet as pie, of course, to the media and her clients. Saves her frustration for encounters with unit publicists and studio interns. She can get virtually any journalist on the line, but I imagine more than a few of them wouldn't mind hanging her out to dry on one.

So if I might offer a little advice to PMK: A little sugar to make the medicine go down wouldn't be amiss. Take time for "How the hell are ya?" before you get down to the nitty gritty. A little civility goes a long way. You're in the PR business, after all.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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