The Publicist:

Entertainment PR pros could benefit from a History lesson

Entertainment PR pros could benefit from a History lesson

Time is measured in nanoseconds. Yesterday's a blur. Last week forgotten. Life didn't exist 50 years ago. So why is The History Channel enjoying a banner year? It appears some TV viewers are actually taking an interest in events that took place before cell phones and MTV. It's "reality TV - old school," says Lynn Gardner, the channel's public affairs head. "Our ratings and brand perception attest to the fact that history matters." Gardner and her three-person staff handle PR for programming, public affairs, and events. They are "masters at prioritizing. Our strength lies in good old-fashioned hard work. We develop tailored campaigns, no two are alike, and nothing is ever cookie-cut." Importance is placed on well-written, visually enhanced press kits, like the one for the upcoming premiere of First Invasion: The War of 1812. (The cover is so cool, I use it as cigar box. Um, now I need cigars.) The network's 14 Emmy nominations are a benchmark of its strong connection with critics - and the PR staff has a similar program to measure its own effectiveness. "At the end of a campaign, we conduct a media audit to gain greater insight into its success. All our network campaigns have an integrated look, position, and message." Gardner, who joined the network three years ago and has been with NBC and The Lippin Group, notes that documentaries differ from entertainment programs in that they have a more fragmented shooting schedule. Her team handles unit publicity in-house, working with producers to determine key shots and potential set-ups for photos. "We often use celebrities to do wraps and interstitials," she says. "In those cases, we typically have a publicist cover the photo session and bring press to set. We begin meetings on major specials months in advance so the company is up-to-speed on every aspect of production, enabling us to customize our campaigns and secure the assets we need." What a luxury. If I had a nickel for every time I showed up as a publicist and had a producer ask, "Now, what do you do exactly?" I look forward to 1812. As a history major, I was once expert on the subject. Today I can't recall who fought it. I think it was us and someone from Europe. The press kit says England. It was an interesting war - displaying our country's propensity for picking a fight even if outmatched. It's high time it got some publicity. Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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