E-mail lists help independent publicists connect

In this era of multinational holding companies and global networks, it can be a challenge for unaffiliated entertainment agencies and independent publicists to compete.

In this era of multinational holding companies and global networks, it can be a challenge for unaffiliated entertainment agencies and independent publicists to compete.

While many boutique firms offer specialized expertise in areas ranging from music to film to fashion, they're often run by small, high-level teams - and have no formal interagency partnerships.

More and more, however, clients are turning to these firms to assist in their outreach efforts, says Doris Bergman, West Coast director for Glam Entertainment Public Relations. "They don't have big overhead, which keeps prices down," she says. "And they can offer personal, senior-level attention."

But to compete against the BWRs and BNCs of the world, Bergman says, independent firms must create their own networks for sharing information and contacts.

One surprisingly simple network many publicists rely on is an e-mail listserv, where they can provide information and ask their colleagues questions, says John Tellem, head of entertainment PR at LA-based Tellem Worldwide.

One of these lists, launched several years ago by independent music publicist Jim Walsh of Coppertop Publicity, generates about 50 e-mails every day.

One way it helps entertainment publicists is as a "scammers' alert," Tellem says, by calling out "people who pose as media, request product or concert tickets, and then don't write [articles]." It's also alerted PR pros to difficult clients or those who haven't paid bills.

"As an indie PR company, the most important thing you have are your contacts," says Versa Manos, principal at LA-based Gorgeous PR. She relies on the e-mail list to "get information about what [media contacts] are doing and where they've gone" and to locate freelancers in areas where her clients will be appearing.

Via the list, Manos says, publicists also share the "more human side" of PR, by posting news and comments about campaign successes - and sometimes even mistakes from which everyone can learn.

"People seem to have this misperception that because the number of outlets is shrinking, publicists are a bloodthirsty mob competing for one another's jobs," says Regina Joskow, publicity VP at New York-based Verve Music Group.

In truth, she says, the e-mail community is "an invaluable resource, a real time-saver" for everything from media contacts to "something as simple as [passing along] an out-of-office message."

Immediately, 200 to 300 publicists have the information, Joskow says, saving "a million phone calls."

And the list has proven helpful beyond media contacts. Tellem and Joskow both say they've used it to secure last-minute talent suggestions - from 3,000 miles away. When she heard that Etta James was scheduled to record in LA - that night - Joskow needed a photographer fast. So she used the list.

In no time at all, she says, "I had 10 suggestions for photographers. It was lined up within the hour." Joskow has had similar experiences finding colleague-trusted makeup artists and stylists.

"As the so-called information superhighway grows, [it can be] tougher to get accurate information from real people," she says.

Glam Entertainment's Bergman agrees: "In sharing information, it helps all of us to achieve a common goal: to promote our clients."

Key points:

To compete with multinationals, independent firms must create their own networks for sharing information and contacts

One way is with the help of an active e-mail list

In addition to requesting assistance, PR pros use the list as an online community

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