The celebrity business has expanded in proportion with the public interest and media coverage it garners. Entertainment PR firms, in their attempts to stay ahead of the curve, have introduced new practices to deal with the communications issues their clients face from traditional media, the blogosphere, and citizen journalists.
“We really look at ourselves as image architects or brand managers for the talent,” says Nate Schreiber, president of PMK/HBH, which works with actors like Johnny Depp. “And if you start looking at it that way, we see a lot of different areas that we could take that discipline and expand.”
For the past year, PMK/HBH has been using a new division to aggressively move into the sports arena.
“You start to see a lot of similarities to the sports market that you saw in Hollywood 30 years ago, in terms of athletes looking to take more control of their image,” Schreiber says.
But across entertainment, the major expansion is online, where celebrities, TV shows, and movies can work to build their brand, interact with fans, and even create and distribute content.
“It's not so easy to drop a client, whether it's a TV show or personality, into a handful of media outlets and expect that they are going to reach 100% of the consumers we need to reach,” says Michael Nyman, chairman and CEO of BNC.
ID PR has introduced a new emerging platforms practice area, which utilizes new online tools and services. It has helped bring in new clients, says Mara Buxbaum, COO of the agency, as well as enhanced the PR programs for existing ones.
“Everyone is wrestling with how to make the most of the new platforms that are out there,” she adds. “PR is no exception.”
Mark Pogachefsky, co-president of mPRm, notes that his firm also recently started a practice focusing on online and viral PR and marketing, sPRread Solutions. He says it is all about breaking down silos internally to get experts in several practice areas to work together on different aspects of a campaign.
“You have to understand that there is theatrical, there is home, there is online,” Pogachefsky says of all the different areas where PR can play a role. “We're trying to help out cross-practice.”
The current labor dispute between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has been top of mind in 2009, prompting entertainment agencies to learn more about labor issues.
While PR firms aren't directly involved in negotiations, they often advise clients on issues such as whether or not an actor would be crossing picket lines to promote an upcoming project.
“For our actor clients, it's one thing. For our producer and writer clients, it's another,” Buxbaum says. “Our job is to understand the issues that exist on all sides and make sure that we're advising our clients properly so they can make informed decisions.
Hollywood PR firms are forming new departments in response to a constantly changing landscape
These departments help utilize online tools better and can be used across the agency for various clients
With more labor issues, entertainment PR firms must stay on top of news to better inform clients