Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The invisible publicist

The press should always be about the client, never about the publicist. The closest a publicist should get into a story is as a spokesperson, and that's only if warranted. Otherwise, you stay invisible.

Yet, some publicists can't seem to put their ego in check and get carried away once an opportunity presents itself.

Something deep inside them is convincing them to be a "celebrity publicist," without realizing that the last thing a client wants is their publicist stealing the spotlight. They believe that somehow if they become part of the story, some buzz and perhaps business will rub off on them.

Very, very few PR people are larger than their clients, and mostly it's just by reputation and longevity (i.e. Howard Rubenstein). Ideally, they don't seek the attention, it just comes naturally out of respect, not notoriety.

When egos bust out of control, there's a little empire building that goes on. Usually that leads to lying because you're doing what you want to do, and it may not be in the best interests of the client. As I said in an earlier post, Michael Sitrick says the number one sin for a publicist to do is lie. If you keep lying, you end up on Gawker's list of the "most lying flacks." In this era of transparency and the media calling out publicists for their sins, the last thing you want to do is lie or become the story because they'll hang you for it.

So when do you know when your ego is crossing over the line?

Exhibit A: The first paragraph of a press release that was issued today by the Florida-based Publicity Agency, which has already drawn some fire for its nonsensical "non news" press release about the fact that it had a Twitter stream. Currently, they handle Illinois Governor Rod Blogojevich, one of the most red hot national news figures this week, who has been on a whirlwind media tour while his impeachment trial is going on.

Here is the very first paragraph of the release:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich will go to Springfield tomorrow to present his case to Illinois senators preparing to impeach him, according to The Publicity Agency, the outside PR/publicity firm hired by the governor.

Statements like this are why publicists are berated and made fun of. The sentence is great until the part after the comma, which is basically the firm's non-subtle advertisement for itself. Their client is fighting for his political life and the governor's public relations agency is not subtly saying between the lines: "Hey, look who is paying us to represent him! You should hire us too!"

Here's what else is so wrong with this sentence:
  • The governor is going to Springfield, so he should be making his announcement. This is his career, his decision.
  • Because you're "outside," does that mean your offices are literally on the sidewalk of Gunn Highway in Odessa, Florida? Doesn't it get kind of noisy there conducting your business outside?
  • You are both a PR firm and publicity firm? Can you please explain the difference because we didn't know who you were issuing this release and frankly, what else could you be?

1 comment:

emjay said...

This is a hilarious post!!

Can you even believe Blago's agency! ahah

Thanks a lot.. Loved the Flack List too!