A publicist’s day by PJ Nunn

PJSometimes when I see someone’s tweet, I wonder what their day is like. So when I knew I needed to get a new blog up and quick, I thought maybe that would be a fair topic for me. I’m a lot of things on a given day, but I am never bored. Multi-tasking doesn’t even begin to cover it.

My Master’s degree is in psychology with a side order of criminology. If you went over my resume or CV you’d guess I was at least 100 years old. I’m not. I was a counselor/law enforcement consultant/teacher/administrator for years. Actually I still am those things occasionally. But as it so often does, life intervened, one of my children became seriously ill and I had to change my plans. I needed to work from home, so I turned to writing and did fairly well as a freelance writer, particularly on topics of abnormal psychology/criminology. However, the freelance field was feast or famine and I needed an income that was slightly more dependable than that. So on the basis of a favor for an author friend, BreakThrough Promotions was born and I added “publicist” to my list.

I say all that to let you know that I didn’t get here on a traditional path and my MBA isn’t in business or marketing.  Sometimes, when I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtalk to other PR professionals, I don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.  I used to worry about that but I don’t anymore. First, because I’ve had a few well known publicists call me over the years to find out how I pitched a particular story or client and got coverage that they couldn’t get. Secondly because I’ve learned that my clients don’t care if I know all the catch-phrases. They just care if I can get the job done. And usually I can. So the day I talk about might not fit your publicist (or your day if you’re a publicist) but we can all have our own kinds of days, right?

cup_of_coffeeI’m not a morning person. If you know me well, you can attest that you’ve gotten emails from me that are stamped in the wee hours. I love the night when it’s quiet in my house. My creative juices are flowing at that time. Never expect me to be at my best before nine. Because of that, I work late and I sleep late. I plan to be, and usually am, at my desk by 10 a.m. I scan my emails to see if anything marked URGENT popped in while I was sleeping. If not, I turn to my phone list to see what is on my “immediate” list, then start with the east coast calls. That’s a typical beginning.

If you want the atypical, I probably got wakened at 6 a.m. by a frantic producer who scheduled one of my authors for an interview and early_morning_wake-up_callthey didn’t call OR maybe by a guest booker who wanted to get an early start on the day by returning my phone call from last week. Those guys (nongender specific) don’t keep office hours. Probably they don’t even wear a watch or pay attention to the time on their phones. This is why, as a good publicist, I charge my phone on the nightstand beside my bed and have even been known (on desperate days) to carry it with me to the bathroom. That information should really increase my Klout score. If you call me and I don’t answer my phone, it’s probably because I’m already on it.

If I haven’t been interrupted too many times by miscellaneous calls and urgent (questionable) emails, I might be through that list by 1 or 2 p.m.  Interruptions are inevitable, though, and may include but are not limited to:

  • A quick glance at a rough jpg for a new cover
  • A quick argument with the author that the font for the author’s name is much too small
  • A pause to send a manuscript to an author who’s agreed to do a blurb for a new release coming several months down the road
  • A call from a radio host whose show has been pre-empted by local news wanting to schedule a new date
  • A call from a tv host whose copy of the author’s book has grown legs and walked away and he needs a jpg sent to production so they’ll have something to show during the interview
  • A callback from a journalist I’ve been trying to catch who wanted to let me know he’s decided to go another way with his article, but thanks anyway. Remind me that networking matters.
  • A quick pause to check my Twitter feed and see what I’ve missed
  • Another pause to check my Facebook for the same reason
  • A phone call to interrupt my checking from another host who is concerned he hasn’t received the book I sent last week

I just realized that it’s silly to call these things interruptions. They don’t interrupt my work. They are my work. They interrupt the rhythm. So I go back to the next item on my list and double check my upcoming scheduled events to see if I need to send any confirmation packages out. Once that’s done, I go to my calendar to see which clients are scheduled for particular attention this day. Since I have a good list of clients and they’re at all stages of pre/post release, I make sure everyone gets the appropriate time from me each month, although the amount of followup time can vary from one to another.

I usually spend 3 – 5 hours a day in this zone. I don’t answer the phone unless it’s urgent or I have an appointment, and when I’m working on a particular client, that campaign has my undivided attention. This happens later in the day when things are a lot quieter and I’m really starting to enter that creative place. I pull up the client’s campaign that we’ve laid out and compare it with his or her schedule, then determine which contacts I’ve made for him/her that haven’t confirmed anything yet and what new contacts need to be made.

dallas_morning_news_logoDepending on what I’m trying to accomplish, I’ll need to create a pitch and/or press release that speaks directly to the market. For instance, if I want to get additional newspaper coverage, I either need to arrange an event or take advantage of an event the client is already planning to attend in the area OR I need to find a newsworthy hook that could be turned into an article. Once I’ve decided which of those has the best chance of success, I have to write it because even though I’ll do my best to make the pitch by phone they’ll want a followup email/press release/promo kit/something. Besides, I make a better oral pitch once I’ve written it out.

If I’m pitching an appearance on a television show in a larger market, I have to do more than that. I have to know the show (thus the The-Chew-Logolate night tv viewing that I’ve set to record during the day) and be able to envision my client in a segment on the show. I have to learn who the best segment producer is and find his or her contact info, and I have to write a pitch for the segment, including any other guest experts that might help sell the idea. I used to balk at this, feeling like I was doing my job and theirs too, but if you want to get it done, this is the best way, at least until you have a good relationship with that producer and know how they like to work. If any of you other publicists know better, I’d sure love to hear it!

By the time that part of my day winds down, I’m usually tired but a little reluctant to stop. I think it’s what I enjoy most. I love my clients. I enjoy taking their work and examining it and trying to find ways to get it the attention they want to see. There’s a lot of satisfaction for me in that. Of course I can’t always do what they want, and I’m not always successful at getting what I want to see. But I think the successes are plentiful enough to outnumber the failures. And I remind myself as well as them that rejections in this business are not personal. They just happen.

Late at night, when my house is asleep and I’ve finished watching The Chew or Rachael Ray or Ellen or whatever I’m pitching at the time, I kind of wind down but my mind is always working. Like I said, I’m more creative at night so sometimes ideas I’m not even actively looking for pop up out of nowhere. I make a point to read a little while after I turn off the television, but even after I put down the book, many nights as I’m drifting off to sleep I grab the phone beside my bed and email myself a note with an idea for a pitch so I won’t forget by morning.

RC_fav_smallWhen I started reading Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole novels, I loved the idea of him being World’s Greatest Detective and thought maybe I should aspire to being the World’s Greatest Publicist. I’m not of course, any more than Elvis is, but I share his enthusiasm for my job. I just love what I do. So even on the days when things seem more wrong than right, a publicist’s day – to me – is a good day.

How’s your day?

4 thoughts on “A publicist’s day by PJ Nunn

  1. This sounds more like a week instead of a day!

  2. Very informative. I’ve always wondered what kept publicists busy. I suppose you investigate niche marketing/advertising too. I can see where your days are filled and phone constantly ringing. Thanks for the info. I’m a subscriber to your blog but usually don’t comment.

    I always wanted to be a publicist but now I’m too old to enjoy being so busy. 😉 I wonder, Is there an organization for publicists to join–one that looks out for their rights, trains, shares information with them? Again, thanks for an informative post.

  3. radine says:

    Great to hear about your day, my friend. Reminds me of Eleanor Roosevelt’s column–I think it was called “My Day.” And, terrific blog idea for, I suspect, all of us here! Thanks.

  4. EARL STAGGS says:

    Patti, you need a hobby to fill those empty hours in your day. Knitting or crocheting, for instance. Or crossword puzzles. Just kidding, of course. I don’t know how you do it all.

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