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How Does an Entertainment Publicist Handle PR During a Global Crisis?

Illustration for article titled How Does an Entertainment Publicist Handle PR During a Global Crisis?
Image: Getty/Instagram

During the first full week of self-isolation, Cardi B leaned into her cabin fever, posting a series of Instagram Live dispatches. Other than inspiring an addictive coronavirus song (“Coronavirus/shit is real”), she inadvertently provided the best PR for social distancing. Other celebs have acted similarly. Lizzo played the flute, lit some incense and made up a mantra for her Instagram followers. Charli XCX kept a detailed quarantine diary. Gal Gadot and her famous friends sang “Imagine.” In fact, every musician ever has performed a remote concert, including Backstreet Boys with a charming rendition of “I Want It That Way.”

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Concerts and film productions have been canceled, talk shows are adjusting to at-home formats, and magazines are confronting a reality without photoshoots, forcing stars—and their publicists—to adapt. While their clients are running wild on various platforms, what are PR companies doing right now? And what about lower-profile entertainers? Below, a few professionals explain how their work has changed in the past few weeks as the world stands still.


Publicist #1 (Anonymous, Music PR)

I’m in music, so I’ve seen our bands tours or festivals they were booked for get cancelled or postponed almost every day since this all started getting really bad. With clients that we were on specifically for tour press and promo, those campaigns have come to a halt. We are also dealing with postponement or shifts in album releases as well—everything is just getting pushed to mid/late 2020. My new greeting via email is now “hope you are staying inside and are healthy.”

This is 100 percent uncharted territory for me. I will say though, that the media and writers I’ve been in contact with so far have been overwhelmingly positive. While the live aspect has suffered greatly, new music is still something we can look forward to. I’ve had discussions with bands about putting out new music this week and in April. I think we all want to read and engage with things that AREN’T this bitch-ass coronavirus. I’ve personally been really taking the time now to discover new music and bands I’ve had on my list to check out for months now. And I am so glad I did, Origami Angel is really that good.

We are working out different ways for bands to connect now. Live stream concerts on socials, going live on socials for artist on artist interviews, having our bands put playlists together for fans. I’m constantly trying to brainstorm what else we can do. I am also learning to get comfortable working from my room in Brooklyn. Making sure I stick to a routine. I miss being able to brainstorm and yell out loud to my coworkers about an email or asking where they’ve been getting premieres lately.

I can’t imagine a world where music is put on full stop. I can tell some of our clients are feeling discouraged with all of this, and if I was in their shoes, I’d feel the same. But it hasn’t stopped or even slowed down on our end. New music is one of the big reasons a lot of us will be able to get through this.

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Publicist #2 (Anonymous, Entertainment PR)

I think we just all need to press into our clients more—asking them on a more personal level—“Are you okay?” “Is your family okay?” Helping the clients be more innovative on their social networks, reaching out to their followers across social media to be reassuring and informative. Helping them to calm fears and practical steps to cope with the current situation we are all in. I think this has shown us how much we really do need to lean on one another and divisiveness has no longer has a place at the table.

It’s actually become much easier to set up interviews, with everyone sequestered. They’re not busy and are available to speak to whomever, so there’s some really good conversations happening. Lots of introspection going on—people reevaluating their situations, and life in general.

I wasn’t in PR yet back in 2001 for 9/11, but I was in the industry, working in digital marketing. We were all deeply shaken then, but the touring wasn’t really effected in the long term as it is now, so there wasn’t this grinding halt like we’ve seen now in entertainment. To counter it, we put on two major livestream events in the last week. The aggregate viewership of both events has reached over half a million people so far, and they are all very thankful that we’ve kept the music playing (while keeping our distance).

I think every publicist out there is constantly thinking of creative ways to keep their clients in focus in as many relevant ways as they can. We will get through this and be stronger than ever before.

Publicist #3 (Anonymous, Entertainment PR)

The common core of the business has not changed, but the integration has. We’re in a wild west of sorts when it comes to servicing. With the growth of technology, the internet, social media, and 24 news cycles—there are many focal points that are hit simultaneously and to larger audiences.

If anything, the nature of the beast has made publicists become more and more creative. Attention spans are getting shorter with a smaller window of time to make an impact. If you aren’t quick on your feet, you and your client will get swallowed up.

On an operational aspect, there are some changes that must be adopted as we are facing this global crisis during this time. In operations, I’ve had to look at several factors including pausing my hiring process at this time due to the uncontrollable crisis. Overall, the scope of the business of PR has experienced unprecedented changes continuously over the years.

On the flip side of this global crisis, PR strategists are given an opportunity to disrupt the manner in which they think and strategize at this time to sustain functionally and consistently with clientele. We must learn to adopt disruptive and innovative strategic activations while also allowing this time to be a period where we can enhance our expertise (there are hundreds of free courses online), implement new activations digitally with clients abroad, get creative with our branding campaigns and above all, take advantage of the crisis management opportunities that comes with this crisis. In short, remain optimistic!

I foresee more niche and a la carte servicing. Instead of a full PR campaign, a social media campaign or even down to a specific platform campaign. Since a lot of brands/people are able to create a lot of engagement without having to spend any capitol, the art of publicity is seen as something that is not as important.

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Publicist #4 (Anonymous, Music PR)

It is uncharted territory, I have lived through crisis in the music business before, but this is a first. You have to reinvent the way you do things. Thankfully the use of technology has been a life saver, through online LIVE concerts and on social media, phone interviews, skype, facetime and google hangouts I have been able to do promo virtually, finding different ways to promote our client’s music. Just have to think outside the box and creatively.

No. Senior Writer, Jezebel. My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands, is out now.

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DISCUSSION

killaryclintonredux
killaryclinton

Was this a test to see which publicist is a real human? I’m pretty sure #3 is a corporate-speak bot:

PR strategists are given an opportunity to disrupt the manner in which they think and strategize at this time to sustain functionally and consistently with clientele. We must learn to adopt disruptive and innovative strategic activations while also allowing this time to be a period where we can enhance our expertise (there are hundreds of free courses online), implement new activations digitally with clients abroad