Jobs in the entertainment or fashion public relations are highly coveted. The allure of party planning, record launches, club openings, celebrity-filled events, fashion shows, and film premieres is understandable. However, few young professionals understand the rigors or realities of the entertainment and fashion PR industries.
Popular reality television shows like MTV’s “The Hills,” depict cast members, such as Heidi and Audrina (both “employed” in entertainment industry PR jobs), partying and drinking at clubs while rubbing elbows with up-and-coming bands and entertainers. By proffering this shallow and reckless image, these shows do a disservice to the dedicated and intelligent professionals working in this industry sector.
In the fashion entertainment industry, there are high expectations for even the most junior staffers who must take initiative and flawlessly execute public relations tactics with minimal supervision. Here’s a reality check:
• Attention to detail is crucial. Spelling a designer’s name wrong in a press release is a definite no-no, especially when a media outlet covers the story and also spells the name wrong.
• You must take pride in your work. Scribbling editor names on gift bags with a Sharpie marker and tossing sample jeans in the bag is sloppy.
• You need to understand budget implications. Failing to get invitations out on time or printing the same editor’s name on multiple expensive, customized envelopes costs money.
• You are never off duty or a guest at your events. Getting drunk at an event will get you fired.
• Rubbing shoulders with celebrities and industry types isn’t always fun.Demands of celebrity clients are often ridiculous. Being a clever and calm trouble-shooter is essential.
Aspiring professionals must understand that success in the entertainment and fashion industries requires more than looking good and knowing how to party. In reality, there are long hours of tedious work before major events.
An entry-level entertainment PR practitioner can expect to spend time performing the following tasks:
1. Staring at a computer screen monitoring news stories about his or her clients or cutting, pasting, and photocopying clips;
2. Making hundreds of follow-up calls to event invitees or journalists;
3. Tracking down obscure vendors to fulfill seemingly impossible requests;
4. Booking and confirming car service and hotel reservations;
5. Conducting dozens of site inspections of venues to meet detailed event specifications;
6. Taking red-eye flights and heading directly to the office for work;
7. Standing in the rain, snow, and cold to check in guests;
8. Stuffing hundreds (even thousands) of gift bags in a windowless closet;
9. Deflecting nasty come-ons from smarmy clients—politely;
10. Earning a barely livable salary and being expected to work crazy hours, including weekends.
Of course, there is a level of excitement and accomplishment when all your hard work results in a huge media turnout, a meeting with a favorite celebrity, or access to a trendy night club. But the daily work requires patience, problem-solving skills, organization, stamina, and an ability to attack mundane tasks with enthusiasm, initiative, and poise.
If you have a passion for the work, not just the glamour, this is the industry for you. Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Weber Shandwick Worldwide.