Publicity and Promotion

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While advertising is written exactly the way the client wants and is placed where he or she hopes it will have the most impact, publicity-its wording and placement-is determined by the staff of the media to which it is sent. All the media outlets have the option to rewrite press releases or even ignore them. When used properly, however, publicity provides free advertising for products, services, and events.

When it comes to promotion, the clients or business owners have more control. They stage events, organize activities, and print and distribute promotional materials.

Here are a few examples of the way publicity and promotion work:

  • A sports figure endorses a brand of athletic shoe (for a fee, of course).

  • A television talk show host invites the author of a new book to be a guest on the program.

  • A publisher arranges a book-signing tour to promote an author s new book.

  • A model demonstrates the features of a yacht at a boat show.

  • A soap opera star signs autographs on a tour of shopping malls.

  • A professional association imprints its name and logo on tote bags to be given away at the annual conference.

  • A political candidate reads a ghostwritten speech at a rally.

  • A television magazine format show explores a breakthrough cure for cancer.

  • A vacation resort entices travel writers to visit.

  • Budweiser sponsors a "BeerFest" at a sporting event.

  • A "guerrilla marketer" stands on the street corner and thrusts free samples of a product into the hands of passersby.

  • Someone wearing a Big Bird outfit stands in front of a shop, inviting passersby to enter.

Those in charge of organizing these promotional activities are sometimes called publicists as well as PR people. They work in a variety of settings and have a wide range of duties. The most important thing they have in common is that they are all excellent communicators. They are also creative people with extensive knowledge of and contact with the media.

Publishing Companies

Large publishing companies, especially those located in New York City, operate publicity departments to promote their authors and their books. Some of the duties of a publishing house publicist are: arranging for point-of-sale material (for example, printed bookmarks) to be made available at bookstores; organizing book tours, including booking speaking engagements on television and radio shows and setting up book-signing engagements at bookstores and other appropriate outlets; and writing book jacket copy.


More and more bookstores, especially the new superstores, coordinate events to bring in the customers. This calls for a publicist who can book national and local authors for speaking and signing engagements; arrange for cookbook authors to give demonstrations; and find other ways to appeal to the tastes of the book-buying public.

Vacation Resorts/Chambers of Commerce

Promoting a vacation spot or city falls into the realm of a publicists duties. Publicists working for a vacation resort produce pamphlets, brochures, press releases, and even video demonstrations of the locations selling points. Their target audience consists of travel agents, travel writers and editors, and the vacationing public.

Publicists working for chambers of commerce aim their efforts at potential businesses and new residents as well as vacationers and other visitors.

Other settings where this career path can be followed (for example, government agencies, nonprofit associations, educational institutions, and health care facilities).

Related Occupations

The skills used by communications majors in advertising, marketing, publicity, and promotion can also be transferred to different settings. A market analyst, for example, who is adept at collecting and interpreting data on different populations, could also work for the government as a demographer

Working Conditions

The field of consumer communications is a competitive business, with every industry vying for the all-important consumer dollar. While this can make the working atmosphere challenging and exciting, it can also make it hectic and stressful.

A busy ad agency, for example, will have a long list of ongoing projects that need attention at the same time. No matter how large the agency may be or how many professionals it employs, in some agencies the workload strains available staff. This atmosphere lends itself to employees feeling overworked. It is not uncommon for burnout to occur after a few years of constant pressure.

In order to attract clients and beat out the competition, there are campaigns to be developed and ideas and concepts to be presented. If the account managers misjudge the goals of the client, there's the stress of losing an account. If the campaign is successful, there are still pressures to keep that client-not to mention the deadlines to be met and the crises to be resolved when things go wrong.

Hours can be long and disruptive to a personal life. Contributing to this is a substantial amount of travel-to meet with clients or attend conferences-that managers for some agencies might have to do.

Although the life of an ad exec might seem "glamorous" to many, the reality is that the work is less secure than most, with staff layoffs occurring when the workload drops.

Training And Qualifications

The course of study a potential consumer communications specialist should pursue has been the issue of some debate. Some believe that a straight degree in advertising is the best preparation, but they are usually shouted down by those who recognize the importance of a broader curriculum.

To some extent, the answer is determined by the area of the career path you intend to pursue. If you are aiming for a title of account manager, then courses in marketing, business and finance, and speech communications are as important as advertising theory. Potential art directors obviously need technical training in drawing, illustration, and graphic design. All are well served, however, by courses in effective communications.

In addition, have another look at the training and qualification requirements. They all apply in this career path as well.
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