Publicists spend their careers generating and managing media publicity for individuals. Their sole responsibility is to create and maintain a favorable public image for their clients through tightly controlled public and promotional appearances and announcements. If you’re considering becoming a publicist, you’ll want to major in a field that focuses on the fundamentals of writing and communication.
A publicist is essentially a public relations manager for an individual instead of a company or agency. Therefore, majoring in public relations would be a practical first step toward your career. As a public relations major, you’ll learn how to plan and implement media campaigns, secure interviews for your clients, write press releases and handle crises that may arise. Public relations majors usually take a variety of writing, advertising and speech communications courses, and are typically required to complete an internship before graduation.
Communication and Rhetoric
As a publicist, you’ll be required to socialize with a variety of people, including print and broadcast journalists and television and radio hosts. You may be attending fancy soirees to provide your client with high-level exposure, where you’ll be expected to hob-nob with the rich and famous. In these circumstances, a communication and rhetoric degree can be essential. With this degree, you’ll learn the different ways people interact with each other. You’ll learn the fine art of persuasion, and how people respond to different types of messages, whether through the media or in person. Communication majors typically take courses in argumentation and debate, public speaking, and interpersonal, organizational and mass communication; they also might study the rhetoric and theory behind the principles of communication.
When it comes to the nitty-gritty, working as a publicist essentially requires you to market your client the same as you would market a business or service. As such, a degree in marketing can provide you with the tools you need for a successful career as a publicist. Marketing majors study courses in advertising, promotion, communications, sales and consumer behavior. Because marketing degrees typically fall under a college’s business department, your program may also require you to take general business courses, such as courses in management or finance, to complete your degree -- courses that can be extremely beneficial should you plan on running your own agency someday.
If you plan on pursuing a career as a publicist and your college of choice doesn't offer a degree in public relations or communications, then a journalism degree is also an excellent choice. After all, what better way is there to learn how the media works than from the inside? As a journalism major, you’ll learn the ins and outs of free speech and the First Amendment as well as the history of the media in America. You’ll likely be required to study media law and practice everything from news writing to magazine writing to investigative reporting -- these are all skills that will be helpful when you’re writing press releases or hosting press conferences to promote your client. Depending on your program, you also may be required to take courses in copyediting, broadcast journalism, layout and design, and photojournalism, and like all of the majors listed here, you’ll likely be required to complete an internship with a news outlet before graduation.
Jennifer Brozak earned her state teaching certificate in Secondary English and Communications from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., and her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Pittsburgh. A former high school English teacher, Jennifer enjoys writing articles about parenting and education and has contributed to Reader's Digest, Mamapedia, Shmoop and more.