What is a Broadway Publicist?
Or perhaps, an alternate title: The answer to the question, "Sarah, what do you want to do?"
Before I dive in, I feel like a quick story time is in order. In January 2018, I sat in CAP 220: Foundations of Public Relations. Judging by the title, of course, this was my first ever PR class. In the very first session, as my professor introduced what public relations even was, she noted that every single industry, to some degree, needed PR.
My first thought, of course, was: "Really? Even Broadway?"
And over two years later, I'm still just as excited to say: YES! That night, after that first class, I spent hours looking up different PR firms that specialize in Broadway shows and talent. I refer to this as the night that everything 'clicked'.
And anyone who's ever been a college kid knows that you're consistently being asked some variation of the question: "What are you going to do after graduation?"
When I tell people I want to work as a Broadway publicist, not everyone knows what that means at first (understandably). So here is a more in-depth look into who I want to be when I grow up.
As a Broadway publicist, I would help communicate the story and narrative of Broadway shows to the public - Almost acting like a 'bridge' between a show and the people that we want to come see it.
Last August, esteemed Broadway publicists, or 'press agents' (phrases that are used interchangeably), Chelsea Nachman and Molly Barnett were gracious enough to record a podcast with me. These two run Grapevine PR, a theatrical PR agency focusing more on Broadway actors/talent rather than the shows themselves.
I'll quickly summarize some of the podcast highlights for you. Molly notes that as a PR agency, you're hired by the producer as a publicist for that specific show. Put simply, publicists handle everything that's public facing about a show that isn't paid advertising. For example, if you're flipping through the New York Times and you see a full-page advertisement for a musical, that isn't PR. If you see an interview with the new star of a show, that is PR.
In an ideal circumstance, a PR team is hired as early on as possible, and see the show through to its closing. This way, they're helping make the initial announcement about a show, and have control over the show's communications and publicity through its entire lifetime.
As a public relations professional, you're being hired for your professional communications skills and experience to strategically build mutually beneficial relationships with the media, and ultimately with the public.
Press agents have the option of being part of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (ATPAM). This association describes itself as: "... press agents, publicity and marketing specialists company managers and house and facilities managers who are devoted to the health, vitality and success of staged entertainment of all types."
In a tangible sense, publicists use a variety of different methods to help reach their audience. These include:
Writing press releases, pitching clients to media
Scheduling and accompanying clients to press events, interviews, photo or video shoots, etc.
Providing media training or talking points for interviews
Overseeing aspects of the client's image
Monitoring media coverage
Writing speeches, blogs, newsletters, etc.
Planning and executing press events
Ensuring that all branding is consistent
Managing/helping avoid any crises
Representing clients through a specific campaign, awards season, etc.
For example, here's a photo of the Polk PR team when the cast of TINA - The Tina Turner Musical performed on Good morning America. PR teams will typically accompany cast members to performances like this.
"Ok Sarah. I think I might want to do this. What else can I learn?"
THAT'S SO COOL! Maybe we'll work together one day. Here's some more resources to get you started.
List of boutique Broadway PR firms:
List of other learning sources: