What do you want to become?
PUBLIC RELATIONS COUNSELOR
Alternate Career Titles:
Publicist, P.R. Counselor
Career Overview: Public Relations Counselors write press releases, pitch stories to media, and schedule and coordinate interviews.
Career Salary Range: $25,000 to $200,000+
Become a Public Relations Counselor
Kelly Walsh runs the West Coast office of Right Angle PR, a bicoastal full-service music PR company whose past and present client roster includes labels like Century Media, clubs like Webster Hall, and artists like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Joshua Radin, Kittie, and Marc Broussard. As a Public Relations Counselor, it’s her job to secure media coverage for her clients.
She tells us, “A typical day starts off in the office sending out pitches for album and tour coverage to media, writing/sending out press releases announcing artist news, scheduling and coordinating interviews between artists and Journalists), scheduling new client meetings and researching.” After hours, there may be record release shows, red carpet events, or interviews to attend on behalf of clients.
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Many PR professionals begin their careers as Interns before getting hired on as a Publicity Assistant. After a few years learning the ropes, the next step is a PR Counselor or Publicist position. Those who are successful in this role may get promoted to Senior Publicist. From here, career advancement could mean going to work for a company with well-known celebrity clients, launching one’s own PR firm, or opening a new office for an existing employer in a different city.
Walsh tells us, “I started out doing marketing and social media at an independent label and transitioned to an in-house Publicist for a separate independent label for five and a half years. While I enjoyed being in-house, I had an expanding passion to branch out into different genres and take on projects that I was personally passionate about so I took a position with the NYC-based boutique entertainment & music PR firm, Right Angle PR, to launch their first-ever LA office.”
Education & Training
“For those interested in a career in music PR, a degree in Communications, Public Relations or Journalism is preferred,” Walsh says. Some schools will offer coursework in public relations for the entertainment industry. While this won’t be an option at every school, aspiring PR professionals can learn the writing and communication skills necessary for the trade pretty much anywhere. That said, a good internship program is key. Colleges and universities in major music cities like Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville will have the best connections to music publicity firms.
Experience & Skills
“Aside from a degree, the best way to learn is hands-on experience,” Walsh says. “Apply for an internship program at a record label or boutique PR firm so you can learn from experts one-on-one. From there you can apply for a Publicity Assistant position and work your way up!”
She adds, “Skills that are valuable to this career are:
- Communication. (You’ll need to get your pitches out clearly and precisely.)
- Writing. (This is key, as you’ll need to have perfect grammar and spelling skills.)
- Research. (From finding out contact details for Journalists and Editors to scouring the web for reviews and news reposts, you’ll need to have a keen eye for finding information.)”
Working in PR is as fast-paced and challenging as it is exciting. Walsh tells us, “To excel in publicity you must have the following personality traits. An outgoing and friendly personality: making connections is vital and to do so you can’t be shy or reserved. Be extremely organized: you’ll need to keep track of interviews, song premieres, tour dates, and artists’ schedules. Persistent: following-up on leads and being a go-getter will lead you to results. Your clients are expecting you to be the voice for their project and rely on you to get the word out to the right sources.”
“Being a Publicist is a 24/7 job and you should be available at all times for your clients,” Walsh says. “Your typical day will be in the office from 9 am to 6 pm and will often include going out to a show later at night or on the weekends. Some weekdays and/or weekends you may need to be out of the office to assist a band with interviews/press days, red carpet, or events.
You’ll work closely with your band (obviously), artist management teams, label representatives, Booking Agents, Show Promoters, media (Editors, Journalists, Photographers, Videographers and fellow Publicists. Having an expansive network of contacts is how you’ll make a lasting career.”
Whereas many music industry careers don’t have a set path, fortunately for aspiring PR professionals the route from college to a career is fairly straightforward. “Get your feet wet with an internship!” Walsh suggests. “The best way to ‘get in’ this industry is to know people. Once you’ve proven that you are dedicated to this career and willing to put in the work, you’ll make a lasting impression that could lead to your first job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take initiative on tasks. In PR, you have to constantly be thinking ahead.”
“The income structure varies based on the type of PR company you work for,” Walsh explains. “In-house PR at labels are typically paid a regular salary with benefits. Boutique/independent PR firms typically offer a regular salary plus commission for bringing on new clients. Publicists also decide to do work independently or go freelance and are then paid project by project. There are several paths to choose from.”
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
“The best website for finding internships and job leads in the music industry, in my experience, has been entertainmentcareers.net,” Walsh says. The Public Relations Society of America also offers professional development, networking, and educational opportunities. The organization covers all aspects of the PR world but also has more focused professional interest sections, including Entertainment and Sports.
- “Do as many internship programs as you can.
- Be familiar with current and popular music blogs, podcasts, etc.
- Get out to as many shows as possible.
- Join a street team or volunteer to help promote shows/events for your local venue or for bands.
- Start your own blog or write for an existing one.”
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Network! Get out there and make a name for yourself by connecting with everyone you can.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Be open to all opportunities. I think the biggest ‘mistake’ I’ve seen is when a young Publicist has a very specific goal, such as ‘I only want to work with (insert genre here) bands’ and they are so blind-sighted by that goal, they miss out on opportunities around them. It’s great to have goals but don’t limit your capabilities by hyper-focusing on a single goal.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Kelly Walsh is the head of Right Angle PR’s West Coast office. Prior to opening the firm’s new base in Los Angeles, she got a comprehensive view of the inner workings of record labels during her tenure at Century Media and Prosthetic Records with bands such as Arch Enemy, Marty Friedman, Animals As Leaders, Scale The Summit and Skeletonwitch. Doing jobs that ranged from sales to marketing to managing the label’s online presence and, of course, PR, she gained a lot of experience in a relatively short amount of time. She also specializes in branding and event planning, as seen with her work on Chris Hardwick’s ID1OT Music Festival and Comic Con-ival.