40 Years in PR

As told by Rachel McCallister

My career in PR was a very happy accident.  40 years ago I segued from a series of forgettable jobs in television production to an assistant position at Rogers & Cowan in the film and television division.  Six months later, I was promoted and working on the Aaron Spelling Productions account.  It turned into a 17 year relationship, beginning with The Love Boat, continuing through Dynasty, The Colbys, Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place.

When I started there were only three television networks and two Hollywood trades. There were many more newspapers and magazines and only a handful of syndicated television shows that covered behind-the-scenes entertainment stories. We used electric typewriters and relied on fax machines, messengers and mail to communicate with clients and the media.  Saturdays, used to catch up on the week’s work, were the only casual dress days. 

Change has been central to my career.  In addition to working on iconic television series and specials, I played a role in launching cable networks, including E!, FX and Classic Sports Network, and two broadcast networks, The CW and My Network TV.  Then worked on technologies and companies that would transform the industry, like Real Audio and Video, Broadcast.com and Napster and more recently with YouTube, Snapchat and Netflix as well as with visionary producers who embraced the new opportunities like Brian Robbins with AwesomenessTV.   Technology has been transformative, not only for the entertainment industry, but how we practice the art of public relations.   That said, storytelling and strategy continue to be the core of what we do as publicists and what I loved most about it.

I am often asked to name a favorite project or moment, which I find to be an impossible task.  However, my career has enabled me to meet people, go places and experience events that would not have been possible had I chosen a different path.  Among the highlights (in no particular order of importance) were going to the White House with ALF, an encampment of Union and Confederate reenactors on the Washington Monument grounds to promote the premiere of Gettysburg; traveling with The Love Boat when they were shooting specials on location in Europe and the Caribbean;  flying with the cast of Dynasty to New York to launch the Dynasty Collection; traveling with John Forsythe and Joan Collins to Washington D.C. on separate occasions when each met with Congress to advocate for their respective causes; countless awards shows, black tie events and red carpets; being a guest expert on America’s Next Top Model,  working the MTV Video Music Awards press room; organizing the In Living Color Open Dance Audition that resulted in Jennifer Lopez becoming a Fly Girl;  seeing the world via the annual PROI meetings; launching many companies and technologies and being honored by the Publicists Guild.

Growing up, the thought of one day running a business was not something I considered as an option as there were no women I could look up to as role models.  However, my choice of entertainment public relations proved to be fortuitous in that regard.  Women were becoming agency partners and owners and network executives that had hit the glass ceiling were opening their own production companies.  The latter–Esther Shapiro, Marcy Carsey and Suzanne de Passe–were not only role models, they became my champions as well.  I learned so much from great storytellers and savvy marketers like Aaron Spelling, Bernie Brillstein and Barney Rosenzweig, who I was fortunate enough to have as clients.  Thanks also to Rosemary Amendola who was there at the beginning and Allison Thomas, my partner in KillerApp Communications.It turned out that being an entrepreneur was something I was very good at.  

Over the years, my partner Mark Pogachefsky and I have conducted many exit interviews and the response to the first question, what did you like most about MPRM, was invariably ”the people.”  I have to agree.  I am fortunate to leave MPRM in the capable hands of the best partner one could ever hope to have had, Mark, as well as Caitlin McGee, Sylvia Desrochers and Natalie Yallouz, who together with Mark and Lisa Bustamante have a clear vision for the future and will guide the company to new heights.  

Just as so many others who have left MPRM, many of whom have gone on to great success, I will remain connected. But it’s time for me to turn a new chapter in my life, challenging and exciting at the same time.