The passing of famed entertainment publicist Bobby Zarem, someone we knew of but didn’t know, triggers some reflection on how the practice of entertainment publicity has changed over the last half century. During their heyday, gossip columnists could make or break careers. The podcast series You Must Remember This featured episodes about the legendary Gossip Girls Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper while Showtime’s documentary series Gossip focuses on Cindy Adams and the New York Post’s Page Six.
For those of us whose careers started when columnists were still important, “planting” an item with Daily Variety’s Army Archerd, Liz Smith, her rival Cindy Adams, Page Six or LA-based Marilyn Beck and the Herald Examiner’s Page Two, was a skill that needed to be mastered. The columns were valued for their opportunity to maintain a presence for your client absent breaking news. Clever writing, and an exclusive tidbit that was a little gossipy were the stock in trade.
The introduction of Entertainment Tonight and then the launch of E!, both of which we represented, albeit not at the same time, started the shift away from print. Hard news was still the province of the entertainment trades and entertainment business writers at top tier news outlets, but ET and E! enabled the general public to go behind the scenes of their favorite television series, get a sense of the clout of box office or Nielsen ratings, and get a sneak peek at upcoming films, not to mention greater access to the stars on a regular basis. Then the edgier TMZ encroached on newspaper tabloids, fueled by aggressive paparazzi and investigative reporting.
Some of the legendary entertainment publicists literally created stories to keep their clients in the public eye, or the truth out of it. That era is long gone; however, as celebrities began to replace models on magazine covers, publicists representing A-list talent gained greater control over how the media covered their clients. The advent of social media changed entertainment publicity once again, democratizing the ability to establish a narrative. For the first time it was possible to engage with the public without a media filter.
At MPRM, our focus is on companies and their products. In our case that includes film, television, home entertainment, streaming releases and the technology companies that make it happen. Our campaigns integrate print, broadcast, online and social media platforms in order to reach the audiences our clients want to engage.
In a world where content is ubiquitous, the challenge is getting noticed. Which is why a multi-platform approach is a necessity and advocacy is critical. Often it is a passionate fan base driving broader audience discovery and media coverage as well. They have become the true influencers.
The column item is dead. Today it lives as a social media post.