Whilst I was in Edinburgh last week a young publicist, just starting out, bounced up to me, having recognised me, and asked if I’d give her some advice on the publicity game.
We sat down for a cup of coffee and I asked her what she was working on. She told me that this was her second Edinburgh and that she was working on three shows for a producer who was going places. Alarm bells went off in my head at this, so I quizzed her a little about her circumstances.
It turns out that, after the 13 hour coach journey up to the Festival, she was bunked down in a flat procured by the producer, which she was sharing with two other people, and that she was earning £100 a week for the entire four week run of the Festival.
This struck me as deeply exploitative – a producer who wouldn’t even stump up the train fare had hooked an enthusiastic young publicist on the promise of greater things to work on if all went according to plan. She thought she had her foot in the door, but these are the sort of opportunities that wither and die as soon as a client makes it big – what actor, after all, would name check their British agent or publicist if they had the opportunity to work in America, where such names would be worthless currency?
I hope I’m wrong in her case, but I suspect not – I saw her the next day and the impossible demands she was getting to work with, on a budget of hope and water, were classic examples of the sort of demands the all-swallowing uber-producers of PR nightmares past might make.
There is too much hope around, and not enough recognition amongst fledgling entertainment publicists that if everything goes well, you will rarely get the credit, whilst if all goes poorly, you will be first in front of the firing squad.
These fledgling publicists need to learn, and learn quickly, that no matter what they do, nothing is big enough or can generate impact fast enough for an unrealistic and unsupportive client. I get a sense there are not many clients running around the Festival with an appetite for brash, brave and iconoclastic campaigns.
Successful producers almost always demonstrate achievement by ruthlessly grabbing all they can at the expense of the little people. Young PR folk are the first to be trampled under foot. My advice to the young publicist in Edinburgh, and everyone starting out in entertainment PR, is to give the middle finger salute to anyone who can’t or won’t pay proper fees and to maintain dignity and integrity at all costs.