10 PR + Publicity Terms Every Actor Should Know

Publicist Rick Krusky of Los-Angeles-based pr firm MWPR -- Backstage Expert

[As originally featured on backstage.com]

There are many terms used in the world of publicity and PR. Having an understanding of them can be of great benefit. Although there are many, here are a few of the essentials. 

PR: Stands for “public relations” and has to do with the state of your relationship with the public. You could also say it’s your reputation and how others view you, so it’s subjective to a large degree. Part of a publicist’s job is to maintain a favorable public image for you (or help create or repair one, as the case may be).

Publicity: Fundamentally, this is the notice or attention given someone by the media. It’s as simple as when you as an actor are interviewed by a reporter for a news program, are on the radio talking about an upcoming project, or when a writer for a magazine runs an article about you. Part of a publicist’s job is to acquire or control this notice from the media. 

[READ: PR vs Publicity: What Actors Must Know]

Media: The word “media” itself is the plural form of “medium”—meaning a means or way of doing something. In this case, it refers to the way, method, or channel through which information is conveyed. It’s a general term that refers not only to the various means of mass communication— whether broadcasting, publishing, or the Internet—but also the reporters, editors, and producers who work at or with the print publications, TV or radio programs, and online magazines. It broadly refers to all of the above collectively.

Outlet: This is the publication itself or broadcast station that transmits the show, news, or feature story. Where “media” broadly refers to these distribution channels and their staff, a “media outlet” refers to the specific newspaper, magazine, radio, or television station.

[As originally featured on backstage.com]

Pitch: Depending on the nature of your specific publicity campaign, pitching is something a publicist would typically be doing a lot of for you. Essentially, it’s the act of a publicist reaching out to someone in the media about you, the client, with the purpose of gaining interest and ultimately favorable media coverage on you or your project.

Coverage: This is the article, mention, interview, or news story. The press or media outlet has “covered” you or your story; you’ve been publicized. This is the goal of pitching: to gain favorable coverage. It’s a general term to convey the fact that you’ve been mentioned by an outlet. You’ve received some media coverage or press.

Press: This one is a broad term and is essentially interchangeable with “media,” “outlet,” and “coverage.” More specifically, it refers to the outlets and those working in the media viewed collectively, as in, “The press will be interested in this story about…” And it also refers to media coverage, as in “He’s gotten a lot of press on his new movie.”

Angle: This is the specific approach taken when you pitch. It’s how the publicist positions the pitch with regard to the editor, writer, producer, segment booker, or whoever the client is being pitched to. The angle can and should be modified to suit a specific editor or outlet. There are unlimited ways to adjust an angle, and it’s the publicist’s job to present you and your story to an editor in an honest way that’s organically a fit for them, and in doing so gain interest. This is not a robotic endeavor of just pitching any old thing; it’s a thoughtful and creative endeavor based on your publicist really knowing you, their client, and also really knowing the press and the field of publicity in general. How you pitch, in my experience, is often more important than what you’re pitching. This is a much bigger subject and probably deserves its own article devoted to it.

Editorial: This is the article in a newspaper or magazine that’s written by or on behalf of an editor that gives an opinion on an issue. It’s the sections of a newspaper or magazine that feature stories and news information. Editorial refers to anything that relates to the parts of a publication, whether print or online, that contain news and information, as opposed to advertising.

Media training: This is something you typically do with your publicist, who essentially helps prepare you to speak with the press. They work with you before an interview or during a campaign, helping to shape your message and delivery so that you feel prepared, come off confident and relaxed, and convey the message you want conveyed in an interview. It can be very strategic in nature.

Rick Krusky is the co-founder and a senior publicist at the Los Angeles–based publicity firm MWPR, and a Backstage Expert.

How to Build and Maintain Your Personal Brand

[As originally featured on backstage.com]

In the worlds of publicity, marketing, advertising and elsewhere, you often hear the term “repeat the message.” This is an important concept that has been utilized since the beginning of the fields themselves. Any household name, whether we’re talking iPhones, McDonald’s or Coca-Cola, has employed this, and in no small measure. Their message is repeated over and over again to the public. But how can this be interpreted and used to your advantage in the world of acting? In my experience, it’s through “continuity of branding.”

But before you can repeat a message, you first need to have one. This is where “branding” comes in. What’s branding? It’s essentially creating a unique name, image or identity for a product or person in the consumer’s mind in order to establish a particular type of something that is significant and differentiated. This can be done literally, as in the case of logos and products; or it can be done more loosely, as in the case of people.

Let’s take an example. If you think of Robert De Niro, you immediately get a clear concept: tough guy, wise guy, New York thug-type. You even have physical mannerisms come to mind—significant and unique ones. Impressionists love him because he’s so identifiable. They don’t even need to say anything; they can just squint their eyes, start making “the face,” and you immediately know who they’re doing.

Robert De Niro’s brand is unforgettable. Partially due to this uniqueness, and partially due to the continuity employed. His “message” has been repeated over and over. His brand literally went unchanged for decades. From movies like “Godfather II” and “Taxi Driver” in the ’70s, through “Heat” and “Casino” in the ’90s, you’re hard pressed to find him stray very far from that type. And once his brand was firmly established, you then saw him shift into comedies and other genres (but even in a movie like “Meet the Parents,” he was still a threatening character). Whether this was planned or not, just realize the result: type firmly established, on-screen personality repeated, household name. Even someone like Gary Oldman has a brand with a repeated message, which is his wide diversity and ability to play practically anyone—someone who is “unrecognizable."

Here are a couple of other examples:

Apple: sophisticated, elegant, simple aesthetic, cutting edge, state of the art, expensive. And notice the campaigns are always about lifestyle versus the product itself.

Beyoncé: You know her uniform, body type, music. There’s a definite look and feel to her. And there’s consistency in it, always.

Now, when it comes to roles, you may want to stretch your legs, which is understandable. But you can still stay on brand and have continuity in your message; there are ways to remain consistent in the minds of the public and industry.

A good example, and where I see this violated all too often, is with online presence: websites, social media, IMDb profiles. There should be a clear message and it should be repeated. Yet many times I find myself researching someone and having difficulty discovering who they are or what they’re about. A website with a domain that has nothing to do with the person’s name, with irrelevant imagery and a bio that fails to even state what they do. Several social media accounts scattered about, all with varying and often cryptic handles. And to top if off, featured images (avatars) completely different from each other and sometimes unrecognizable. This sort of inconsistency may be fine for a well-established name or for a member of the general public, but if you’re getting started in the industry and trying to “build a name for yourself,” it’s a deterrent. Branding and continuity are two of the first things we typically work on with new clients.

When I was younger, I used to wonder why iconic brands like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola needed to advertise. I mean, why spend so much when everybody already knows all about them? But that’s the point. And that’s how they reached and maintained their iconic level: a clear message that defines and expresses the brand; message maintained and never wavered from; message repeated again and again (and in their case, on a global scale). Regardless of whether you like or agree with these giants, you can learn from them. And you can’t deny their success.

In a nutshell: Discover who you are. Find a way to capture and express your message to others. Be consistent with that identity and message. Repeat it.

Rick Krusky is an executive and publicist at MWPR, a Los Angeles-based PR and publicity firm.

What Garry Marshall Taught Me About PR

[As originally featured on Huffington Post]

I woke up this morning to the news that Garry Marshall had passed. This was a man who not only directed many movies I had enjoyed over my lifetime, but who also created much of the television I watched growing up. In addition to this, he was also a writer, actor, producer, voice artist, and comedian. Garry wasn’t just in the industry; he was part of molding the industry. I had the chance to meet him once. And although I do work in the industry, our meeting was not work-related at all. It was a personal encounter, and one which served to teach me something about the work I do.

“PR,” or “public relations,” is essentially the state of your relationship with the public. It has to do with your reputation and how others view you (which I’ve defined and further illustrated here). And the night I met Garry, I felt as though I’d received a master-class lesson in PR from one of the ultimate veterans.

I live in Los Angeles. A knock on the door from a production person is not uncommon. One morning I answered my door to the “Valentine’s Day” Assistant Director letting me know that they would be filming that night. He politely told me he would be around and to please let him know if I needed anything or if there were any issues. I thanked him and he was off – and I didn’t think much of it after that. But what did stand out to me was how pleasant he’d come across, and what a nice impression he’d made on me.

Later that night I went out to grab a cup of coffee. No sooner had I stepped out of my door than this AD greeted me. He asked if everything was okay, and then if I was hungry. I wasn’t really, but, again, he was so friendly that I followed him to the buffet, ate a little, and chatted with him. While we talked, others from the crew also came up to me and introduced themselves – all as friendly as this AD. He then asked me if I’d like to see the set. I said, “Sure,” and he had me follow him.

He guided me around the corner to a relatively small set. Emma Roberts was sitting in a convertible parked in front of two director’s chairs. Sitting in one of the chairs was Garry Marshall, who I recognized immediately. The AD then asked if I’d like to meet Garry. Now this one threw me. Yes, so far this person had been extremely nice, one of the nicest I’d encountered in such a situation; and the snack and set tour was over and above. But to ask if I’d like to meet this iconic director in the middle of shooting a scene when I hadn’t even remotely indicated the desire to do so was taking things to an all-new level. I said something like “Oh, that’s not necessary, he’s working and…” But before I knew it I was being guided over. Garry introduced himself – big smile on his face – then asked if I’d like to sit in for a while, and gestured toward the other director’s chair. So I sat with him. I watched a few takes, noticing how his direction was also friendly and disarming, then politely thanked him and was off.

What stood out for me that night was just how much Garry and his crew had their PR in. They were all over and above. We jaded Angelenos often complain about production, especially when it’s at our doorstep: The noise, the parking issues, the lights shining in our windows at night. But when I walked away from that set, not only were those things literarily non-existent in my mind, but all I could think of was how friendly everyone was and what a pleasant experience it had been. Garry has undoubtedly taught countless actors about acting, and countless others about the industry. But that night, he gave me a lesson on what PR is all about. He didn’t have to do any of this; he had the power to shut down that block that night without regard to others or their feelings. But I believe that Garry’s attitude with regard to public relations, and his genuine kindness toward others, is likely a large part of his success, which is something for all of us to think about. Rest in peace, Garry.

Rick Krusky is an executive and publicist at MWPR, a Los Angeles-based PR and publicity firm.

Why Every Actor Needs a Press Kit

[As originally featured on backstage.com]

Imagine you arrive at the Four Seasons on Doheny for your first press junket. The journalists are already there, ready to interview you on what is sure to be the summer’s biggest blockbuster. But how do they know about you, what questions to ask, what details to include in their piece? The answer: They’ve been provided with a press kit.

A press kit is something that can be useful to actors and has been used in the publicity world probably since the beginning of publicity itself. In the strictest sense, it is a package of promotional materials provided to members of the press to brief them on a person or product. Definitions vary in different industries, as do the contents of the kits, but they generally include photos, a bio, statistics, prior press clippings, and any other information relevant to the purpose of the specific kit.

In the Beginning
Picture a “Mad Men” scene. Don Draper ripping pages from magazines. Interns surrounding a clunky machine making physical copies of newspaper articles and the like. The copies then stuffed into a large folders along with other info and images. This was unwieldy to say the least. Yes, it was the ’60s, but I’ve done this myself as recently as 10 years ago. Of course, we scanned the clippings and tear sheets—a little more civilized—but it still involved enormous amounts of paper, folders, organizing, assembling, packaging, labels, postage, shipping, and all the time and costs involved.

Enter the Digital Age
With computers and digital information came the widespread use of the EPK or “electronic press kit.” It again had some slightly different definitions and content depending on how it was used. But it was essentially still promotional materials to be sent to press. The main difference with the EPK was, instead of scanning and then printing out paper copies, the scans were kept in digital format and assembled into one, neat PDF (portable document format). This was a major advancement and obviously much less work in that once you created a kit, you could then just copy it and electronically send it to the intended recipients. But EPKs were still unwieldy in that, in order to keep the quality at a high level, they were very large in terms of their digital size, so transferring them was difficult. And the only way to make them easier to transfer was to lower the quality. The result was a pretty horrible looking kit.

Advanced Delivery Systems
With the advancement of the digital world came services like cloud-based storage and transfer systems. We could now create high-quality kits and still deliver them without too much trouble. It was a matter of uploading the EPK to Dropbox, WeTransfer, iCloud, or the like, and then simply sending a link to the press person. You could even upload the PDF to your website and have it “hosted” there, with easy, downloadable access.

The Modern Press Kit
An EPK in high-res PDF format available for easy download to practically any computer or device certainly does seem like the most efficient method of delivery, and the “state of the art” for press kits. But this can be taken a step further, and actually already has been, if unwittingly. It’s something sitting right under our noses. What I have come to think of as the “modern press kit,” you know as the website.

I know this may seem too simple and even overly obvious at first, but websites for your personal brand as an actor have become the most convenient way to convey the information normally provided in a press kit, providing the site is built, populated, and formatted appropriately. This has been an organic evolution. Over the years, I’ve worked with clients to build sleek, focused, easy-to-navigate, mobile-friendly sites that contain all the pertinent info needed and no more—a virtual press kit.

So, what does this mean to you as an actor? It means that by taking a new look at your site and viewing it from the standpoint of an EPK, you can best decide what would most benefit you and your brand as an actor. A quick, easy, inexpensive, high quality, more aesthetically pleasing, and more efficient way to get you and your goods known to the press.

Rick Krusky is an executive and publicist at MWPR, a Los Angeles-based PR and publicity firm.

PR vs. Publicity: What Actors Must Know

by Rick Krusky

[As originally featured on backstage.com.]

Every actor has heard of them. And practically every actor has dealt with them, whether well or badly. But in my experience, not everyone is clear on exactly what “PR” and “publicity” mean. Since the terms can be somewhat confusing and even lumped together as one at times, I thought I’d go over their basic meanings and give some examples in order to more clearly define them and make more of a distinction between the two. I’ve found that doing so can help actors improve both areas of their careers.

“PR,” which stands for “public relations,” has to do with the state of your relationship with the public. You could also say it’s your reputation and how others view you. So it’s subjective to a large degree. Part of a publicist’s job is to maintain a favorable public image for you (or help create or repair one, as the case may be).

“Publicity,” fundamentally, is the notice or attention given to someone by the media. It’s as simple as when you, as an actor, are interviewed by a reporter for a news program, are on the radio talking about an upcoming project, or when a writer for a magazine runs an article about you (which are all different from when you’re acting in a role for a TV show, or in a commercial for advertising). Part of a publicist’s job is to acquire or control this notice from the media.

An example that could help make the distinction could be if you attend a red-carpet event that benefits a charity. Any interviews or photos of you that run in the media would constitute the “publicity” portion, regardless of how it affects your reputation. While on the other hand, how you are viewed by the public as a result of this coverage—the state of your public image, good or bad—constitutes the “PR” portion. So, whether you arrive well-dressed, speak cordially to the reporters, and talk positively about the cause or, whether you arrive drunk, speak belligerently to the reporters, and verbally bash the cause… When your interview airs or runs in the media, it is technically “publicity.” (Remember the saying, “Any publicity is ‘good’ publicity”?) But how you behave, appear, or are viewed by others affects your “PR”—your relationship with the public.

So, in terms of PR, the cordial interview would provide a more favorable public image, while the belligerent one would cause an unfavorable image. We’ve all seen examples of celebrities who have “good PR” versus “bad PR”: Oprah donates $41 million to charity; Christian Bale is not so nice to a crew member on set. We all form opinions. So these actions positively or negatively affect their public image.

To further make a distinction between the two, in this example of the charity event, if you showed up and there were no press or red carpet at all (no publicity components), it would still affect your “PR.” That is, showing up and being nice to those in attendance and supporting the cause would likely result in a favorable public image for you. It’s “good PR.” And of course “bad PR” if you were not so nice. So your PR is affected regardless of any publicity.

But the same is not true for publicity in that it necessarily conveys some sort of PR aspect along with it, which may be where some of the confusion begins to creep in. A nightly entertainment show airs a segment on Oprah (publicity), which mentions her sizable donation to a charity (PR). Same with Bale’s segment (publicity conveying actions that affect PR). The segments convey something, and that something does something to your perception of the person, whether it alters it or further supports how you already feel. The good new is that if things go in the wrong direction, good PR can usually be restored with a little time, effort, or ingenuity—or a lot.

PR is your everyday, ongoing, possibly ever-changing reputation with regard to those who are aware of you, whether the information is conveyed via media outlets or not. And publicity is any information—whether good, bad, or indifferent—that is conveyed via media outlets. That is really the long and short of it. So, although the two terms do work together and are intertwined, they really are completely different concepts, and both equally important in the field of acting. And many other endeavors, for that matter.

Rick Krusky is an executive and publicist at MWPR, a Los Angeles-based PR and publicity firm.

5 Ways to Make the Red Carpet Work for You

by Rick Krusky

[As originally featured on backstage.com.]

On any given morning you can open your computer to find fresh photos of celebrities on the red carpet from the night before. From film premieres to record releases, art show openings, and more, these press opportunities are essential components to some of the most successful publicity campaigns. Whether attending an event that is promoting your own project, or attending as an invited guest, it’s to your benefit to get the most out of the opportunity.

Here are five tips that can help with your red carpet experience, whether you’re relatively new on the scene or even a seasoned pro.

1. Be prepared. By nature, red carpet events are always, to some degree, unpredictable. There are a lot of working parts that need to be coordinated—any of which can break down at any time. Just by knowing this going in, and by properly preparing beforehand, you can avoid many problems.

One thing you should always do is to research the event, its purpose, organizations involved, hosts, etc. This is so that you’ll know what you’re talking about with reporters. Although any question can be asked, the three most common are: “What brings you out tonight?” “What are you working on now?” (or “What’s coming up for you next?”) and “Where can we find you?” (social media, website, etc.). So it’s a good idea to have answers in mind for at least these three. If your publicist has pre-arranged interviews for you, they can often give you an idea of any additional questions a particular reporter may ask. Other important things to know are the dress code, the carpet times (when it opens and closes), where you’re going, and the parking situation.

2. Be on time. Carpets are open for a finite period of time preceding an event. And press will only stay for a finite period of time as well (and have been known to leave early on occasion). The general rule is that, unless you’ve been given an exact arrival time, plan to arrive at the time the carpet opens. Allow for traffic, parking, locating the check-in station, and the unpredictability factor in general. Another option is to Uber or take a limo.

3. Be patient. At the top of the carpet you will either have your publicist with you to announce you to photographers and escort you down the carpet, or there may be someone assigned to you to do so. A well run carpet will be properly paced, meaning there will be a “cushion” between each talent. This is so that the carpet doesn’t “pack up.” The point is: There’s no point in rushing to get on. Although this may seem sensible enough right now, when you’re in the midst of all the activity and excitement at the top of the carpet, you can tend to be thrown off. So keep this in mind going in, listen to your publicist or the handler assigned to you, follow their lead, and be patient.

4. Be yourself. The format of the press line is photographers first, then a line of reporters. For both, it’s important to be yourself. Cameras have a way of magnifying. They can detect pretty much everything—including when you’re nervous (or chewing gum!). If carpets are new to you, practice posing in front of the mirror. Research how A-listers pose, what you like and don’t like. And when you’re talking to reporters, be yourself rather than something “you think you need to be.” The interview will go more smoothly as a result.

5. Talk to the reporter. Some think they need to talk to the camera during an interview. But unless you’re asked specifically to do so—(a “shout out” directly to the camera, usually at the end of an interview)—talking to the camera actually excludes the reporter from the conversation. It can come across as rude, and does not make for a relaxed, engaging interview. You want to be there with the reporter, talking with them, listening to and understanding their questions, and answering in a natural manner. You should also answer honestly. That is, if you have no idea what’s being asked, there’s no point “trying” to answer. It just winds up looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Instead, keep it light, find an organic way to say you don’t know, and move onto something else.

Rick Krusky is an executive and publicist at MWPR, a Los Angeles-based PR and publicity firm.