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.