To get a surface level understanding of what a publicist does, let’s look at the word itself. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, publicist comes from the French word publicité which means “condition of being public”. It wasn’t until the 1900s that the definition of publicist took on what we know of it today as: generating press coverage, advertising for organizations/figures, and having a business edge.  

Publicist’s, like many media careers, wear many hats . At the minimum, publicist’s attract publicity through multiple tactics to build and maintain their client’s reputation in a positive light. 

This industry is not for the unmotivated or the impatient. Most top publicist’s started at the bottom and worked their way up. This career is about connections. Publicist’s are often contracted workers. This means that they may work full-time, but their project or task may not last for more than a few months. Celebrities often have full-time publicists or organizations contract PR firms to manage their public image. 


How does one become a publicist? First you must have a strong sense of leadership and self-motivation. In a study published in Public Opinion Quarterly, experts found that publicists have a strong need to control their world and guard against unfavorable events. Publicist’s are this way because it is their job to control their client’s image and the public’s opinion. Clients pay publicists to be control freaks (in a good way).

Secondly, according to GlassDoor, most people in this field have bachelor degrees in public relations, marketing, communication, journalism, advertising, and even sometimes English. Clearly, one must be savvy with words and grammar to excel in this field. In addition to a degree and writing skills, a publicist must have intense organizational skills as well as extreme determination said Claire Julian, a junior entertainment publicist. Julian explains that her day-to-day job changes frequently and that there are many moving-parts to keep track of in order to accomplish her goals in a timely and well-executed manner.

Indeed recommends that a person that wants to get into the publicity world, should find an internship in the field when they can. Internships provide valuable lessons and skills that otherwise could not be taught in a classroom. An internship will also set you apart from other students looking to enter the same field.

Although there are no tests or certifications to become a publicist, it is highly encouraged to join the Public Relations Society of America or PRSA. The PRSA is the “nation’s leading professional organization” that serves the communications community. Through the PRSA, one can become more comfortable and acquainted with the ethics and guidelines of being an excellent publicist. They also provide tips on professional development and the opportunity to network with professionals in the same field. 


As mentioned above, the day-to-day duties of a publicist are ever changing. New and unpredicted challenges arise everyday in a publicist’s work and one must be able to adjust and adapt to those changes. When a publicist is manages a campaign, they craft speeches for a politician. When a publicist manages a scandal, they write a press release. A press release is a summary of an event given to media outlets to create hype or to explain a situation. The goal of a press release is to create a positive conversations surrounding their client.

Other possible duties include:


In today’s society, social media platforms run the world. Our new reality leaves a lot of room to correctly and incorrectly represent yourself. Unfortunately, a person’s image is highly important these days. Most people never learned to effectively advocate for themselves and their organizations. This is where publicists gladly step in. Without this problem, a publicist’s job would cease to exist. Thankfully, the job market is seeing that this problem is only growing and so is the need for publicists. By 2022, the employment of public relations specialists will increase by 12%!

Unfortunately, a publicist’s salary is dependent on multiple variables. Geographic location is very important to a publicist/s career. A client based in Stillwater, Minnesota is going to have a harder time reaching stardom than someone who is based in New York City. There are more connections in larger cities so naturally publicists based in larger cities usually have larger salaries. According to Indeed, the average American publicist makes a little over $49,000 per year. A publicist’s salary can range from $14,000 to $116,000 per year. Another variable that shapes a publicist’s salary is whether or not they work for a firm or are an independent contractor.


Huhman, H. (2016, November 8). What Does A Publicist Do? Retrieved September 10, 2020, from

Learn About Being a Publicist. (n.d.). Retrieved September 17, 2020, from

PRSA: Public Relations Society of America. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2020, from

Simmons, J. (n.d.). Career Spotlight: How I became a publicist. Retrieved September 10, 2020, from

Swanson, G. E. (1956). Agitation Through the Press: A Study of the Personalities of Publicists. Public Opinion Quarterly, 20(2), 441. doi:10.1086/266640

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