PRSSA National Conference: Session Takeaways

Public relations is a field that is broad in spectrum. For example, there is sports PR, crisis management PR, agency PR, corporate PR, entertainment PR, and the list goes on. Personally, that’s one of the reasons I was attracted to this profession. Over my time studying this field, I have found myself constantly changing what aspect of this job I want to go into. First it was sports PR, then agency PR, and then I found myself interested in crisis management. But recently over the past couple months; I my interest for entertainment side of public relations have significantly grown. Though most people, including myself, believed that entertainment PR means you represent a celebrity or a notable person, there is more to it than I assumed. I learned that after attending “Y’allywood: The Hollywood of the South,” the entertainment PR session at National Conference.

Atlanta, Ga., is home to one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment markets, and with that, home to some of the top entertainment publicists in the country. The “Y’allywood” session was hosted by Nikki Barjon, the founder of The Barjon Group, and Nichole Garner Scott, the CEO of The Garner Circle, LLC. Some of Barjon’s clients include T.I, a recording hip-hop artist, and Martin Luther King, III, a Civil Rights advocate and the oldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King. Scott’s clients include the Jaguar Luxury Brand and R&B recording artist Ciara. Both being successful professionals in entertainment public relations, I knew their insight and opinions were going to be valuable.

The session was started by asking the question, “what is public relations?” Every student in room who is pursuing a career in public relations has been tested on that question some point in their college career. Students stood up reciting a distinct, logical definition to the question, and I assume that it was the definition they were taught in one of their classes. After hearing about five students recite their definitions, Scott gave her definition of public relations, and it was quite simple:

“Public relations is the front of the magazine, and advertising is the back.”

Though her definition was not similar to the one I was taught in my introduction to public relations course, it had a reasonable and impactful meaning to it. Just like the other sessions, Barjon and Scott listed tips and strategies that are needed to break into entertainment public relations. They talked about the importance of interning, networking and social media marketing, which most public relations students are already familiar with. But something they talked about that I was not expecting was the power of traditional tools of the trade. Today, there has been a huge shift from old PR to new PR, due to the advancements in digital electronics and social media. I learned that to be a successful public relations professional, it is wise to use tools from both the old and new spectrum. Both of the presenters stressed the importance to being able to pitch yourself. Whether it’s a pitch letter or just pitching yourself to a potential employer or client, the better the pitch, the more successful you will be. According to Scott, ways to be outstanding at pitching yourself are to personalize it and make yourself stand out among your competitors. Both Barjon and Scott said that in order for you to work at their entertainment PR firms, you will have to pitch yourself in a way that will grab their attention. Both of the firms get a large list of students interested in internships, and a way to distinguish which students they are going to have as interns is how the student pitch themselves.

“If you don’t like pitching, you’re going to have to learn to like it,” said Barjon. “Pitching is something that will never go away.” This quote was one that I took into deep consideration.

Entertainment public relations and public relations in general is constantly changing. For example, social media has changed public relations dramatically over the years, and with new advancements in technology, the field is still continuing to advance and change. Some of the tools that were used in old public relations are started to take a back burner. Though some tools are fading out, one that remains static is being able to pitch yourself.

From this session, I gained critical insight on entertainment public relations, but I also received great knowledge on the importance of the use of old PR tools in today’s age and how valuable they are to the entertainment side of public relations. As I said before, I assumed that being a public relations professional in the entertainment industry meant that you were the publicist for a famous person. After this session, I learned that’s just a small percentage of what these professionals do. They have a wide range of clients, from recording artists, athletes, TV shows, luxury brands, magazines and more. A day in the office for these professionals could include managing a crisis in the morning, and the afternoon making a campaign for a brand.

Entertainment public relations is a job that few have the skills and willingness to do. This session made my interest for entertainment public relations grow, and I hope that one day I am sitting in an office, working with similar clients as Nikki Barjon and Nicole Garner Scott do daily.

Taylor White is currently a junior at Waynesburg University studying public relations and minoring in marketing. She serves as the special events coordinator for WUPRSSA and is active in other campus activities. You can typically find Taylor laughing with friends, listening to music, taking photos or attending the university sporting events. After graduation, Taylor hopes to pursue a job in special events planning or fundraising.


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