The most important skill for a publicist is the ability to think like a journalist. Journalists and editors need publicists as much as publicists need them. Editors need to fill the pages of their newspapers, magazine and Web sites. They need stories tailored to their readers' interests. Celebrity and entertainment writers, in particular, rely on tips from publicists to keep their sections original and exciting.
This means that publicists need excellent communication skills both written and on the phone.
But a publicist does need other skills including being a natural "people person." He needs to be outgoing, funny and not afraid of rejection. The best publicists establish genuine relationships with the editors and reporters who cover their client. They know how to network without looking like they're networking. They earn the trust of journalists by always being honest and available for comment. They understand that a good idea from a good person will get much more attention than a lot of exclamation points from a used car salesman.
Patience and flexibility are extremely important for publicists as celebrities, politicians or other public figures can be difficult to work with. They hold odd hours, have bad habits and live in a media fishbowl. A publicist needs to be able to work within their client's time frame.
Like any career in public relations, publicists need to be able to deal with crises and emergencies with a calm head. They look for ways to turn mistakes into PR opportunities. When a rock star is busted for a DUI, the publicist needs to make sure there's a story in the next week's paper about the celebrity coming out of rehab and volunteering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
How do you break into the publicist business? Do you need a special college degree or can you just work your way up? Find out more in the next section.