Celebrity publicist Liza Anderson is the founder ofAnderson Group Public Relations. The agency offers expertise in entertainment, corporate, athletic, fashion, lifestyle and hospitality publicity. Anderson's celebrity clients include Eva Longoria Parker (Desperate Housewives), India Eisley (The Secret Life of The American Teenager), Will Estes (Blue Bloods), Latin movie star Ana De La Reguera (Cowboys & Aliens and HBO's Eastbound & Down), Disney's Bella Thorne and funny man Will Sasso. Established four years ago, Anderson Group Public Relations has more than 20 employees on both the East and West coasts. We asked Anderson to share some of her insights for aspiring publicity hounds.
What are the methods you use to get publicity, buzz (and credibility) for your clients--and can that be translated to any business, product or service?
Anderson: There is an expression that says, "Any press is good press." At Anderson Group Public Relations, we are not necessarily firm believers in that expression. We do, however, believe in good, old-fashioned print and TV. I think that these two mediums are truly the most effective way to get PR for any client, whether it is a person, brand and/or a product. Of course, online press is becoming more and more effective as well, alongside newspaper, radio, red carpet events, blogs and social media. Online PR and social media are key--and more and more imperative to an effective public relations campaign.
Late-night television is a great way to promote any medium, whether it's a new TV show, film or charity event. There is nothing like being on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno or Jimmy Kimmel Live! discussing your projects. I recently put a client on Nightline to discuss her philanthropic endeavors, which generated huge buzz and spiraled into a major viral campaign. If you have current or breaking news, it doesn't get much better than being on the cover of the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times.
Of course, we are also using Twitter to raise money for our clients' charitable causes. For example, Eva Longoria tweeted about her Sept. 15 online auction, TwitChange, where Twitter users bid to get three things: be followed by their favorite celebrity on Twitter, be retweeted, or be mentioned by the celebrity in a special tweet. The money raised (more than $540,000) will go toward building homes with aHomeInHaiti.org. It's as simple as 140 characters that can go around the world instantly and raise thousands upon thousands of dollars for amazing, altruistic endeavors.
How do you make your celebrities--your "products"--stand out from the pack?
Well, I try to sign unique actors, celebrities and brands that already stand out from the pack before they sign with us. I have a very successful business that allows me and my team to be selective about whom we take on as clients. I pride myself on having an amazing eye for actors who have distinctive qualities and products/brands that really shine. One example is our client Bella Thorne. She is a star of Disney's new show, Shake It Up! She is stunningly beautiful and looks like a young Natalie Portman. She has star quality written all over her, with talent oozing out of every pore. Everything about her screams "I am a super star." She is a truly gifted actress and lights up every room she walks into.
What's the key to forming solid relationships with members of the media?
The key to solid relationships with the media is to be honest, work hard and always follow through with them. I am always straightforward with all of my working relationships, or any relationship, for that matter. Members of my team provide great story ideas, and they go the extra mile for the media. We do whatever we can to make their jobs easier, whether that is providing an extra story idea/pitch or amazing art and photos. It's very competitive in the media, so taking the extra step from being a good publicist to a great publicist isn't that difficult; but it makes a big difference in the short term and the long run.
Do you have any advice about pitching to the media?
People are overwhelmed and inundated with e-mails, and we all live in a busy world. Because of this, I believe pitching to the media is putting who, what, when, where and why in the first sentence and providing people with as much info as possible in a concise and informative manner. This is a key and necessary element in any effective pitch in this day and age.
What have you found doesn't work with the media?
There are a lot of things that don't work with the media, from boring them with long, drawn-out pitches to telling them things that aren't true, not following through, and even over-sensationalizing stories that may or may not have a good angle. Anything that doesn't work in your day-to-day relationships does not work in relationships with the media.
What's the best way to intrigue the media? Is it sending them food, trinkets or freebies--or simply providing them with the perfect pitch?
Ask me that question tomorrow--I have two dozen designer cupcakes on their way over to The Hollywood Reporter as we speak!
How has the publicity landscape changed with social media, and what does someone seeking recognition, publicity and credibility have to do to take advantage of those changes?
Social media has opened up a whole new avenue for publicity for anyone who has a fan base following in the public eye. It's an interesting territory to navigate and provides a great opportunity for celebrities to raise awareness for causes and fundraisers. It also creates a more personal bond with fans through the use of platforms such as personal updates and live feeds that can be up-to-the-minute with a celebrity's actions and life.
To take advantage of social media, you have to constantly stay up-to-date and educated on whatever social media platform you are using, whether it is Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. It never ends, and it's a battle to stay current.
If you're a small-business operation, how do you find time to deal with social media amid all the other duties you have?
I think you have to find the time to get everything done, regardless of the size of your company. But you know the expression, "If you want something done, ask a busy person . . ." In this day and age, you need to take advantage of every opportunity to brand your clients, actors and celebrities, no matter what method you are using to get them publicity.
How do you avoid scandals and get publicity with substance to it?
Avoiding scandal really depends on the individual client, as well as who they are and what their lifestyle consists of. It's hard to tell someone to avoid scandal when scandal is either a part of your life or it isn't. However, if a client is prone to scandal, I tell them to stay home and lock their doors (laughs). Thankfully, I am fortunate enough to work with a great group of actors, and this is really not a part of their lifestyle. The clients at Anderson Group Public Relations are really focused on their work, charities, families, Emmy and Oscar campaigns, etc.
As far as getting publicity with "substance" to it, that is all about the type of lifestyle a client leads and getting involved in the various aspects of their everyday activities. It's important to talk to clients and know them well: their passions, such as their charities; their body of work; their various other projects; and what motivates them, whether that is family or various interests. Anything based on these prongs that stem from their lifestyle, you create very interesting angles to put together a multifaceted PR campaign.
Do you have any advice regarding crisis communications?
Charge double! (laughs) It's one of my areas of expertise and one of the most interesting parts of publicity. Crisis mode is very exciting and fast-paced. I represent attorney Robert Shapiro, who represented Lindsay Lohan during her recent trial, and we were in crisis mode the entire time. It's very high-stress and the phones are constantly ringing, but we really thrive on it. I see it as an opportunity to get very close to your client and really embody every part of publicity. Also, with crisis publicity, you are on call 24/7 and must really think on your feet and work collectively as a team.
Here are a few basic publicity-seeking dos and don'ts:
- Act quickly to gather the facts and respond to the problem--no matter how much you want to avoid it. This reduces the false allegations and resentment that a slow response can bring about.
- Correct inaccurate information as quickly as you can.
- Come up with a schedule of releases to your targeted audiences and update regularly.
- Remember to think before you speak. You cannot take back anything you say. You must remember the long-term repercussions of everything you do or say.
- Never say "no comment" if you are not fully informed and up-to-date on a situation. It's better to say "Let me look into a few details, and I will comment on this once I have them," rather than say nothing at all.
- Make sure you are clear with journalists that you will respect their deadlines. Also realize that you need all of the facts to make an intelligent response, regardless of what you are talking about.
- Do not attack the media. The media can do more harm to you than you can to them.
- Have fun! If you're not having fun anymore, it's time to find another career.