I Don’t Hate Publicists

I just hate bad publicists.

As I sit here writing this article, I am currently blocked from posting anything to Facebook, commenting on anything on Facebook, or even liking anything on Facebook, because Facebook has determined that I violated their “community standards” in a recent thread about a Philadelphia-based publicist whom I unfriended. I won’t bore you will all of the high-school-gossip details of that spat. After all, it’s publicly viewable on my Facebook page, minus the publicist’s epic flameout, which has since been deleted.

But I think it’s important for me to say for the record that I don’t hate publicists.

Last week, I wrote an article on Philadelphia magazine’s food-scene website, Foobooz, in which I ranted and raved about the Food & Wine travel feature on Philadelphia in the November issue of that magazine. In the article, I made the point that almost all of the restaurants included in their story were represented by high-priced publicists, which makes it hard for “the little guy” to catch a break. I thought that the writer of the F&W article was lazy. At least, that’s what I was trying to say.

Unfortunately, based on messages I’ve received, some of my publicist friends took offense to my article, taking it as an affront to the career they have chosen. That is hardly what I intended, and I apologize to the good publicists out there that were offended.

Some of my peers in the journalism industry generally loathe publicists.

“I’ve known publicists who were so bad they made their clients look infinitely worse,” says writer-extraordinaire Lisa DePaulo, who most recently penned a Philadelphia magazine story and e-book about high-profile criminal defense attorney Chuck Peruto. “They are like blind dates. You tend not to expect too much.”

Freelance journalist Jen Miller, who has written for this site, the New York Timesand a lot of other outlets commented on my F&W story on Facebook, writing, “I don’t talk to publicists if I can avoid it. … Some publicists are very good at what they do, but some are so bad that I won’t consider working with their clients.”

If you are a business that pays for a publicist to represent your brand, read the last part of that sentence again. This well-respected journalist won’t write about you because your publicist is an ass. Think about that the next time you sign your $2,000-a-month retainer check.

There are good publicists out there. Good publicists make my job easier. Good publicists pitch me stories that make sense. Good publicists know that their role is to promote their client, not themselves.

But then there are the bad publicists, and believe me, if you’ve never had to deal with a bad publicist, consider yourself very, very lucky.