If you are looking for attention, then seeking representation with an agent or publicist may be a great move. Agents and publicists are tasked with a similar mission: to get their clients noticed. The difference between the two is that publicists work to get their clients exposure in the media, and agents, on the other hand, are tasked with getting their clients in front of decision makers to get them jobs. Oftentimes, people in entertainment, music, publishing and sports fields have both a publicist and an agent. Who wouldn’t want an entourage of professionals pounding the pavement for her?
Agents are the ones who shop head shots, music demos or manuscripts around town looking to get big breaks for their clients. They set up meetings and auditions to connect their clients with moneyed interests who are looking for talent. Agents are hired to find work for their clients. When they are successful, they help negotiate the terms of employment. Agents also often help guide their clients, advising them in ways that will help them grow and develop their careers.
That cover spread in "Vogue" featuring the hottest young star almost certainly came about through the work and networking of a publicist. Publicists work with the media to place news articles and radio and television interviews about their clients. They often manage social media campaigns as well. Publicists are also called in to contain negative news exposure when news goes bad. Publicists are common in the arts and entertainment realm, and also in the corporate world, where they represent businesses in all types of industries.
Agents and publicists are paid differently. Reputable agents are not paid up front. They are motivated by the promise of a percentage of their clients’ earnings. In fact, many states, including the epicenters of entertainment in California and New York, actually regulate the relationship between agents and their clients. State laws often dictate such aspects of the client-agent relationship as the approved length of the initial contract and the percentage that an agent makes from each opportunity she coordinates, according to the Association of Talent Agents. That typical range is 10 to 20 percent. Publicists, on the other hand, are typically paid either hourly or by retainer, meaning they get a base rate per month based on the average anticipated hours. It is much easier to hire a publicist on an hourly rate than it is to secure a relationship with a reputable agent. Agents only take clients they feel they will be able to secure work for as their own paychecks depend on it.
Proceed with Caution
Both a publicist and an agent can be powerful in building and maintaining a successful career in many fields. However, it is important to proceed with caution before committing to a contractual relationship with either. You can find out more about the reputations of individual agents and publicists by obtaining a client list to check the results of their work, making sure their terms and licenses are in agreement with state laws, checking for Better Business Bureau complaints and discovering if they are members of respected industry associations. It is always smart to have a neutral lawyer to review contracts with publicists and agents before agreeing to any terms.
Rachel Brown is a journalist, editor, writing consultant and strategic marketing professional with more than 15 years of experience in corporate/media communications. Her articles have been featured in national career and insurance journals and the top daily and business publications in St. Louis. Brown specializes in business/marketing/career, parenting, pet care and wellness/nutrition. She is also editor of the Jewish Rock Radio blog.