PUBLICITY‘...the action or fact of publicizing someone or something or of being publicized; the technique or process of promoting or advertising a product, person, company etc.’ – Oxford shorter dictionary

This complicated yet short definition sums up the true meaning of publicity. In a simpler way media publicity means the promoting and management of a subject to the public’s eye. Publicity falls under the umbrella of marketing. In a film production this role is designed to attract attention to the film and the ideas around it (The directors, actors, musicians and story etc.) How this is achieved is by setting up interviews on TV with the actors or advertising campaigns for example.
Publicists collaborate with many people in the chain of a film production. The director is one of the most important people in this chain, as a publicist needs gain an understanding of what the movie is about, who it aimed at and to some extent how to portray it. These are all things the director has a personal and detailed picture about. Another person to collaborate with is the producer, the reason being that person controls the budget. So the publicist must gain an understanding of how much they have to work with. The actors who are the figureheads of most films need to be consulted as well on how they will be presented.

In the film production process the use of publicists is primarily seen in the second half of the stages.
Pre Production – At this stage publicists do come into effect much. Publicists may be used to generate interest of producers.
Production – This stage onwards is where publicity starts to come in action. Movies generally take a year to a few years to be released from the start of filming. To start and get public attention to the film, media campaigns start around a year out from release. These include the organization press releases, movie posters and even trailers or sneak peeks at this stage.
Post Production – This is where publicity takes on full effect. The movie moves ever closer to release in this stage. Targeted marketing campaigns start with the aim of getting the public’s attention to think about the film. Trailers are released, mass advertising begins (on bus shelters, TV ads, online advertising etc.) and public awareness of the film is increased.
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There is very little special equipment needed, some forms of note taking and communication are the essentials. A mobile phone, email and pen and paper are the weapons of choice.

There are is no real one degree in publicity, yet many agenises and producers look highly on people who have experience and qualifications in the field. These qualifications include degrees in Business Administration, Communication, Marketing and media studies. These are offered at almost all major universities ranging from 6 months part time to four years.

Publicists are rarely on set and only involved in really the latter half of the production of a film they are not very well know. In saying this one of the most prolific publicist was Don Arden who was also a business man, author, music producer to Black Sabbath and father to Sharon Osbourne.

The advancement of technology in the last 20 years has been one of the greatest things to happen to publicity. Communication is now quicker and more reliable but new mass mediums have been made that are very user-friendly. With the existence of Web 2.0 publicity has managed to become more targeted and has let the user get more information and become more engaged. The set up fan pages that is then spread by the public via social networks have massive implication for brand awareness. The future of what the internet will provide is more than likely going to just improve on efficiency and higher profits for the film industry in terms of publicity.
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For more information:
http://educhoices.org/articles/Publicist_How_to_Become_a_Publicist.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publicity
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publicist