How to Pick a Publicist, According to Robert De Niro’s Go-To Guy

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Photo Source: “Killers of the Flower Moon” Courtesy Apple TV+

Never underestimate the importance of a great publicist. They can help you land a glossy magazine cover, a guest appearance on a late-night talk show, or even a spot as a presenter at the Oscars. And if you overindulge and crash your Harley into the Chateau Marmont’s swimming pool at the ceremony’s afterparty? Fear not! You have a publicist to help restore your image.

But picking the right person to guide you through stardom can be complicated. We asked PR-industry titan Stan Rosenfeld how to find the right publicist for your career needs. With over 40 years of experience and a client roster that includes George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and Kelsey Grammer, Rosenfield is well-versed in making the right decisions.

How do I know when the time is right to search for a publicist?

What stage in your career are you? Just starting out? Are you getting sent scripts? Are you getting work? Do you have an agent? Do you have a manager? The agent and manager generally always come before the publicist. Often they can make a recommendation. But it’s time to bring a PR person into the picture if you're not being recognized in the media for the work that you’re doing when other people who are doing similar work are getting recognized. Or if you run into a producer or a director and they say, “So what do you do?”

What kind of questions should I ask a publicist at our first meeting?

You want to know who they’ve represented in the past. You want to know who they currently rep that is in the same caliber that you are. If you're talking to a company whose most important client is Augie Schmidt, that defines their reach, and you should wonder if editors or writers will take their call. You always want to hire a company that has some people on the roster who are of a higher caliber than you. That allows you to take advantage of their reach. And you can ask them, “Who do you deal with at Vanity Fair? Who do you deal with at the New York Times?” 

What personality traits should I look for in a publicist?

You’ve got to hire somebody who's capable of doing the job. You may not like their personality. I can't stress that enough: They may have bad breath, they may need a shower, but that's just up to your taste. You want somebody who is experienced and isn’t going to school on your time. And of course, you should know before you start what basic fee structures are. 

Is there an industry standard on the fee structure? For example, is PR full-service with a standard charge every month? Are services invoiced à la carte? 

Folks who are just starting out may not be able to afford one of the major companies. They might have to go to a lesser known company. At most of the major companies, the standard fee is as low as $5,000 a month. I can be as much as $10,000 a month. You pay us the same thing every month. When I started many years ago, PR companies charged $100 a week. As I always say, some months you take advantage of us. Some months we take advantage of you. Some months we accomplish more, and some months we accomplish less.