How to Become a Publicity Assistant (or Hire One)

by | May 28, 2021

publicity assistant

Publicity is a brilliant career to start in 2021.

  • Requires creativity and storytelling skills
  • Relies on relationship building that can’t be automated (AI isn’t taking over this job any time soon)
  • Allows you to grow in a number of directions
  • No cap on your income if you start a business and take on your own clients

I help businesses find and hire publicity assistants. They might be interns still in college, fresh college graduates, or virtual assistants living in other parts of the country or even overseas. I’ve learned a thing or two about what publicity assistants do, how they charge, and how they help businesses grow.

What is a publicity assistant?

A publicity assistant is someone who gets paid to help implement public relations (PR) campaigns for their employer or their clients.

Publicity is all about getting a brand or business in front of existing audiences. Contrast this with content marketing, a strategy businesses use to build their own audiences. The key difference is earned media versus owned media.

  • Earned media – channels the business gets featured on like a magazine, radio show, digital publication, etc.
  • Owned media – channels the business owns like their podcast, email list, blog, etc.

Publicity is earned media, and it can take a lot of different forms:

  • Television spots
  • Radio guesting
  • Podcast guesting
  • Contributor article writing
  • Print magazine features
  • Digital publication features
  • Social media campaigns
  • Guerilla PR
  • Live events
  • Virtual events
  • Brand activations
  • Social media livestream interviews

The goal with publicity is often brand awareness, which simply means getting a brand in front of target customers.

The more positive interactions that a person has with a brand relevant to their needs and desires, the more likely they are to buy from that brand. In the business-to-business sector (B2B), it often takes around 7 touchpoints with a potential customer to convert them. There needs to be multiple interactions before someone will buy.

In the business-to-consumer (B2C) arena, it might not take that many touchpoints. For example, someone could watch an episode of Shark Tank and then immediately buy magnetic eyelashes. (I did that last week.) That was only one interaction with that brand. But it was a very strong one. When you watch Shark Tank, you get to hear the entrepreneur’s story and learn all about the product. You get to dive so much deeper than if you had just seen an ad.

And that is the power of publicity. It can serve as an important touchpoint on a long customer conversion journey, or it can shorten the sales cycle and drive immediate sales. The longer and more in-depth the feature, the more likely that the customer will develop a connection with that company and make a purchase.

As a business, you can hire a publicity assistant to help implement your PR strategy. And, as a publicity assistant, you can help companies you believe in grow their brand and profits. There is so much opportunity in this field.

3 types of publicity assistant jobs

Want to get your first job in PR? There are a few different options for you.

Work at a PR or marketing agency

  • About this type of job – An agency is a business that serves multiple clients and has more than one employee (otherwise it would just be an individual consultant or freelancer). Agencies usually have sales people to get more clients and account executives to determine the best strategy for that client and manage the people who will implement that strategy. As a publicity assistant you would be one of the implementers working under account executives. You would do work for multiple clients. Of course, PR agencies offer publicity services, but marketing agencies do too, since PR and digital marketing are so well connected.
  • Pros – You don’t have to worry about finding clients yourself, or doing sales calls, or coming up with the strategy. You also get to work on lots of different client accounts, so you’ll gain experience quickly.
  • Cons – Agency environments can be stressful. To make a profit, agencies typically don’t pay entry-level talent very well. But you can work at one for 6 – 12 months, gain experience, and then move on.

Work in-house at a company or brand

  • About this type of job – Want another option for working as a publicity assistant? You could work in-house. That means that you’re an employee for one company and doing PR to grow their audience and awareness.
  • Pros – If you work at a company you believe in, you can experience a lot of fulfillment and excitement on the job. You’ll probably work under a PR or marketing manager, so you’ll learn a lot from them.
  • Cons – If you’re not in love with the company, you can easily become bored. Unless you “climb the corporate ladder” you won’t make as much money working in-house as you would if you started your own publicity business, which we explore below.

Become a freelance publicity assistant

  • About this type of job – A freelancer is like an agency in that they serve multiple clients, but is not an agency because they are one person, and don’t usually contract work out to other people. As a freelancer, you can take on businesses as clients, and you can also work under agencies to help serve their clients.
  • Pros – You can work for clients you want to work with, on your terms and on your own schedule. You can also continually raise your rates as you gain more experience, and better results for your clients.
  • Cons – If you’re not good at marketing your business and selling your services, people will try to undercut you and not pay you very much. You need to get experience as an “assistant” and then stop advertising yourself that way, and change your branding to be a publicist or publicity strategist.

Where to find publicity assistant jobs

Want to find a job? Here’s how to find a job as a publicity assistant at a marketing and PR agency or at a company.

Agency jobs

Agencies are always looking for talent. Remember how I said above that agencies like to pay people low rates so they can make a profit off of their work? Well, you can use this to your advantage.

If you want to get started and are fine charging a somewhat low (but livable) hourly rate, you can get an agency job easily. Keep in mind that the agency may not be able to hire you full time, but might offer you part time or contract work. Depending on where you live, you might charge anywhere from $15 to $30 USD per hour.

There are two main ways to find agency jobs:

In-house jobs

It’s harder to find in-house full time jobs than agency jobs and gigs, because there isn’t as much turnover.

You can find in-house publicity jobs through personal relationships and connections, as well as job sites like Indeed, LinkedIn Jobs, and local city job listings sites.

Unless you have a relevant degree or experience, it might be tough to break through the competitive hiring process. You could try to find an agency job first before moving to an in-house role.

How to become a freelance publicity assistant

Job hunting is exhausting. In a lot of ways, it’s actually easier to get freelance gigs than full-time jobs. If you pitch your services well, you could start working for a new client the very next day.

There are 5 foundations you need to have in place to have a successful freelance publicity or public relations business.

  • An industry or business niche – It’s tempting to want to serve every type of business, but the sooner you pick a niche, the better. You might assume that if you claim to only work with beauty businesses, that you won’t get enough clients, but the opposite is true. Businesses from adjacent or different niches will still contact you. But if you present yourself as the jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none, you’ll have fewer leads and interest.
  • A service focus or specialty – You need specific freelance skills or service specialities in order to stand out. For example, you might specialize in booking podcast interviews for clients or in getting premium features in large publications. You can still offer services outside of this speciality, but having a specialization will help potential clients view you as an expert.
  • Clear and simple rates – You can publish your rates on your website or keep them hidden. Either way, you need simple and clear rates, so you can easily quote people via email or on the phone. If you’re not sure what to charge for something, that will make you look like a newbie.
  • Reliable ways to find good clients – There are so many ways to market your business. For new business owners, I recommend LinkedIn marketing, cold email, and building a referral network.
  • A plan for retaining clients – It’s smart to set your services up for longevity. You could offer a monthly service, such as booking 2 podcast interviews and 1 guest post in a month. Or you could charge a flat rate fee for 15 hours of digital PR work in a month. When you get monthly clients, you can add some reliability to your income.

How to find clients as a publicity assistant

If you know me, then you know that I’m a big fan of using cold email to get clients. Unfortunately, cold email has a bad reputation because people are tired of getting spammy, irrelevant emails in their inbox.

But it is possible to do cold email well, and it can absolutely help you find clients as a publicity assistant.

You can take my word on this. My client-getting cold emails are so good, Reply.io wrote a case study about my 85% open rate and 40% response rate.

reply.io case study

 

If you want to get clients, here are the three steps you need to follow:

  • Figure out where your ideal clients hang out – Check out podcasts where they might be interviewed, conferences that they might be hashtagging in Twitter, and events that they might have sponsored. I put together a list of where to find high-paying clients in 14 different industries.
  • Use email finding tools to get their email addresses – When you have a list of contacts that you want to reach out to, you’ll need to find their email addresses. You can use Hunter, ContactOut, and Clearbit: B2B Data To Power Your Entire Business to find email addresses.
  • Send personalized email pitches to grab their attention – And finally, you need to email these people! For best results, send something personalized, such as a compliment of their logo, their work, their products, or their brand. Write in a natural, non-salesy way. After your opening line, ask a simple question like:

“I offer publicity assistant services to help my clients grow their online audience and sales. Would you be interested in learning more? I can send over some info”

The more informal your cold email message, the more likely you will be to get a response!

Other smart ways to get clients:

Cold email helps you target the clients you really want so you can get social proof from them in the form of logos, testimonials, and case studies. But cold email is time-consuming, so at some point you can graduate to other strategies:

  • Publicity (yes, get your own business featured in the right places!)
  • LinkedIn marketing
  • Instagram marketing
  • Referral network
  • Blogging and SEO
  • Pinterest marketing
  • Facebook marketing

Main types of publicity

There are essentially two main types of publicity: traditional and digital. Within each type there are various strategies and channels.

Traditional publicity

Traditional publicity refers to older methods of accessing earned media (media you don’t own). This type of earned media is TV, radio, and print magazine, as well as conference speaking events. While traditional publicity is still very common for large brands, many small and medium sized businesses do not invest in it.

Traditional publicity can make it harder to reach your target audience. For example, if you are a financial coach for business owners, getting on a local radio show might not be useful, unless your city has a high proportion of self employeed people. On the other hand, digital PR lets you get in front of niche audiences much easier, though these audiences are also small in size.

Digital publicity

Digital publicity is online publicity. You might get featured in a podcast, a Facebook live interview, a virtual summit, a virtual conference, an online publication, etc. Digital publicity can also include online PR campaigns with a heavy social media element, such as when a brand asks customers to use its filter or hashtag.

Here’s an example article I wrote for the digital version of Entrepreneur:

Entrepreneur article, example of digital publicity

Top skills to learn to do great PR

If you want to be a pulibicty assistant, you’ll need the right skills. Depending on the services you offer, you might not need all of these skills, but you should have a few:

  • Storytelling and pitch ideation
  • Outlet and publication research
  • Pitch tracking and follow up
  • Relationship building
  • Leveraging press coverage
  • Using publicity to drive backlinks
  • Social media management or promotion

How to hire a publicity assistant for your business

Hiring a publicity assistant or intern is a smart move.

Here’s why:

  • Much of PR is grunt work (true)
  • It helps with SEO
  • You’re probably not promoting your existing content/resources as well as you could
  • You can use digital PR to build relationships with not only contributors and creators, but also potential customers, visibility partners, and affiliates!!
  • Interns can do pitching and social media interactions/engagement

To hire a publicity assistant, you should come up with a starting project or what you want to accomplish in a month. For example, maybe you want the assistant to build a list of 100 relevant journalists and contributors. Or, you want them to research and pitch 50 podcasts. Come up with a starting project to test if you like working together. This project should be paid, and you should never ask someone to work for your business for free.

Where to find publicity assistants online

These are my favorite places to find publicity assistants:

  • LinkedIn search (Try searching for virtual assistant, publicity assistant, PR assistant, PR freelancer, marketing assistant, etc.)
  • Upwork
  • FreeUp
  • Facebook groups for virtual assistants

Publicity assistant job description example:

Here’s an example job post I wrote on Upwork to find a great publicity assistant to help me with guest post pitching and HARO response ghost writing.

publicity assistant job description example

The job description text is:

I’m looking for a content writing and press assistant for my business (copywriter and visibility/publicity coach). There is a lot of opportunity for ongoing work for this year and next year. This project is just the beginning of what I’m looking for!

Here’s a description of the first project:

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a website where journalists from large and small publications can ask for sources to help them write their articles. I want to get featured in more outlets, but I don’t have time to track and respond to HARO queries.

This position is 3 – 4 hours per week.

This is the process for this project:
– You will scan through all HARO opportunities to look for relevant queries based on the criteria I give you.
– Then you will copy the queries into a Google document.
– I will then create a short Loom video talking through what I want you to include in the query response. I will provide a 1 – 3 minute video for each query.
– You will then use my video content to ghostwrite the response (this way you can pick my brain without us having to schedule a call) and submit it to the journalist.

As a 6-figure copywriter who’s building out a scalable course business, you’ll get not only a client but a mentor as well!

To create your own quality job description template for a publicity assistant, make sure you include the following:

  • Description of the task
  • Whether it is a project or ongoing
  • How many hours it is estimated to take, or how many hours are allowed per week/month
  • The process for the task
  • What they will learn (motivate them to apply with the chance of professional development)
  • A short description of your company and what you do so you attract best-fit applicants

If you need help finding a publicity assistant, just contact us and we can get applications for you from our network of virtual assistants who specialize in publicity and marketing.

How to get a return on your investment when working with an assistant

Whenever you hire a freelance virtual assistant, you want to make sure that their work will have an impact.

Here are three smart ways to get more ROI from PR:

  • Have your publicity assistant drive backlinks to your SEO pages to increase the chances that it will rank
  • Ask your publicity assistant to pitch you as a podcast guest or a guest post writer for target clients’ or target affiliates’ websites
  • Work your press coverage into your social media content calendar and email nurture sequences to build your brand’s authority and drive more sales.

How to train a publicity assistant

To train your publicity assistant, you’ll need to teach them PR strategy, outlet research, contact information research, pitch writing, pitch follow-up, and pitch tracking. If you’re not experienced in these areas, it could make more sense to hire a coach to train your team for you. You could also purchase a PR team training course to upskill your team with tutorials and templates.

Don’t expect your publicity assistant, especially a green one, to figure everything out on their own. Instead, provide them with the training resources they need.

Learn more about Pitch & Profit’s publicity assistant training program. 

Dayana Mayfield loves publicity and content marketing and how they work together. She's been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, YFS Magazine, Thrive Global, StartupNation, and countless co-marketing opportunities. Her story pitches have landed startup founders and small businesses in dozens of online publications. Grab her SEO + PR checklist to learn how to rank your small business in Google search using digital PR --> pitch.st/checklist

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