Which Media Outlets Matter the Most to Hollywood Publicists?

Good Morning America Cast - H 2015
Courtesy of ABC

Good Morning America Cast - H 2015

Selling a book? That's easy. You try to get on 'CBS This Morning.' But what makes Reddit better than NPR (or not?) and other burning questions? Nine top Hollywood message managers reveal their thoughts on why some media matter more than others.

This story first appeared in the April 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

As the media landscape grows increasingly cluttered with options on newsstands, airwaves and online, finding a way to cut through the noise is more crucial than ever – and that’s before getting to the proliferation of social media’s self-publishing platforms.

In some cases, youth-skewing services like Twitter and Tumblr is a boon: “We put just as much emphasis on social media and other sharable platforms as we do PR,” says one publicity head at a studio with multiple YA film franchises. “The Internet has become the great democratizer in that we try to be inclusive rather than exclusive most of the time.” Because any news that’s fit to print will inevitably spread, selecting the right outlet becomes important for framing the narrative and setting a tone, says crisis management expert Judy Smith.

She and other top Hollywood message managers shared with The Hollywood Reporter the media outlets that currently (or still) matter the most for publicity. 

For a tentpole

A PR head kicks off with a The New York Times Sunday Arts and Leisure or Los Angeles Times Calendar piece. ABC and NBC a.m. shows (Today is "trying harder with talent" lately) and Reddit's Ask Me Anything and BuzzFeed are all for reach. Grantland was cited as a "sweet spot of media-savvy sports and culture fans."

For an Oscar film

"60 Minutes can set up an actor or film in the most significant way, and so can The New York Times Magazine," says a top PR. "The 75-year-old voter with 37 DVDs doesn't read websites and feels a trade has its own biases." Also: CBS This Morning because those viewers "are Academy voting members," says a campaign strategist.

For a personal bombshell

People still is the go-to as "the most credible place" (Diane Sawyer, Matt Lauer and Robin Roberts also are trustworthy confessors), while media consultant Howard Bragman picked the Times for Michael Sam's coming out. If you're not Angelina Jolie and can't get two op-eds in the Times, Huffington Post was considered adequate for reach.

For a mea culpa

Bragman likes social media for sorries: "But if it's namby-pamby, it doesn't go anywhere." Crisis expert Smith prefers a statement to Twitter or TV. "If you go live and screw up, they show that over and over" (maybe it's no coincidence that news of Sony hiring her came out the same day Michael Lynton appeared on CNN).

To say, 'I've arrived'

Vanity Fair covers and "the cover of Time will always resonate," says one agency head. "It's rare that Time will put a celebrity on the cover, which makes it potent." Vogue, Esquire and GQ also are "prominent, elegant outlets that still have the gravitas." For comedians, Saturday Night Live is "the ultimate thumbs-up," says one publicist with top comic clients.

For the highbrow

"NPR is important," says a manager, for "an immediate movement in sales and a knock-on effect from other media." Terry Gross "is one of the first I pitch," and Howard Stern "still is the best longform interview." Says a rep: CBS Sunday Morning "moves the needle, reaching an audience that downloads music, buys books and goes to movies and plays."