by Denise Mc Iver
I’m still in I-school, so I’m new to the information profession. Prior to going back to school to pursue my MLIS, I worked as a publicist in the music and entertainment industry for over a decade. Upon reflection, there are some lessons from that world that might apply to becoming Future Ready.
First of all, it’s true: Publicists ARE control freaks (in the best sense, I should add) because that’s what we’re paid to be. We control the public perception of our clients’ “brand” and we’re the “keepers” of our clients’ dreams and goals – whether they want to secure the cover of Rolling Stone, perform on a segment of The Today Show, or get ranked in the Top Ten on any Billboard chart. So for me, a former flack in the music business, being Future Ready is all about branding.
Some lessons I’ve learned in my former professional life include…
Begin With the End In Mind: Publicists always begin a new campaign with this as our mantra. For us, Christmas arrives in July. If our client’s new album is being released in the fourth quarter, we spend a great deal of energy doing something called “set up” beforehand. For information professionals and librarians, it might mean doing some setup by taking an audit of our skills, experience, and passion (a key ingredient!). We can then use these as springboards to ‘futurize’ ourselves.
Know Who You Are: Publicists understand that their recording artists have a public persona and the music they create (hopefully) extends this. Lady Gaga gets this; had she made a boring entrance at the Grammy Awards a few weeks ago, it would have been clear that she wasn’t “on message” and her public would have been surprised, and possibly lost. Love her or hate her – she’s clear about her brand: One-Who-Pushes-The-Envelope-Off-The-Table. I’m not suggesting we become Gaga-ized, but it is vitally important that WE define ourselves first so that we can communicate who we are and what our value is to our various stakeholders and constituencies. Capture the vision, promote it, and remember to stay on message.
“Grow Some Feet”: There’s nothing remotely glamorous about doing a bus tour of any kind (trust me on this!) unless your client is Mick Jagger or Beyoncé. If you want to sell albums, you’ve got to tour – it’s how you build awareness. The same goes for information professionals. I’m not one to sit behind a desk all day, so I hit the “road” (actually the hallways) and do short “drop-ins.” I let my stakeholders know I’m a co-collaborator with them, and these drop-ins give me the opportunity to anticipate and determine what their needs are, possibly before they’ve even had the chance to think about them themselves. This is how I make myself visible and sell my value.
Summing it all up: After the press screening of Black Swan, actress Mila Kunis, who was strapped into five-inch high Christian Louboutin stilettos, expressed how exhausting and painful it was to wear them throughout the long evening. She also remarked how grateful and amazed she was that her publicist had the presence of mind to bring along a comfortable pair of slippers for her to change into as the evening wore on.
Now that’s a lesson in being Future Ready.
Denise L. Mc Iver is a recipient of an IMLS scholarship and attending the MLS program at St. John’s University. She anticipates graduating in May. She’s a student member of the NY Chapter of SLA.