Senior-Level Publicity Management: Insights from PR Specialist Caroline Maréchal

Caroline Maréchal is an experienced PR specialist who excels at staying up to date with industry trends and changes and integrating this knowledge into her work. She has worked in the entertainment industry for years and has adapted quickly to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Caroline’s approach to building and maintaining professional relationships is based on honesty, transparency, and consistency. She measures the success of publicity campaigns through metrics like media value and earned media value. 

Caroline’s process for developing and implementing a publicity strategy is creative, innovative, and goal-oriented. She is skilled at managing and communicating with teams to ensure everyone is aligned and working toward a shared goal. Caroline has extensive experience working on film press junkets and knows how to ensure that the events run smoothly and achieve their intended goals.

We are delighted to have Caroline with us today to discuss her wealth of experience and expertise in the entertainment industry. With Caroline’s extensive knowledge in her career as an accomplished PR specialist, we are eager to gain insights from her experience and insights in the field.

How do you stay current with industry trends and changes, and how do you integrate this knowledge into your work as a PR Specialist?

Staying tuned and informed is a crucial part of my job, and having knowledge about everything and continuing to review any additional information is essential. The most convenient places to stay updated is social media, but I also sign up for newsletters, read interviews, watch competitors, and get involved in attending conferences or industry events to develop and maintain your network.

During and after such a huge worldwide pandemic, the entertainment industry was highly and deeply impacted. Many aspects have changed, especially in my work as a PR specialist. We all know since the beginning that our job will never be the same. Everything was on hold at first and eventually canceled for some major live press events such as screenings, premieres or festivals, and conventions, but we quickly found some alternatives and deployed solutions rapidly and securely. Adaptation was key.

The ways of work have changed, and almost everything went online and virtual, such as screeners with secured links or junkets with Zoom, Google Meet, or Teams. The most difficult challenge was to accommodate each time zone to connect with journalists and talents – and for me, they were very long, long days! Fortunately, I didn’t need training to use these new tools because I always stayed current with the new technological trends.

Can you provide an example of a challenging project you worked on in the past and how you navigated any obstacles that arose during the campaign?

I have been working daily with the press and media for years now. And in the past years, with the launch of new media, a part of my job has changed. Before websites and social media, a large part of our stories and reviews were printed, so it was easier to control. But now, the challenge is to maximize our visibility with approved materials and control, as much as I can, the information published online.

For a PR specialist, the most important thing is the film review. We started to have press embargos on each film release. It’s a request form that a reporter, a blogger, or an influencer agrees not to report on a particular piece of news until an agreed date and time. A journalist or blogger who attends a pre-screening – and it can sometimes be 3 months before the release date – has to sign this embargo letter to make sure they will not publish their reviews before the date is lifted.

Print outlets were resistant to change and very unhappy because usually, the embargo lifted a few days before the release date and all the monthlies couldn’t publish their reviews. I had long conversations with them to help them embrace this change. It’s my job to find a way to balance these differing views. I wanted to help them to understand that the emergence of new media or influencers in our publicity campaigns was natural and something we couldn’t avoid.

Today, it’s common and completely normal to sign waivers and embargos even in your personal life.

How do you prioritize your responsibilities when juggling multiple projects simultaneously, and what techniques do you use to ensure that everything is completed on time and to a high standard?

I totally agree that a very important part of my job is to juggle. In my job, it’s even more important to learn how to manage multiple projects at once.

First, you need to prioritize what is urgent given how each campaign has different priorities and tasks. Time blocking is a worthy technique that I use to increase productivity, and it allows me to be more productive, creative, and innovative! That means staying focused on priority activities and not being distracted by my phone. Also, I think delegating and working closely with your team are key, especially when you need to meet your deadline. Finally, staying organized across your tasks and being a great communicator are key. 

For me, these are some of the best ways to manage multiple projects and deadlines – efficiency, focus, and honesty lead to productivity.

Can you describe your approach to building and maintaining professional relationships with various stakeholders, such as talent, producers, agents, and executives?

Maintaining and building positive relationships help groups work together more effectively and enable more timely decision-making. For me, honesty and trust are my number one rule. If you get an executive, a talent, or a reps engagement process right, they might follow you anywhere. They will be more accepting of your decisions. It’s important for me to get their engagement early.

It’s essential to be transparent from day one. Acting with consistency and integrity is essential in building trust. Clearly and frequently communicate and keep everyone in the loop in different ways that give highly specific information about the process and decisions. Also, people are more willing to engage when they understand their influence over the final outcome, the decision-making process, and what is and isn’t negotiable.

How do you measure the success of a publicity campaign, and what metrics do you use to determine the return on investment?

We can measure the success of a publicity campaign with the media value of your press coverage. My main assignment is to secure maximum visibility and positive media impressions for my film campaign. We can then use a calculator which estimates the monetary value of our media. It answers this simple question: How much would I have to pay for ads to achieve the same outcome?

For social media posts, we use the earned media value indicator. It’s an indispensable KPI for calculating the impact of a campaign. It uses two categories of parameters which are engagement and exposure.

Can you walk us through your process for developing and implementing a publicity strategy for a new project or product?

Getting the word out and receiving outstanding media coverage are the goal of each publicity campaign.

First, I do some research on the film, the story, the filmmakers, or the actors. Sometimes, I could screen the film before even when it’s still a work in progress. Before creating my publicity strategy, I worked very closely with the marketing team to clearly define our goals, identify our target audiences, and allow a clear budget for publicity. When I have all the elements handy, I start thinking how I can reach out to the target audience, diversify my publicity outreach, and determine resources that I would need.

You always need to be creative, innovative, and keep your goals in mind.

How do you manage and communicate with a team to ensure everyone is aligned and working toward a shared goal?

Implementing any strategy begins by educating, involving, and aligning the people responsible for executing it. Without cross-functional team alignment, even the best strategies are doomed to fail. Team alignment is achieved when cross-functional teams and individual team members work toward the same vision, understand their individual and team goals, and see how their contributions connect to wider organizational purpose.

This benefits from increased productivity, improved communication, higher employee engagement and retention, faster decision-making, and increased agility to respond to external forces.

Can you discuss your experience working on film press junkets and how you ensure that the events run smoothly and achieve their intended goals?

I love working on film press junkets. For me, it’s the achievement of long weeks or months of work, back and forth, and approvals. It’s usually one of the final steps in your publicity campaigns before the release date.

First, let me explain what a press junket is. It is part of a film’s promotion. It’s designed at heart to get as many interviews done with those involved with the film in as short a space of time as possible. Rather than lots of different interviews with lots of different people in lots of different places, everything is done over a day – or a few days – at one location. In France, it’s primarily Paris or at the Cannes Film Festival. The vast majority of the time, it happens in a luxury hotel where a bunch of rooms are booked out. This allows for filmmakers to do as many interviews as possible, with as many journalists, bloggers or influencers, in a day or two. Often, a junket is the day of a premiere.

Not every outlet attends the junket. They are selected and are usually high-profile outlets which make sense with the film. The outlets are television, radio, print and online interviews, and podcast interviews as well. Likewise, it’s important to highlight that not every film release has a junket because of the expense.

To make sure everything runs smoothly, your main key success factor is your updated and approved schedule – everyone involved needs to have it in handy! You need to anticipate everything, and an upstream work is necessary with pre-meeting, staff movement meetings, recce, and walk-through. And the day of your junket, you absolutely need to manage and control all the time slots to avoid running late in your schedule which is always very tight.