When Should A Production Company Hire a Publicist or PR Agency

An exclusive interview with Lori De Waal

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

In the ever-evolving landscape of public relations, knowing when to bring in additional expertise can be the difference between a campaign that falls flat and one that captivates audiences. Lori De Waal, a seasoned PR professional with a knack for strategic storytelling, sits down to shed light on the crucial junctures where enlisting a production company can elevate PR efforts to new heights.

With a wealth of experience navigating the intersection of PR and production, Lori De Waal offers invaluable insights for agencies and businesses alike seeking to master the art of impactful communication.

PH: Tell us a little bit about yourself, DeWaalPR, and how long you've been in the business.

Lori De Waal: I’ve had my own PR firm, De Waal & Associates, for 25 years. Before that I worked at two other entertainment PR offices. PR is all I’ve ever done for a living.

Immediately after graduating from UCLA, I got a PR assistant job at Solters, Roskin and Friedman who handled some of the biggest names in Hollywood (Michael Jackson, Paul Mc Cartney, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton, to name a few). I was later offered a job as Vice-President at The Garrett Company. Don Garrett had a reputation for coming up with creative campaigns and memorable PR stunts. I started handling TV shows which led to a celebrity division which I headed. 

PH: What types of clients do you work with? What services do you provide? 

Lori De Waal: Other than celebrities and filmmakers, I’ve also handled some iconic LA restaurants, non-profits, books, and even architects and designers. But entertainment is always the main focus. I  do find handling different types of accounts gives me the chance to think out of the box and come up with interesting ideas for clients.

We provide many services for clients, often above and beyond what is expected from a PR office.  For example, for a film we might start with an announcement release about the start of production. Once production starts, we may arrange set visits if there are known actors or a newsworthy angle about the film. We can put together a press kit on the film and arrange for photo coverage, which will be very useful once we start promoting the film.

Once the film has wrapped, even before a distribution deal is in place, there are a lot of things we can bring to a client. We can send our press package to all our contacts that cover film. We can set interviews for the director and the cast which can create a buzz on the film. We can secure reviews if desired. We don’t submit to festivals but we can reach out to our contacts at various festivals and put in a good word. Clients see results immediately when they work with us.

Once we have a release date, we can secure even more press tied to release - we pitch entertainment trades, print, online outlets, radio, TV, podcasts, you name it. We set up numerous interviews for the director and the cast, arrange for industry screenings, look into current protocol for Oscar submission. The opportunities to promote a film are endless and we’ll put in the hard work to get optimum results.

PH: What's one of your favorite things about your role?

Lori De Waal: I like being able to give a client what they are paying for which is results. We don’t make empty promises, we deliver.  I will work as hard as needed on every client to get them the right kind of exposure. I like happy clients.

PH: In your experience, when is the right time for an artist or project to consider hiring a production company for PR services? Are there specific milestones or scenarios that signal it's the appropriate moment?

Lori De Waal: For an artist, one should consider hiring a publicist when they have something worthwhile to promote. It can be a recurring or starring role in a series, a role in a film, even if it’s a small role in an important film, it’s promotable. It can be a theatre project, a musical gig, a new podcast. We advise if it’s a good time or not on our first call.

For a film, once contracts are signed and the film is going into production, it’s time. I have one writer who always contacts me about starting publicity. He tells me about all the film projects that are “about” to happen and the A list talent that has expressed interest. I always tell him it’s not time - the press won’t write about a project that may or may not happen, it has be a firm go.

PH: Can you walk us through the collaborative process between a publicist and a production company? How do you ensure seamless coordination and alignment in achieving the client's objectives?

Lori De Waal: A good publicist walks the line between keeping clients happy as well as the press. So a client who responds quickly to press requests is always appreciated. A client who supplies us with needed art. We always  need a headshot  of the client, as well as production stills. They will be asked for often and must be available immediately. If they don’t have a headshot we can arrange for a photographer who can take wonderful headshots. We supply updated calendars to clients so they always know when an interview has been set and what they have coming up. Sometimes an emergency comes up and a client has to reschedule an interview but it's not something we want to happen frequently. The press can get turned off if an interview is cancelled more than once, especially if they are doing us a favor by doing it. We are successful because of our press contacts, we want to treat them right.

PH: How much input or involvement do your clients typically have in the decision to hire a production company for PR services? Is it a mutual decision, or is the publicist more likely to initiate such partnerships?

Lori De Waal: It can happen either way. More often not, we are recommended to the production company, director or actor by a satisfied client. We also reach out when we hear about a new film in production that is of interest to us.

PH: When working with a production company, how do you tailor PR strategies to align with the unique needs and goals of each client? Are there specific considerations that go into this customization?

Lori De Waal: Every campaign is specific to every client. For instance we recently handled an action film so in addition to reaching out to all our media contacts who cover film we also reached out to press who focus on that genre. Another film we worked on recently involved a historic rape case so we contacted female reviewers, women-centric podcasts, even feminist outlets to raise awareness about the film. We are working on a science fiction drama film so we added horror and sci-fi outlets to the mix since those type of publications will have an immediate interest. So yes, all campaigns are vastly different.

PH: How do you ensure that the efforts of the production company seamlessly integrate with your PR strategies? Are there common challenges in coordinating these two aspects of a promotional campaign?

Lori De Waal: A client gets educated pretty quickly on how we work. A client may have had a bad PR experience in the past, so we provide results almost immediately so they can relax a bit. We are in touch with our clients daily letting them know what we are doing on their behalf and our overall game plan.

PH: In what ways do you measure the success of a collaboration with a production company? Are there specific metrics or key performance indicators that guide your evaluation?

Lori De Waal: There are no metrics, ratings, or amount of downloads (which is how you judge the success of a podcast). I think a client senses the interviews are going well, the reporters we bring them are professional and well prepared. A buzz has been created about their project by the work we are doing on their behalf.

A well done campaign really builds on itself. More and more opportunities come our client’s way as the word gets out.

PH: How can one learn more about/work with your firm? 

Our website is located at dewaalpr.comYou can find testimonials hereOur twitter is: https://twitter.com/DeWaalPROr contact: Lori De Waal, De Waal & Associates Lori.DeWaal@DeWaalPR.com 818-817-4444

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