What Does a Director of Publicity Do?

An old adage says, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." While that claim is debatable, there's no doubt about the value of good publicity, which can make or break an album, concert tour, or other newsworthy event.

Working to support an overall marketing strategy, directors of publicity pursue the (mostly) free advertising obtained from news stories, feature articles, reviews, interviews, and other mentions of a client, product, or brand in traditional, online, and social media. 

The publicity director oversees a staff of publicists who manage individual client accounts, closely monitoring progress and outcomes, identifying areas for improvement, and delivering reports to the label or company executives. For a star client, directors may take on the full range of a publicist's duties—from orchestrating a media blitz to writing news releases and working the phones. 

However, at the end of the day it's the director who is held responsible for the success or failure of a company's publicity efforts, and it's the director who takes the lead on crafting a media campaign's overarching message, theme, or narrative: the loss that led to an artist's transcendent comeback album, for example, or a young star's transition from television actor to pop singer.

In addition, publicity directors select the media outlets and influencers that will help reach the artist or album's target audience. When a client receives negative press, publicity directors use years of experience in the field to assist publicists in the delicate process of counteracting harmful narratives.

Director of Publicity at a Glance

Career Path

Publicity directors work for record label publicity departments, public relations firms, and entertainment companies. Typically, the career path begins with a junior publicist, assistant publicist, or internship position, followed by work as a publicist and, eventually, promotion to the assistant director or director of publicity. Some directors go on to open their own PR firms.

Finding Work

Publicity directors usually work as publicists before being promoted within the company or seeking a directing position at a smaller company. Experience working as a tour publicist or music journalist can also be highly valuable for this job.

Professional Skills
  • Superior written and verbal communication
  • Planning long-term media campaigns
  • Writing press releases
  • Social media management
  • Media relations
  • Public speaking
  • Networking
  • Management
  • Hiring
  • Budgeting
Interpersonal Skills

Like publicists, publicity directors need impressive networking skills in order to create and maintain relationships with media industry contacts. Unlike publicists, however, publicity directors also must have the leadership qualities necessary to manage a staff; these include strong organizational skills, the ability to multitask, and superior written and verbal communication skills.

Work Life

In addition to long days in an office overseeing staff, crafting campaigns, filing reports, and putting out media fires, publicity directors can expect to spend plenty of time after-hours making contacts and nurturing connections at concerts, shows, events, and parties. Like publicists, directors of publicity work in a 24-hour news cycle, meaning that they must stay engaged with their work even when on vacation.