Interview by Yising Kao
John is featured in our Music Industry issue!: www.galaxy-mag.com/issues
John's PR: https://www.johnpanichella.com/
Photo by Dylan Bernard
John Panichella started his own PR company in 2017 based in Los Angeles, CA, after a few years of working with J-14 as a reporter, editor, photographer, and videographer. He has worked with artists such as Dylan Bernard, Will Jay, Carson Lueders, and Keaton Stromberg.
What inspired you to start your own PR company?
I was the weird kid growing up, so I loved writing. I would write short stories and poetry and things like that. I also loved pop culture, so during my freshman year of high school, I decided to marry those two ideas and I created an entertainment blog called Jay Swag (www.jayswag.com) and it did really well and gained millions of impressions. Eventually, I moved to Los Angeles from New Jersey and J-14 found my work and hired me for my blog. I did that for a while and during that timeframe, I noticed that I was making a lot of connections. I didn’t see myself as being a reporter forever and I wanted to try the other side of it, so I would take on some clients as a publicist. My cousin is in the NFL, so he was the first client I ever had, and my other cousin was on Switched at Birth, so I worked with her. Little by little, I realized that I loved that side of the industry of orchestrating the brands and making an image, so I left the editorial world and went into PR.
What's the hardest part of your job?
Honestly, explaining what I do to my family. They’re like, “What? You get people on websites?” But actually, in the industry, there’s a lot of misconception of what a publicist is, and I understand that because my role can be very diverse. The biggest frustration for me is when people come to me with this idea that if they pay a certain amount of money, I’m going to make them famous. And that’s not what my job is. My job is to help craft your image, get you on websites, walk you down carpets. I can help you build a brand. I pride myself on being very upfront and transparent with them through meetings. I let people know that this is not a one stop shop, like you're not going to become famous overnight. But if you really work hard and we work together, then we can definitely make progress towards the goal. Or another thing people will say is, “Can we pay you per placement instead of a monthly retainer?” The answer is always no because you’re not paying a publicist to get placements. You pay them for their time. So, whether or not a pitch lands with a magazine, I’ve still spent time crafting that pitch, calling people, and emailing editors. You're paying for my time, not necessarily what pitches you do get, and that’s kind of what differentiates a good publicist from a not so good publicist. You see what results you get and whether you like it or not.
What skills are important to have for a publicist?
The biggest skill to have is communication. You want to be able to communicate effectively and I think you do that by knowing how to read people. Those are hard skills to teach in a classroom so I always recommend getting as much real life experience, whether you're interning for a firm, or if you know someone in PR, talk to them and pick their brain. Forming a relationship, whether it’s going out to lunch with someone just to catch up with someone. You have to genuinely love what you do in PR because if not, you're going to find yourself going out to lunch with people you don’t like and going to parties you don’t want to go to. So, definitely communication and also being organized. For example, I work from home, so that’s hard for a lot of people. What I do is, every night before I got to sleep, I make a list of everything I want to get done the next day, and I wake up at 6 or 7AM and just go through and check them off. It’s easy to lose emails and lose track of time, so creating a schedule’s really helpful.
How do you balance how many clients you have?
I’m sure everyone's going to have a different answer for this. But personally, a year and a half ago, I decided to take on 8 clients at once and I realized I couldn’t do it. But I had to do that to find my limit, since I don’t have anyone else working with me. I realized around 5 people was my limit.
What advice would you give to people who want to get into PR?
First, decide what kind of PR you want to get into. There’s so many-music, fashion, business. Find what you want to do but also make sure you love the idea of PR in general. Because I know for a lot of people, it’s not going to be what I did, which is make my own firm. Get as much hands-on experience as you can, and I firmly believe in going above and beyond. So, if someone wants you to draft up an email, draft up the email for them and also draft up 3 other options if they don’t like that one. Juts show them that you want to learn, and you want to be a part of it. People will like that, and they’ll see your value, and you’ll absolutely find a job.
Photo: John with Dylan Bernard by Yising Kao