By Talia Smith
On the same premises where Adele broke her award in half, where Beyoncé’s performance slayed and where Bruno Mars paid tribute to Prince, I was fortunate enough to be behind the scenes learning about the role of a publicist.
In my last blog post, I talked about the lead-up to working the 59th Annual Grammy Awards with Sugar Mountain PR (SMPR). Five of our clients at SMPR were nominated for Grammys in the children’s category. Now that it’s all over, I thought I’d talk about what it was like being there.
I arrived at the L.A. Convention Center around 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12. The children’s category was announced during the pre-telecast which airs online in the afternoon. I was told to meet our clients on the red carpet, which I realized was harder to find than I thought, despite it being bright red.
Security guards stood by the entrance checking the credentials hanging around my neck. I gained access to three more checkpoints until I reached the last one where I was directed into a narrow tunnel of black curtains. When I popped out on the other side, I saw the red carpet being vacuumed and a large sign that read “Welcome to the Grammy Awards.”
I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew I was in the right spot. I indulged in a few selfies as I waited for SMPR owner, Beth Blenz-Clucas; publicist, KC Mancebo, and our clients to arrive. KC, who also represents acts like Dave Grohl and Coldplay, offered to let me shadow her for the day, since my boss, Beth, had tickets to the actual Grammy show.
When the nominated musicians arrived, we waited in line until the red carpet media tent opened. Beth and KC told me about their plan to pitch the media inside. Our pitching points were 1) we have access to all of the nominees in the children’s category, 2) they’re all independent artists, and 3) they’re friends.
When the entrance to the media tent opened, the artists and their teams poured in. To my left, I saw a sleek backdrop with the Grammy logo stretching the entire length of the tent. To my right, I saw barricades stretching the entire other side of the tent with journalists, photographers and media people standing behind. Beth and KC divided and conquered as they pitched the different outlets, securing interviews with Pop Sugar and Grammy.com. I was responsible for rounding up the artists and bringing them to the correct interview locations.
After the artists wrapped up their interviews and completed their photographed walk down the red carpet, the parade led to the Microsoft Theater where the Grammy winners were to be announced. Beth accompanied her clients into the theater while KC brought me to the publicist lounge.
The lounge had a large TV surrounded by tables and chairs occupied by publicists with their laptops open. After each winner was announced, different publicists would jump out of their chairs cheering for their client, receiving claps from others in the room as if to say, Congratulations! We all know how hard you worked to make this happen.
When it came time for the children’s category to be announced, KC and I moved to the table directly in front of the TV, staring intensely. The name of each nominated children’s artist was read followed by, “…and the Grammy goes to Secret Agent 23 Skidoo.” The hip-hop children’s group won. We saw the band accept their award and give a speech. KC informed me that they would be coming up the escalator to the lounge soon.
We greeted and congratulated the band when they arrived, then brought them to their photography studio, where the classic Grammy photos with the gray backdrop were taken, and then to the press room to answer questions.
As we all made it out of the press room, we were welcomed into the winner’s lounge. KC, Beth and I clinked a glass of champagne because our work for the day was over. Although I was finished for the day, I still stuck around to watch the major celebrities arrive on the red carpet that evening and watch the live show from the lounge.
The important role of a publicist became even more apparent to me. Beth and KC did not miss a beat when offering their clients instructions, advice and a plan to navigate the media on the red carpet and in the press room. To me, it seemed like publicists are the bridge that connects the talent to the media, making sure the interaction goes as smoothly and as advantageously as possible.
By Talia Smith
If you follow me on Spotify, you might assume an eight-year-old stole my account password and has been streaming children’s music for the past year. I’m here to say it’s actually me who listens to artists such as Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could, the Okee Dokee Brothers, Recess Monkey, Frances England and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. While I do thoroughly enjoy their music, these artists are our five Grammy-nominated clients at Sugar Mountain PR.
Sugar Mountain PR (SMPR) is a Portland-based agency that promotes children’s entertainment. I have been doing freelance work for SMPR owner, Beth Blenz-Clucas, for more than a year now and am fortunate enough to be joining her PR team at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in L.A. this weekend.
This all transpired in a sort of serendipitous way and I thought I’d share what I have learned so far in the lead-up to this event.
Don’t Underestimate Your Network
I was introduced to SMPR in Portland through two connections from my hometown in New Jersey: my mom and Brady Rymer from Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could. My mom discovered SMPR when she was trying to book Brady for an event a few years back.
I didn’t know Brady as the children’s musician; I knew him as the bassist for the band, From Good Homes. They have a large following on the East Coast and I grew up listening to their music. Without my mom or Brady, I wouldn’t have known to reach out to Beth at SMPR.
The lesson I learned from this is that sometimes the most rewarding connections are not obvious ones. I would have never thought that I would find PR work through my mom, who did not have a PR background or my favorite local band. Sometimes you have to dive deep into your third, fourth, maybe even 17th level networks.
Sugar Mountain was not seeking a freelance intern when I applied. I got the job because I asked. I was not originally invited to assist at the Grammys. I’m going because I asked. I learned you sometimes have to take it upon yourself to reach out and offer your services. I think of how many opportunities I might have passed up just because I didn’t ask. As Christopher McCandless said, “If you want something in life, just reach out and grab it.”
Go Along for the Experience and Leave Room to Be Pleasantly Surprised
When at first I asked Beth if I could assist her team at the Grammys, she said yes but made it clear that she couldn’t promise I would have a press pass to get on the red carpet. I was still eager to go because they needed someone to sell merchandise at the pre-Grammy concert featuring all five nominated children’s musicians. I also have family in the L.A. area who I could visit and stay with.
I knew there was a chance that I would not be involved in any of the red carpet Grammy events, but I still wanted to go along for the ride. I would either have the chance to visit my family and work a cool concert or I would get to visit my family, work a cool concert AND work the red carpet and media room at the Grammys on Sunday. I couldn’t go wrong with either outcome. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from the Recording Academy to learn my press pass was approved. Then I was able to wholeheartedly freak out and go shopping for a dress.
I’m telling my story to show that it snowballed from a humble start. I think a lot of opportunities have extraordinary potential when you learn to, “Just Say Hi,” as Brady Rymer would say.