PRNewser Interview: Former CBS Comm. VP Beth Feldman

September 18, 2007

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Beth Feldman, former Vice President, CBS Communications Group, freelance writer, HuffPost columnist and founder of Rolemommy.com talks to PRNewser about celebrity encounters, the future of network television and why she left CBS to start her own firm, Beyond PR.

You certainly have a lot on your plate. We’re do you find the time to do it all?

I don’t sleep much anymore. I try to keep a to do list every day that will keep me on track and help me get to all my priorities. And obviously, projects that have an imminent deadline looming take first priority. I also find that I can carve out writing time on my website Role Mommy on the weekends and after hours when the kids are asleep and my husband is wrapped up in a baseball game.

Your new firm’s focus will be entertainment publicity and “multi-platform image campaigns.” Can you share with us any interesting projects you’ve been working on (or would like to work on?)

I love working on projects that have incredible potential. It’s no fun to represent an actor or actress who really hates to do publicity so all you’re doing is saying no to everything or demanding magazine covers when you know full well that an editor is rolling their eyes while you’re passing up another great opportunity. The projects I love to take on are the ones where I can help craft the image or the brand. You have a great idea, you’ve started to get some traction either through ratings, book sales or web views and your looking for someone to take you to the next level and get you in front of the taste-makers and trend-setters. I am the person who can help you get there.

Between the contacts I have garnered over the last 17 years in the entertainment industry as well as the team of high level consultants I align with depending upon the project, I am committed to finding experts who can utilize their contacts to cut through the clutter and secure placements, generate awareness and build buzz. And if we can’t get you what you want through traditional and non-traditional PR outreach, you may want to consider advertising and marketing. I’m representing several clients right now – from a major television network, to a major online site with original entertainment programming, to a couple who have a book and reality series being released in 2008, to a New York Times best-selling business author to the first of its kind virtual walk for stage four breast cancer.

Why did you decide to leave CBS to start your own firm? What would you tell other professionals looking to go out on their own?

I spent a large part of my career at CBS – it was the place where I got married, had two kids and managed to launch shows like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “The Amazing Race,” and I even handled the finale campaign for “Everybody Loves Raymond.” After “Raymond,” I was promoted to a position where I handled PR for several divisions of the company and I was able to hone my craft and gain even more insight into the world of entertainment and corporate publicity. After 11 years, I finally got to a point where it was time to take a chance and become an entrepreneur. Through my website Role Mommy, I have met hundreds of women who have reinvented their lives while raising a family and I felt it was time to truly take a chance and pursue my passion for entertainment, publicity and writing.

What is your assessment in CBS’ handling of the PR for the controversial reality show “Kid Nation?”

I cannot comment on the campaign for Kid Nation. What I can tell you is that the PR department for CBS is comprised of some of the most seasoned and talented publicists in the entertainment industry and I am proud that I have had the chance to work with many of them over the years.

In your opinion, what are some of the big challenges PR people face today?

The biggest challenge PR people face is finding the right hook that’ll convince a reporter or television producer to cover your announcement or event. Fighting for space in print and television is incredibly tough these days unless you are an A list celebrity, or a down on your luck feature film star or singer who is captured by TMZ leaving a bar late at night while their 10 month old is being cared for by their estranged husband. We all like to put a positive spin on our stories but oftentimes, reporters are looking to reveal the underbelly of the beast. Finding those reporters who are not jaded and willing to listen and potentially run with your pitch is tough but it’s your job as a publicist to constantly explore new ways that will garner positive coverage for your client – even if it means exploring non traditional outlets to get the job done. If you’re getting into publicity today, you had better have a firm grasp on the blogosphere. And if you are a seasoned publicist who never surfs the ‘net, then you are incredibly behind the eight ball and better brush up before some 25 year old leaves you in the dust.

We’re sure you met many famous faces while at CBS. Any good celebrity stories you’d like to share?

My all time favorite memory as a CBS publicist took place during the finale campaign for “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I had scheduled an entire day of press appearances for the entire cast – from network morning show appearances, to Regis & Kelly, to The View, to a press junket atop the Ritz Carlton in Battery Park to having the cast be greeted by a swarm of traders at the NYSE and watching them ring the closing bell at the stock exchange. I then arranged an intimate screening party for the cast and crew and got the chance to watch the final episode surrounded by some of the most talented actors, actresses, producers and writers I have ever met in my life. I remember that day standing with Doris Roberts at the NYSE and she grabbed my hand, and said to me, “Honey, do you see what you’ve done today? Don’t you ever forget it.” And frankly, I never will.

Other favorite celebrities who were truly a pleasure to work with include Kyle Chandler, who now stars in “Friday Night Lights” – I worked with him on my very first show at CBS, “Early Edition” and couldn’t say enough good things about him. Then there’s Danny Aiello, who was also such a sweet and charming man. Then there’s Phil Keoghan – host of “The Amazing Race” who was a motivating factor in leading me to jump off the cliff and take a chance on a new career. I also loved working with Emily Procter – star of CSI: Miami, Doris Roberts, Amy Brenneman (Judging Amy) and Marg Helgenberger – not only are these talented actresses, they are incredibly smart and inspiring women too. I can go on and on and I’m sure you’d love to know about the actors and actresses who rubbed me the wrong way, but a publicist never names names…unless of course she’s sharing that information with Page Six as an unnamed source!

Where do you think network television will be in 20 years?

I think network television will still be around but I truly believe that the Internet is going to play a large role in deciding which shows make it on the air and which ones never see the light of day. Using the web as a launching pad to build buzz and awareness is a phenomenal way to create interest in a show before spending millions of dollars on a project that might not get the ratings you had hoped for. There will always be a place for traditional television, but I love the fact that seasoned television and film producers are throwing their hat into the online production ring and bringing the elements of online viewing to a whole new level. I’d also love to see more pilots that I thought were amazing aired online – you never know…if the public winds up viewing something and building buzz – the show might actually wind up on television after all.

We read on your bio that you completed undergrad at UMass Amherst. There’s lots of good food in that town. Do you have any favorites?

I used to go to the Pub all the time but that’s because they used to take New York State ID’s and at the time, that was the only way I could get into a bar and get a drink! I also liked a lot of the restaurants in Northampton but it’s been so long I can’t really remember the names. And I also remember there was this great sub place that would deliver these delicious salads to our house off campus when all the bars shut down but of course, I don’t know the name of that one either. Sorry, it’s been too long – I guess I’m due for a return visit!

You can visit Beth at her new website and blog Beyond PR.

Her book, Peeing in Peace: Tales and Tips for Type A Moms, co-written with television producer Yvette Corporon, was recently purchased by Sourcebooks and will be re-released with bonus material in April 2008.

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