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article imageMichael Caprio discusses PR career, digital transformation of PR Special

By Markos Papadatos     Jan 9, 2018 in Entertainment
Las Vegas - Beloved celebrity publicist Michael Caprio chatted with Digital Journal about his career in public relations (PR), as well as the digital transformation of the entertainment business.
His client roster includes Olivia Newton-John, Leeza Gibbons, Human Nature, Ian Ziering, Richard Marx and The Chippendales.
Regarding his love for public relations, Caprio said, "That's a good question. I think my favorite part of PR is when I am working with clients that not only bring happiness via their music, film or TV projects but, also have a philanthropic element to their work that I can be a part of on a regular basis. Bringing awareness to projects that bring joy and comfort to people is really what makes me feel very connected. Luckily all of my clients have deep connections to charitable causes - whether it's Olivia Newton-John’s Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, Leeza Gibbons’ work with caregivers and Alzheimers awareness, or the many fund-raising community events that Human Nature and The Chippendales do locally and nationally."
His educational background and early work as a PR professional
He started in the industry back in 1988 when he was still a Journalism & Mass Media major at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "As a Journalism major part of the degree required a full semester internship - not just a few hours a week. I literally worked in a professional office for four days a week for five months at the age of 19. I decided to apply at a company that was not part of the Rutgers approved list (thank goodness they approved it)," he said.
Caprio continued, "I was hired as an intern by the Fred Nathan Company (now The Publicity Office) - which at the time was one of the top Broadway publicity offices. I had some amazing mentors and learned so much from Fred and other publicists in the office including Marc Thibodeau, Bert Fink, Merle Frimark, Bill Schelble, Bill Miller and Maria Somma to name a few. During my time there we worked on shows such as the original cast of Phantom of the Opera (with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman), Cats, Miss Saigon, Lettice & Lovage (with Maggie Smith), Jerome Robbins’ Broadway and The Heidi Chronicles (with Cynthia Nixon and Joan Allen), among others. It was an incredible time in my life and the publicists in my office really let me get involved in learning and being a part of the community. To this day I thank them for taking me under their wings and teaching me."
Proudest professional moments
On his proudest moments, he said, "There have been so many wonderful moments with so many clients, but two stand out for sure. Early in my career when I was VP of Publicity at Varese Sarabande Records, an indie label that focused on Broadway cast albums and vocalists, as well as movie soundtracks. One client was the late Laurie Beechman - who was not only a tremendous talent and professional but a sweetheart. I remember sitting with Laurie in the airport in Miami after doing a conference for Universal Music and she said her dream was to sing at the White House."
Caprio continued, "A few years later I was proud to be a part of the team that helped her sing not at the White House but, sing on the nationally televised inauguration for Bill Clinton in 1997 at the US Air Arena in Baltimore. She sang 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' from her CD, “Songs of Hope and Inspiration from Broadway” as the finale and then she introduced President Clinton. You could see the joy on her face in the video. Sadly we lost her to ovarian cancer in 1998 when she was only 44 but I know that I was a part of something very special in her life - and mine."
Another proud moment for Caprio was starting his own company, Caprio Media Design back in 1998. "This year will mark my 20th year with my own company," he said.
Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John
Denise Truscello
Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Center
Another moment that stands out in Caprio's career is being with Olivia Newton-John at the opening of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Center in Melbourne, Australia, in 2012." We had spent over 12 years fund-raising to build this incredible Centre that has helped so many people through the years and to drive up to the front of that building when it was complete and to see the sign with her name on the building was emotional for both of us," he said.
"We were heading to do some media the day before the grand opening and she grabbed my hand in the back of the car as we looked up the hill to the Centre and she said 'that’ the greatest billboard with my name I will ever have - it will be my legacy.' We both got teary and it was a moment I will never forget as the work I had done with her to promote every aspect of the Centre from fund-raising to building to the opening had a little bit of 'me' there as well," he revealed.
Digital transformation of PR world
On the impact of technology in the PR world, Caprio explained, "Technology is a blessing and curse. I remember the day in Fred Nathan’s office back in 1989 when we got a fax machine that would let you program 200 numbers so you could mass fax 200 people. (We would set it up at 6 p.m. and all night it would dial out and send the fax to 200 journalists - of course the next day you would have a report of which ones didn’t go through and they had to be sent one by one.) With today's technology, I can send a press release to 1000+ journalists and producers with the touch of the button - I would have never anticipated that! The joy of the Internet is you can accomplish so much from anywhere, which is great when you travel as much as I do. The negative in my mind is that people feel they have access to you 24/7 which can wear on you mentally and physically. I would love to know what a 'weekend' was again."
Caprio acknowledged that technology has definitely helped the PR industry evolve a lot. "The Internet and smart phones have provided the ability to spread your message to the masses is much easier and do it from pretty much anywhere in the world. The negative to me is that back in the day when you actually spoke on the phone with producers, writers, and radio hosts, you had a much stronger connection as you really got to know the people you were working with - you weren’t just another email pitch being sent."
He added, "Luckily, I have been doing this so long and have many so many wonderful friends and colleagues in TV, print and radio that we can still share that 'I get you' mentality and accomplish a lot with emails. It's the younger teams of producers and journalists that haven’t had that experience so it makes it just a little tougher to make those relationships. The good news, so many of the younger producers and journalists understand the need for relationships. As publicists we couldn't do what we do without them and without us they couldn't do what they do. It's a win-win!"
Use of technology as an entertainment publicist
"Like everyone, my laptop and email are essential to everything I do. In addition, as I travel so much with clients around the world, I could not live without my iPhone. I can be on the phone, check emails, text and search for information that I may need all with the touch of a button," he said.
Caprio continued, "Social media has also become a great tool to not only stay connected with colleagues but, as a way to discover new media outlets and platforms to promote projects and clients. There are some wonderful bloggers and niche media outlets that can sometimes have a bigger impact on a certain project than some of the bigger national outlets. It’s great to see how social media and the Internet have created such a plethora of diversity and target markets and consumers."
On his daily motivations, he said, "My husband and family - Bruno, Tyler and Bear, my dachshunds, motivate me, and knowing that what I am doing is, in some way, impacting someone’s life. Whether it’s discovering a song that makes a person feel something or, promoting a cause that can end up helping others gives me the drive to do what I do. Entertainment is such a big part of everyone’s life - and in the crazy world we are in now with some insane leaders - sometimes we just need a little escape - whether that’s watching a film, listening to an album or, even better, catching any live performance. Knowing that I can help someone discover someone or something they were not aware of by reading a feature story I set up or, booked a client on a TV show is my little way of contributing."
Caprio's advice for aspiring publicists
"My advice is to be a sponge," he said. "Learn everything you can from everyone - especially those who have been in the business a while and who are respected. Also, smile! For some strange reason some publicists think they need to be a guard dog or just down right nasty to be taken seriously or to feel some power. Some in fact act like bigger divas than the celebrities they represent. We are not curing cancer here - so respect everyone and be kind to everyone. I'm not saying don't stand up to someone when you need to - just be respectful of how you do it - kindness goes a long way. And, never mistake kindness as weakness. Also, pass along your knowledge to younger publicists coming up in the ranks. We need to help each other in life - karma baby!" he elaborated.
The esteemed publicist continued, "Lastly, learn how to write and respect grammar. I can't tell you how many press releases or pitches I have seen that are full of typos and grammatical errors. Being a publicist is not just about glamour, red carpets and working with celebrities. It's about being a professional in communication - to ensure that the right story is told and that you are able to provide journalists and producers with all the information they need to create a great story or segment in the easiest way possible. I pride myself on trying to make everything easy for everyone - and sometimes that's not an easy thing to do!"
Caprio defined the word success as "happiness and knowing that he has helped someone in some way." "Life is short and our time here is limited so, be kind, smile, laugh and treat everyone with respect. It’s that simple - following these rules will guarantee success in life - on every level," he concluded.
To learn more about acclaimed publicist Michael Caprio, follow him on Twitter.
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