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Pop Culture Confessions: Comic-Con PR Fails

Thousands of celebrities, vendors and artists hope to get the attention of the more than 130,000 attendees who cram into the convention center each year.

Many are looking for money. Others want something different.

Good PR.

For the well-connected, that means relying on your internal PR department or a third-party agency to drum up interest in your product, service or idea. And like any profession, there are good PR folks and bad ones (just as there are good journalists and bad ones).

Most of the former are stressed out, overworked and relatively underpaid (much like journalists). Cutting through the noise from other exhibitors, celebrities and rival studios is no small task. As a result, sometimes these pros don’t present their best side. And sometimes, they just don’t get what reporters are seeking.

Comic Con PR SOS

Confession time: I’ve been on both sides of the table. I started my professional life as a newspaper reporter. I later made the transition (some would say I moved to the Dark Side) into marketing and public relations.

And now I write for HollywoodInToto on the side. So I’ve authored many press releases and pitches and I received a lot as well.

Some are great. Others, well…not so much.


In combing through the roughly 75 press releases I receive each week leading up to Comic-Con, I’ve noticed a couple of issues. And not the good kind. Here are some flacks’ common pitfalls.


Marketers are paid to generate excitement and demand for their products. But they also have an obligation to tell the truth. For some overzealous publicists, the truth is in the eye of the beholder.

“Beloved Genre Stars Doug Jones & Mike Harney Join Space Command Comic-Con Panel,” according to one press release. Now I’m sure that these guys are nice people and fine actors, but “beloved?” Wouldn’t you get further by reminding reporters that Harney has a significant role in “Orange is the New Black?

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and NetherRealm Studios promise “a star-studded panel” for its Injustice 2 video game launch. But when the lineup features such “stars” as George Newbern, Laura Bailey and Phil LaMarr, it’s not so studly. It’s not like George Clooney and Robert Downey Jr. are panelists.

Another email is enticing reporters to attend a panel on musical scores. It reads: “BMI’s composers, such as the legendary John Williams and Mike Post, contribute to billions of dollars in box office receipts, with film scores in many of the year’s top films as well as highest rated TV series.” That may be true, but neither Williams nor Post will be part of your panel.

Forgetting Who Your Client Is

At the end of the day, a PR person’s job is to get their client (or talent) great coverage. And, of course, these pros are usually good self-promoters. Sometimes, though, they let the tail wag the dog.

“The Fill in the Blank Group presents clients at San Diego Comic-Con 2016,” screams the first headline. But I don’t know who the Fill in the Blank Group is. Nor do I care.

RELATED: Comic-Con Exclusives: Deals or Duds?

I might be interested to learn that the firm represents musical clients who have worked on genre shows like “Outlander,” “The Flash” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But chances are, I’m deleting it before I ever get there.

Similarly, this extremely long headline: “July in San Diego – We wouldn’t miss it for the world! It’s a full slate and here’s what our team at the ‘Acme’ Group is working on.” Assuming I can get past the exclamation mark, missing comma and ending the sentence with a preposition, you lost me at Acme Group.

Sending Multiple Emails with Same ‘News’

One company keeps sending emails trying to get me to write about their special 50th anniversary Star Trek beer. It might be interesting, but stop sending emails. You’re driving me to drink!

Another publicist keeps emailing about interviewing Jason Matthew Smith, who I’m consistently reminded is “co-starring” in “Star Trek Beyond” with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Smith has about five minutes of screen time in the first two movies. He’s the guy who beat up Kirk in the first film.

It’s a lot like saying if you combine my salary and my CEO’s we pull in about $10 million a year. But please, send me another email about it.

Where is the Follow Through?

Despite these sins, the good pitches make it through to their intended targets. Sometimes, though, the PR folks fumble the ball. Too often, flacks will push and push for interviews or coverage, but then fail to deliver on their promise. That’s happened to me a couple of times in just the last week.

“Thank you for your interest in the ‘Man in the High Castle’ press room at SDCC. We will be sending confirmations later this week.” That was last week. I’m still waiting. But then the studio has the gall to pitch me on another project. Let me get right on that.

And then there’s Image Comics, which proactively offered several intriguing creators for me to interview. Then … radio silence. You could argue I should be more aggressive in trying to get a story. But with all of these folks fighting for attention, why wouldn’t I just go with the PR pro who is doing things right?

There’s a panel on Comic-Con’s opening day titled, “How to Get News Coverage.” Maybe some of these guys will attend and learn a thing or two.

Photo credit: San Diego Shooter via / CC BY-NC-ND


  1. I’m hopeful for SPACE COMMAND, which creator Marc Scott Zicree says is going to be science fiction in the Golden Age tradition of Heinlein. If you’ve read The Twilight Zone Companion, you already know he’s a terrific writer.

  2. “It’s a lot like saying if you combine my salary and my CEO’s we pull in about $10 million a year.” Okay, I’m stealing that one.
    You’d think given how popular most of this pop culture entertainment is, that it would basically sell itself. So why is the marketing so bad so often? Boring or misleading trailers, badly-photoshopped posters, and so on. Seriously, how hard is it to convince people to go see a Star Trek movie? I think “Beyond” looks terrible, but I’ll probably still see it.

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