After 37 years, countless critics' press tours, scandals and successes, box-office disasters, corporate mergers and all the stress of being a top-dog corporate-communications executive and publicist, Barbara S. Brogliatti no longer has all of Warner Bros. to worry about. Officially, on May 31, she'll begin the process of retiring.
As executive VP and chief corporate communications officer at Warner Bros. Entertainment, Brogliatti has had a hand in virtually everything Warner Bros. does—right down to union negotiations and video-piracy issues—for more than 15 years.
“My job—it sounds so egotistical—was created for me,” she says. “I uniquely have a background that hits everything from home video to television to film to investor relations. Very few people have that experience—not that they couldn't do it—but there was no job like mine at Warner Bros. before me.” And no doubt, it will take more than one person to replace her.
In the totally insincere kiss-kiss, let's-have-lunch-sometime world of high- stakes showbiz publicity, Brogliatti's style is, well, somewhat more to the point.
“I think there are two kinds of people in the world: people who are straight lines or jagged lines. She's one of the straightest lines in the world,” says legendary TV producer Norman Lear, who hired Brogliatti away from CBS in 1974 and considers her a close friend. “I think what comes with straight lines is no bullshit.”
Some journalists business will remember Brogliatti for her, well, straightness. When Warner Bros. was in the news, Brogliatti wasn't shy to tell reporters when she thought her side wasn't getting a fair shake, and in no uncertain terms. “This is not a popularity contest,” she says, “so I am probably not the most popular person in the world.”
But she was patient enough to explain subtle points and if she was tough on some journalists and even some staffers, there was usually method to her madness. Indeed for her staff, Brogliatti created her “10 Ps of Publicity,” the step-by-step Cliffs Notes for the care and feeding of a publicity item. Among the steps: “Phollow Up,” “Pass It Along,” “Pray,” and “Pay-Off (Praise or Problems).”
She thinks media coverage is stretched too thin these days, just as the talent is on TV itself. “I think the competition between the publications and outlets is fiercer than between television shows and between movies,” she says. “It's a lot of 'gotcha' journalism” she isn't sure adds up to hill of beans. “Finally, we got competition to TV Guide with People, and a little bit of competition kept everybody honest, but now the plethora of competition means they are making up news for the sake of having something. It's kind of ugly.”
Brogliatti lectures like a schoolmarm because “I was supposed to be a sixth-grade teacher. I had tutored since I was about 12 years old, and my father was a teacher, and that's all I wanted to be.”
SECRET OF HER LONGEVITY
She got her degree in elementary education from UCLA. But one summer during college, she worked at CBS and told them, if they ever wanted her back, she'd do it. Before she returned to the network (where she worked on some new show called All in the Family that “about five people” were watching), she earned her state certificate by teaching at a grade school in Watts and another in one of L.A.'s more privileged neighborhoods.
She concluded that, regardless of social status, the kids were the same. “They had fears. One kid worried if he was going to get a new bike. Another kid just worried if he was going to get a new pair of shoes. I'm not judging the desires. I'm just saying you have to recognize concerns and fears. That's the way you approach it with actors; that's the way you approach it with journalists. I think teaching elementary school has been the secret of my longevity.”
Teaching, she says, also helped her become a mentor, a role she relished in her top communications posts at Warner Bros. “I'm very proud of the seeds I have sown all over this industry,” she says.
Her proudest moment is both easy and painful to remember. The four major networks put Brogliatti in charge of all press and marketing activities for America: A Tribute to Heroes, the prime time simulcast telethon after 9/11 that resulted in $150 million in donations to help victims' families.
She's also had more esoteric dealings serving as the official press strategist for the motion-picture and television studios during contract negotiations with unions and served as chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America's educational task force on intellectual-property protection.
She's not leaving show business, but she's trying. She'll stay involved with industry organizations, serve as a consultant to Warner Bros. and teach an Internet PR course for Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. But soon, she will move permanently to the home (and three acres of grapes) she and her husband Ray own in Napa Valley, Calif. Will she miss overnight ratings or weekend movie grosses? She'll probably cope, but she admits, “I didn't go to the upfronts for the first time in I don't know how many years this year—and I was twitching a little.”