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Keith Estabrook is no stranger to hype or magazine launches, having served past stints in the promotion department at Vanity Fair and as a press agent for Mirabella and Elle. But nothing prepared him for the publicity blizzard of George, John F. Kennedy Jr.'s new political magazine.

"I couldn't compare it to anything-except perhaps a political inauguration," says Mr. Estabrook, VP-communications for Hachette Filipacchi Magazines. "It was a perfect marriage of art and commerce."

Early on, the strategy was hatched to allow limited early access to the key players-Mr. Kennedy, partner Michael Berman and Hachette President-CEO David Pecker-and then hit with a massive blitz in September 1995, just as the magazine reached newsstands. That drew some criticism from reporters, who felt Mr. Estabrook was blocking access to a good news story.

Mr. Estabrook, 39, defends the stance: "You don't show a movie or a book or a play to the public until it is completed. And that's how we felt about the magazine-we didn't want to show it until it was completed and we were ready."

The gamble seemed to pay off when Esquire, Newsweek and New York put JFK Jr. on their covers-even though they never obtained an interview-and more than 300 people turned out at the launch press conference in Federal Hall in MManhattan.

The launch publicity has faded and been replaced by more conventional campaigns, direct marketing efforts and promotions with Albert Dunhills, the cigar maker, which kicks off this month.

"Now that the magazine is up and running, it is all about evolution," says Mr. Estabrook.

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