The challenges and ambitions of young, up-and-coming talents are things that Jeff Ballard understands intuitively. While most publicists begin their careers in their twenties, often after working as professional journalists or as an assistant to an established PR executive, Ballard entered the arena of fast-paced entertainment publicity as a tenacious teenager. A high school journalism student at the time, he literally crashed the set of the popular TV skein EIGHT IS ENOUGH, interviewed members of the cast, and walked away as series stars Dick Van Patten and Adam Rich’s personal publicist.
Developing a client roster that grew to include some of the most recognizable names in the business, he set up Jeff Ballard Public Relations in 1982 right out of high school. Being a young adult unwilling to be restrained by outdated “old Hollywood” media rules, he was able to sign virtually all of the emerging “brat pack” actors who were destined to be the stars of the MTV generation.
He initially had a difficult time being taken seriously because of his age, but by being industrious and relentless Ballard was able to break through. Since so much of publicity was done over the phone, most people on the media side were unaware that they were dealing with a teenager.
Soon he began representing more mature clients as well. He credits Dick Van Patten of EIGHT IS ENOUGH fame with giving him his big break with established actors. Van Patten, who retained Ballard after observing the work he performed for the younger actors on the set, admitted he was “a little leery about putting my public image into the hands of a someone so young. But the snowball started rolling in my own career and for the first time I was in need of a publicist. Jeff came around at the right time and my intuitive sense told me he would do a great job.”
Today, Ballard is still considered one of the best publicists in the industry for launching new talent. A perpetual teenager with a mischievous sense of humor, Ballard remains connected to what it means to be young and ambitious.
The same entrepreneurial “anything is possible” spirit that caused him to bypass convention and jump in with both feet now drives him to keep up with today’s ever-changing technology and the latest trends, including social media. Now, however, his clients also benefit from his over thirty years of experience. Ballard is a master at making his clients comfortable with the media when the world no longer gives its idols a moment free from the spotlight.
His representation of Charlie Sheen during two Oscar campaigns, for PLATOON and WALL STREET, provided Ballard’s transition into the major leagues of entertainment publicity. ‘I’ve maintained a 30+ year relationship with Jeff because he is the best in the business,” says Sheen. “Jeff is a team player. It’s not his view or your view, it’s our view. He demonstrates his skills and his loyalty every day by doing his job so well. While, most publicists react, he thinks far in advance, evaluates any likely outcomes, and then figures out what we ought to do. I’ve never met another person in the industry who does this as well and he’s never short on showing common courtesy to everyone he encounters.”
Referred to him by Sheen, emerging star Johnny Depp relied on Ballard to handle the media frenzy of 21 JUMP STREET and Depp’s bourgeoning feature film career. “Under the most difficult circumstances,” Depp noted, “Jeff was a great friend through all the bullshit. I certainly was a publicist’s nightmare.”
Through Ballard’s personal efforts, Zac Efron secured his first TV series, SUMMERLAND, and guided by Ballard, went on to major stardom in the wildly successful HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL franchise for Disney. “From the very beginning,” Efron acknowledged, “Jeff played an important role in my career. His advice and guidance helped me enormously to navigate the daunting world of publicity. Our continued friendship through the years speaks volumes. I am proud to call him my friend and my first publicist.”
When young actor Chandler Massey discerned that his role on DAYS OF OUR LIVES would be the first gay storyline in Daytime TV history, he relied on Ballard to handle the intensive media attention he knew would ensue. Ballard’s untiring work resulted in Massey winning three consecutive “Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series” Emmys, for 2012, 2013 and 2014. “Jeff is one of those people you encounter very rarely, especially in Los Angeles,” Massey pointed out. “Not only is he an incredibly savvy publicist, Jeff is also one of the most genuinely wholesome people I’ve ever met…a good guy in the old school sense of the phrase. It has been my privilege to work with him, and there is no one in the field that operates with as much experience and goodwill as Jeff.”
In his capacity as publicist, Jeff Ballard has also consulted and appeared in numerous television shows himself. He was featured with long-time client Paula Abdul on the Bravo reality series HEY PAULA, and he concedes “There’s nothing quite like a moment in front of the cameras to make me appreciate what my clients experience day in and day out.”
In addition to representing a diversity of talent, Ballard works to inspire and educate young people who want to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and public relations. He has worked with innumerable charities, including anti-drug, anti-bullying, and LGBT events, and is a frequent guest speaker at high schools and universities in the Southern California area, including UCLA, USC and Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Northridge.
Additionally, Ballard played an active role in former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, and was invited to the White House on several occasions, working on various high profile celebrity events personally with President and Mrs. Reagan.