Then crept in the "loose" usage. Anybody who wrote or spoke about public affairs came to be dubbed a publicist. It was only a question of time when the dam would give way and the word flow in all directions and be made to cover every kind of talent, or lack of it. [The Nation, Nov. 22, 1917]
Meaning "press agent" is from 1925 (publicity agent attested by 1900); publicitor also was tried in this sense.