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The Season (not Series) Finale

Although this is two years later, I thought this post was sorely needed. What started as an initial class assignment turned into a creative, therapeutic outlet for me as I explored parallels between public relations and entertainment.  With the constant stream of traffic and its purpose as an online portfolio piece, I will continue to keep this blog active. Thank you to those who continue to find use in PR in the Spotlight and stay tuned, because I just might return…

The notion that celebrities will be open with the media and that the media will be satisfied has been proven in past posts to be an utopia.

On one hand, many celebrities love the camera and feel comfortable being honest. On the other heavy hand, many celebrities feel they deserve to have a private life like all other private citizens and should be left alone.

Many have speculated if celebrities deserve the right to privacy at all. The students of Virginia Commonwealth University blog about this issue on their Media Ethics and the 2008 Elections blog.

How do the media and entertainers find a balance? Furthermore, how should the media and public behave in the wake of celebrities’ tragedies?

When Heath Ledger died in January, ex-wife Michelle Williams issued a statement, pleading with the media to respect her privacy and their daughter’s as well. Sadly, paparazzi didn’t heed to her plea and Williams is considering leaving her New York home.

The media and celebrities have had this long feud about privacy and PR pros have repeatedly been in the cross fire.

In practice, PR reps want their clients to constantly be honest and forthcoming. How do they help with this balance?

With business crisis, it’s easy to say companies don’t have the right to privacy. It involves too many stakeholders to hold anything back. But with celebrity crises, who does it involve outside of them? The Media Ethics blog made a good point saying that the public doesn’t need to know this information.

PR reps need to work with celebrities and the media to develop better relationships in hopes to create an understanding. If PR reps have these relationships, the paparazzi can be sure that they will get a call when news happens.

Beyond that, the media need to establish a code of ethics, especially during a crisis.

Although I do believe that PR reps should work with their clients to be open, I don’t believe they should convince celebrities to tolerate the media’s intrusive behavior.

Most celebrities have been more than accommodating to the media. Through media tours, exclusive pictures, red carpet events and interviews, the celebrities make themselves available so that they won’t have to be hasseled. This is a PR tactic in the right direction, however, more needs to be done to get a media-celebrity relationship going.

Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger image courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk

Cole Hauser image courtesy of img5.allocine.fr

It’s a traditional tool that all PR pros use to spread the word about a product or event.

In between the promoting, celebrities have two choices: Go into hiding or stay in the limelight.

But is this tool becoming a little too obvious when celebrities only use it to promote their album, clothing line or movie release? For those who love the spotlight, ie: Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears, you really don’t notice it. Every time the TV is on, there they are putting on a show.

For those who like to keep a low profile, Mariah Carey for example, you rarely see them making appearances at different events (with the exception of charity events) or do any performances until right before a release.

Gwyneth Paltrow with Robert Downey, Jr. and director Jon FavreauGwyneth Paltrow is a prime example. The Oscar winner has been pretty vacant in the past few years, off raising her family I’m sure. Now that her new movie, Iron Man, is set to premiere, she’s been everywhere. The Signpost made a comment about her reappearance.

Granted, this reappearance has caused a lot more positive attention because of her new look. She’s looking better resulting in praises from a lot of the media and style gurus. The Elle Tell All blog praises her coming out style.

It’s coming to a point where celebrities don’t see the need to put themselves out into the spotlight until it’s time for the public to start buying. Is that fair to the consumers?

PR-wise, it’s not. A celebrity can’t call on the public only when they need them. Like I’ve said in previous posts, the public is not forgiving and it definitely doesn’t forget.

These celebrities have the misconception that the public owes them something for their great talent but it’s really the other way around.

The public will survive with one less entertainer. But can they survive without the consumers? I don’t think so.

Entertainers have to maintain a presence during the down time to keep up the awareness. I know I’m bringing in a marketing aspect, but it does make sense. If consumers are not thinking about that singer while they’re at Wal-Mart, they are not going to buy their album. It’s simple logic.Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are always in the limelight with little effort. It could be because they are thought to be the best-looking couple in the world or it could be because they are always at some event. Oftentimes they attend charity events, which always add major good will points. I’m not saying they attend charity events to get on the public’s good side, but they are always on the cover of a magazine.

They prove that celebrities don’t have to dance on table tops to keep attention but rather be comfortable with the media enough to keep themselves in the snap shots.

Not only does staying in the limelight create a presence, but it also continues to foster a relationship. Celebrities give the public some pictures and performances, and the public will return the favor.

Gwyneth Paltrow image courtesy of celebrity-gossip.net

Brad and Angelina image courtesy of img2.timeinc.net

In corporate world, the rules are simple. Those who do wrong and suffer the consequences–if not legally, then through public opinion.

Britney Spears performing at the 2007 VMAsFor entertainment, the rules are completely opposite. The worse celebrities behave, the more people crave them.

Take a second to think of two celebrities off the top of your head. I can almost guarantee that Britney Spears will be one of them. The question is why? Her talent is less than desirable and she hasn’t had a project in years (with the exception of her recent album). But for some reason, she is the face of the entertainment industry to those who aren’t familiar with that world.

Her actions have grown to be more destructive by the week but it’s obvious that the worse she does, the more paparazzi hunt her down.

Case in point: When R&B singer Akon’s album, Trouble, first came on the scene in 2004, everyone was chomping at the bits over who was this badass newcomer. His voice was decent but his “street cred” hooked people. But that credit has been blown by The Smoking Gun report that stated he fabricated his whole criminal past.

I first read the article on E!News and later followed up with Michelle Malkin’s blog, which calls him a marketing fraud. 

Akron-Troubled I don’t need to go into details about what lies Akon has told (see above links for all that), but I’m confused with why he felt the need to make it up. He obviously wanted to put himself in the same light as “notorious thugs” such as 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and TI.

We can’t really blame him because the message the public is sending is to “do bad and we’ll worship you!”

If it’s not painfully clear, look at the celebrities with talent and somewhat clean backgrounds who aren’t getting the same amount of press attention. Toni Braxton, Julia Roberts, Robin Thicke, etc. These are the kind of entertainers who rely on their talent to get attention. Seems like a funny notion to stars such as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan but it doesn’t hurt try it.

As PR reps, how do they handle it? In the white-collar world, PR agencies pull their hair out trying to keep their clients out of the negative spotlight. PR folks act as clients’ conscious telling them what is the right thing to do.

With celebrities, there’s not a lot of options when the client is diving head first into the pit of crisis. These kind of celebrities, also known as media whores, find every way possible to seem like a deviant so that they can be on the cover of US Weekly.

How can PR reps convince them that their talent keeps them afloat. More importantly, what can they do if their client has no talent (shocker)?

Well, maybe not exactly. But you do have to admit that the former Saved by the Bell co-star has put herself out there lately.

In attempts to put herself back onto the A-list, she has thrown herself in every location possible to renew her fame. She’s definitely got something up her sleeve and I don’t think this is the end of her plans.

The classic signs are there with her show appearances and (eek) a reality show launch.

She appeared CSI: Miami last month in her recurring role of Julia Winston, which gave the show its highest ratings of the 10 p.m. time slot in five years. Berkley told TVGuide.com that she plans to pop up on the show a few more times in the future.  

Also, the little minx has signed up to host Bravo’s new reality show, Step Up & Dance. The formula is no different than the other thousands of reality shows: 12 dancers compete for $100 thousand, as reported in the Editor’s Blog of TVGuide.com.

As I did my research on the actress, I stumbled upon her Web site, Ask-Elizabeth, which I didn’t know existed. The site’s mission is to provide a safe haven for adolescent females through interactive workshops at youth groups and high schools across the country.

It’s all butterflies and rainbows, which is surprising in light of the fact that it’s coming from the Showgirls actress. Newstoob.com blog talks more about Showgirls’ cult success. I’m all about the notion that a person can change, but is this her way of creating good will?

Her resume of good deeds seems to be endless, but has anyone really heard of any of them?

Berkley She is slowly creeping up in places that she knows get top ratings. CSI: Miami, a top-rated drama series and a reality show, which we all know have become the new TV crack for American viewers.

She is playing it safe by not jumping into a big movie role (remember Showgirls?) or a TV drama series. We all know that reality show hosts are replaced as easy as last week’s milk.

Berkley is not tying herself down to one project, rather she is spreading herself out with hopes of high fan return. She has analyzed her target audience, appropriate media outlets and planned her campaign accordingly. Well done.

Sheryl CrowSheryl Crow, in an AOL interview on Spinner.com, gets a little too gun ho about collaborating with Fleetwood Mac. She, as reported in an E!News article, said in the interview that she and the classic rock band “definitely have plans for collaborating in the future.”

This is an example of poor communications within the same camp. Internal mixed messages can cause for a lot of confusion and hurt egos.

The classic rock band said in a Reuters article that they were considering Crow as a possibility to add a woman to “shake it up a bit up.” There was no definite agreement between the band or the singer/songwriter that they were going to join forces.

The Starpulse Entertainment blog talks about Lindsey Buckingham’s response to Crow’s “premature” comment.

Considering the fact that the media are around celebrities at all times, it’s very important to make sure that everyone involved in a project are on the same page.

The PR team needs to make sure that celebrities are prepared when chatting with the media. Celebrities have to 1) get the correct information out and 2) keep hush hush on the information that shouldn’t be leaked.

This kind of tactic should also be applied to movies. Movies have been known to take years to develop, which presents a very long window of time for the wrong information and rumors to spread. Rumors are to be expected but having a meeting to prepare the actors and actresses can prevent a large fraction of them. PR management should sit down with all of the key actors and talk about what key messages about the movie are to be discussed with the media and what their role is in disseminating the messages.

By taking this simple measure, management can prevent any confusion not only among the public, but also among the celebrities involved. The last thing anyone needs when developing a partnership is for one of the parties to pull out because they felt like an idiot.

Sheryl Crow image courtesy of ecorazzi.com

No divorce is easy, especially for those celebrities who find their marital turmoil at the center of media scrutiny.  

But, if you know anything about the papparazzi and the public, they have to know what’s going on. Who did what? Why? Did someone cheated? All the biggies. I’m getting ahead of myself with the question, but I’ll pose it anyway: How do celebrities balance their need for privacy with the public’s need for information?

Pink & Carey HartThe mainstream media and the gossip sites (Perez Hilton) reported that singer P!nk (Alicia Moore) and motorcross rider Carey Hart separated after two years of marriage.

With rumors about a coming divorce going around for months, everyone wondered if this was the real deal. Instead of waiting to hear more news about it on the mainstream sites, P!nk answered my questions directly.

Don’t get your hopes up because I didn’t receive a phone call or an e-mail. P!nk posted a blog on her MySpace page that explained the separation. She also asked her fans to support Hart. 

This exemplifies what a celebrity can do to get the message out to who’s important while keeping away the paparazzi. Anyone who is P!nk’s friend on MySpace and subscribed to her blogs will get a notice that she posted something.

I know I’m beating a dead horse, but celebrities need to take note: Feedback! Feedback! Feedback!

P!nk

At the core of public relations is the feedback between entertainers and their fans. P!nk could have done interviews and media tours about her divorce but who would want to go through that? And for what reason? With the power of the MySpace blog at her fingertips, P!nk was able to get the story out as fast as possible without having to exploit any wounds by talking to the media.

Also, she was able to get hundreds of comments from her fans that wished her well.

P!nk and Carey Hart image courtesy of tvguide.com

P!nk image courtesy of pinkspage.com

One of my favorite bloggers, Perez Hilton, posted yesterday about Maxim magazine needing a Band-Aid to cover up this boo-boo.

Maxim–March issueIn March’s issue, a review writer wrote a negative review for the Black Crowes’ new album “War Paint” without having heard it. To make things worse, band manager Pete Angelus said it was impossible for the review to be valid because advance copies of the album hadn’t been released yet. The magazine explained that the review was an “educated guess.”

In a review, the writer’s opinion matters to many people especially since consumers are being more picky about their CD purchases. An “educated guess” is not acceptable and the magazine should have waited until next month when the writer heard the album. Or at least make sure it was on the writer’s to-do list.Black Crowes War Paint

The band out-ed the magazine on its Web site stating the faux pas. If you’re not familiar with the band, don’t be ashamed. To jog your memory, the lead singer, Chris Robinson, is Kate Hudson’s ex.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t plagarism something we learn in the first few journalism classes?  

The magazine made a mistake, and they’re apologizing for it. James Kaminsky, Maxim ‘s editorial director, released a statement on Tuesday (as quoted from Yahoo! News): “It is Maxim’s editorial policy to assign star ratings only to those albums that have been heard in their entirety. Unfortunately, that policy was not followed in the March 2008 issue of our magazine and we apologize to our readers.”

In the world of entertainment, mistakes are commonplace. What the public remembers is what the response was. The best thing you can do is admit the fault and explain how you plan to fix it. Also, a tip is to make sure the mistake isn’t repeated. Even though many crises are monumental, the fall out can go pretty quickly if the organization doesn’t put up a fight, especially when it knows the fault lies on its door step.

Unfortunately for Maxim, some people, especially the band’s manager, aren’t accepting its apology as posted on StereoGum blog. I can understand why, in light of the fact that the apology was directed towards readers and not the band.

The blog pointed out another offense by Maxim magazine. They pulled the same stunt with Nas’ album “N****r.” Why can’t magazines use their power for good?

My advice is to make sure the reviewers pop in the CD before they start writing. People take reviews very seriously, so reviewers should step up to the plate.

War Paint image courtesy of mywearandtear.com

March issue of Maxim image courtesy of maxim.com

American Idol Season 5 LogoReality show American Idol hasn’t been honest about its contestants. Perez Hilton’s blog reported that many of its 7th-Season contestants have had recording contracts in the past.

American Idol rules state that contestants can’t be under a current contract to compete but it says nothing about a past one. The Internet is buzzing with complaints because many people watch the show to see the journey of rags to riches.

 This is the perfect example of the need for transparency in a company (or TV show in this case).

If the show had been honest from the beginning, that not all contestants are starting on the same level, then its fans would be more understanding. Now, viewers feel like they’ve been lied to this entire time. They’re going to wonder, “what else are they lying about?”

Sanjaya Malakar

At a time when American Idol is losing its credibility (remember Sanjaya?) for cranking out “the one American Idol” every year, it should be more careful to practice good will. If the show’s main objective is to give the undiscovered star a chance, then they have to follow through.

Viewers are putting time and effort (voting and watching) into this show and they’re not being told the truth. I don’t know if American Idol thinks now that it has the viewers in front of the TV, it can do whatever it wants with the viewers’ time. There are too many shows out there, especially now that the Writer’s Strike is over, to think that viewers have to be loyal to your show.

To make matters worse, representatives are keeping mum on the issue. In a USA Today article, producer Nigel Lythgoe said “the flap ‘is a storm in a teacup. … Let’s just let the stories unfold.’ He reiterates that show rules require only that contestants not be currently under contract. ‘We’re looking for ‘great,’ and, yes, those people in all likelihood have had dealings with the industry before.’ ”

Once a company (or TV show) makes a mistake, there needs to be a sincere apology. That goes without saying but it’s obvious that a show with high ratings may not think it should apologize. That’s where their PR rep comes in. They need to be the voice of reason that tells them what they did wrong and they can’t be silent about it.

American Idol logo courtesy of www.katyjack.com

Sanjaya Malakar photo courtesy of www.msnbc.msn.com

What started out as a social networking site has now become a pseudo label for rising artists and bands. Who would’ve thought that hopeful musicians can bypass the major record labels and still be successful?

Kate Voegele

Blogger Noah Grieco showcased Kate Voegele in his “Independent Artist Series” on his PR Rocks blog Voegele successfully launched her music career on MySpace and now guest stars on CW’s One Tree Hill.

An article on BusinessWeek.com reported that from the beginning, MySpace has always catered to musicians. Any entertainer can all have a specially designed MySpace page with pictures, tour dates, biographies, blogs and music. The best thing about the music feature is that visitors can listen to or download the songs, a lot of times for free, and learn the lyrics.

Big label artists such as Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani and Beyonce all have profiles.

The real appeal are those unsigned or indie-label artists who don’t have the big bucks to do the traditional PR and promotion. These pages fall into the direct feedback category that many A-list celebrities don’t have.

Fans can comment on pictures and on MySpace pages and celebrities have the opportunity to know exactly what each fan is thinking.

Comedians also use MySpace to promote their careers. Unlike artists and actors, their craft doesn’t get blasted on the mainstream media as often. They perform in comedy clubs, universities/colleges, and lower-education schools. Comedians can put clips, audio and visual, of their performances on their pages for fans who don’t have the opportunity to see them in person.

Dane Cook

Dane Cook, while an A-list celebrity now, started his career small with the accompaniment of a MySpace page after launching a traditional Web site. Cook actually became one of the first comedians to launch his own Web site, according to his biography. One special feature about Cook’s page is how he gets his fans involved through his “Top 40 friends,” which are selected based on who has the best SUperFInger picture. What’s also smart is that he changes it periodically with a new contest, which injects more enthusiasm within his fan base.

The beauty of this new guerrilla tactic is that it levels the playing field between entertainers. New musicians who want to get a major record contract have to struggle for a long time before they can actually “make it.” Oftentimes, when entertainers actually do make it, there could be a disconnect between them and their fans because of the mainstream PR tactics they use. MySpace helps entertainers make a beeline to their fans.

Kate Voegele image courtesy of mtv.com

Dane Cook image courtesy of siriusbuzz.com