Perez Hilton: Social Blogger and PR Revolutionary.

(Image via @PerezHilton)

Since his debut into the blogosphere in 2004 Perez Hilton has gone from being a relatively unknown blogger talking smack about celebrities online to a verifiable celebrity in his own right.  His blog was named, “Hollywood’s Most Hated Website on the Internet,” and now brings in millions of unique visitors each week.  Hilton is not only a celebrity blogger, but an innovator in the world of public relations. His website has become incredibly influential; with one blog post he can launch the career of an unknown musician, and sway the opinions of thousands of viewers regarding a certain celebrity. Many celebs even use Perezhilton.com to exclusively make an announcement or address a situation; he has become the face of celebrity gossip but also celebrity PR.

Mario Lavandeira, also known by his pseudonym, “Perez Hilton,” has had a successful but tumultuous career blogging about the life and scandals of musicians, models, actresses and even politicians.  He was initially known for posting pictures of celebrities and writing inflammatory comments or putting obscene drawings on their faces.  His mean and sharp-witted commentary was a harsh critique on the public lives of celebrities, and his website became a source of embarrassment and ridicule for his victims.  However, after a physical altercation in 2007 with the body guard of a famous pop star, a series of controversies involving various celebrities and an international scandal with a Miss America contestant, Hilton decided it was time to change the tone of his website.In a YouTube video, entitled, “I’m Going to Be Doing Things Differently,” Hilton announced that he would no longer put out negative, bullying or accusatory material on his blog. Not only did Perez want to change the content he was publishing on his website but he also wanted to change himself as well.   As an openly gay man, Hilton realized that by “outing,” celebrities he believed were gay, or pointedly making light of serious situations, he was no different than the bullies who victimized him growing up.

I call Perez Hilton a “PR revolutionary”  because he is an example of how a social media platform can be used to influence public perception. Perez himself was forced to publicly revamp his image and the tone of his blog due to various lawsuits, scandals and a personal crisis where he questioned his own morality.  The negative response that he received from the media helped Perez realize the impact that his blog was having on his public image, but more importantly on his personal mentality.

The “new Perez,” is much less catty than the Perez of the past, but his new focus on positivity and encouragement has helped increase the popularity of his website. Celebrities are much more willing to open up to Perez; they no longer fear having their photo appear with a scathing remark below it.  In fact,  many celebrity publicists will leak a story to Perez Hilton in order to gain press for their client.  Perez Hilton has risen far beyond social commentary and blogging, has become one of the most influential intermediaries between the public and the celebrities that fascinate them.

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Any Press Is Good Press….Or Is It?

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For years a myth has plagued those who work in the media relations/public relations industry that “any press is good press.” Yet the idea that any news is good news for the publicity of a company or person has been proven untrue by many examples of publicity gone wrong.  In July of 2011, the Atlantic News Paper ran a story discussing the ten companies that were “burned” worst by bad publicity.

The number one company on their list was global gas and oil company,BP, whose Deepwater Horizon oil spill was described as, “the largest public relations disaster in corporate history.” This incident in 2010 was the largest oil spill the industry had ever seen, and after viewing the devastation that ravaged marine life and human industries along the Gulf Coast,the infuriated citizens of the Gulf Coast states looked to BP.

The oil spill itself was horrendous enough but the response from the corporate heads at BP was simply insulting to all those affected by the tragedy. Not only did officials from BP refuse to take responsibility for the accident, they also put the blame on the individuals who were drilling and the contractors who were in their  employment.   As images of birds covered in oil struggling to fly on Louisiana beaches were splashed across national newspapers, the officials at BP continued to deny their part on the tragedy.  As a result of their response BP received a huge, negative backlash of public opinion who saw the company as apathetic and uncaring.

When working in public relations it is important to distinguish between good publicity and bad publicity.  As BP learned,  the axiom “all press is good press,” is clearly false.  More citizens are able to access news at a faster rate than ever before, and it is essential for companies to not only tell the truth but accept responsibility during times of crisis. In an age where information is readily accessible by any person with a computer, television or smart phone, it is necssary for companies to be forthcoming, responsible and above all  truthful and honest.

Personal Branding: Why Having An Online Presence Is Important

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There are many different types of public relations and it is quickly becoming a necessary department in many different types of businesses. Corporate PR, fashion PR and sports PR are a few of the many industries where public relations is not only important but also necessary.

But what about personal PR? There are many reasons why personal public relations is becoming increasingly important. Personal branding, as I like to call personal PR, involves creating a tangible idea of who “you” are.  Through creating an online presence you have an outlet to establish your own “brand.” It is dually important to market yourself online because it can result in job prospects as well as professional networking opportunities.

In an article by Amanda Quick on the BrandYourself blog, she talks about how creating a personal brand is important because it can promote your image.  You can easily begin creating your brand by first putting yourself online using a variety of social networks, from the basics such as Facebook, Twitter, to more business oriented sites like LinkedIn. Quick says, “You’re being Googled. By employers, by colleagues and even first dates. Building a basic online presence that can promote your image and support your personal brand is therefore essential.”

Promoting  a personal brand and reputation in the world of social media is a useful tool today because it creates visibility for potential employers.  By posting an online track record of achievements, accomplishments and skills, you can create a brand that is professionally marketable.

Kim Kardashian-A Case Study In Public Perception

 

(Image via SmartGirlConsulting.com)

Lets be honest, Kim Kardashian has never been America’s Sweetheart.  But for all her lack of apparent talent, she has become a household name and her Kardashian brand is one of the most powerful and influential in the United States and around the world.  She is reportedly worth over $35 million dollars, money she made through reality television contracts, perfume sales and a variety of other entrepreneurial ventures.

Kim started out as a stylist to the stars, and after gaining some brief publicity for appearing with Paris Hilton on the red carpet, it was her sex tape with a popular R&B singer that put Kim’s name on the map. The notorious sex tape scandal combined with her beauty, famously large derriere and outrageous lifestyle soon generated interest in the American public.  A few months later she and her large family became an instant television hit through their reality show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” and the rest is history.

After her over the top wedding to NBA baller Kris Humphries in Fall of 2011, Kardashian had ridden her PR train into the sunset of her fantasy wedding.  Through viral marketing, media saturation and consistent public appearances, the Kardashian brand had been built on three very marketable sisters who were simultaneously beloved and repulsed by the American public.

However, just 72 days after tying the knot, Kim announced that she would be filing for divorce from her husband.  The media absolutely exploded.  Rumors that the wedding was an elaborate PR stunt swirled online, and the public quickly turned its back on the newly single Kim.  People said she had just gone too far, that divorce so shortly after her extravagant, $20 million wedding was an outrage.  Kim’s public image took a major hit, and many criticized her decision to continue pushing marketing for her upcoming fragrance and reality television show.

Instead of going into hiding and laying low Kim defiantly continued her notoriously busy schedule, even flying to Australia for a press tour on the day the divorce was announced.  On Hearprenuer.com they discussed how many people felt that Kim had destroyed the sanctity of marriage (if the marriage truly was scripted, as many claim it to be).  In the wake of the negative backlash Kim’s attempts to repair her image even soured among public opinion; many rejected the idea that donating her wedding gifts to charity could make up for it, and her trip to Haiti was criticized for being a publicity stunt.

Despite all of the scandals Kim and the Kardashian brand has proved to have staying power, and resonates among millions of consumers who purchase their clothing line, weight loss pills, self tanners and so on.   It is certain that Kim Kardashian has ridden the roller coaster of public perception, and only time will tell if this latest scandal is too much for the public to tolerate, even for  a Kardashian.

Chris Brown’s Attempt to Repair His Broken Image

(Image via gossiponthis.com)

Before February of 2009 Chris Brown was known as a hugely popular R&B and Pop singer who created hit after hit, mesmerizing female fans with his toothy grin and winning over new admirers with his amazing dance skills. Yet in February 2009 Brown and then-girlfriend, fellow pop star Rihanna, got into an altercation while driving  to the Grammy Music Awards.  The result is well known; Brown was later arrested and charged with felony assault and making criminal threats, and the pictures of Rihanna’s bruised and swollen face were plastered across the Internet. Brown became America’s most hated pop star overnight.

In the years since that fateful evening, Brown has repeatedly attempted to repair his image, and convince America that his violent ways are behind him. Yet, despite his attempts, Brown’s temper has continued to flare in a series of incidents.  Last year in March of 2011 Brown was supposed to appear in an interview with Good Morning America to promote his new album. However, after being asked a series of questions regarding Rihanna and the 2009 incident he got so angry that he threw his chair through a glass window of the ABC building in downtown New York City.

Then, after the 2012 Grammy Awards, in which he was invited to perform not one but two dance numbers, many criticized the producers of the Grammys for allowing a man convicted of beating his girlfriend back onto the stage. Brown subsequently took to his Twitter, tweeting an expletive filled statement, “HATE ALL YOU WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate FUCK OFF.”   The tweet was quickly deleted and even condemned by his own mother, but the fact remains that Brown continues to let his temper get the best of him.

Brown has repeatedly asked fans to focus on the positive side of  his life, his music.  Brown is a very talented artist and claims to only want the public to appreciate his music, but he must learn that being a major celebrity means all aspects of his life will be under intense scrutiny. The public may continue to remind Brown of his past, but it is up to him how to react.  If Brown wants to repair his image, he must learn to deal with his past and remind the world that there is a brighter future for him.

Is Addressing A Crisis Always Necessary?

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One of the most frustrating things that a company can do during a time of crisis is not to acknowledge what is happening.   As I have mentioned many times in my blog posts the social media climate has changed the way that people access and share information, and because of this companies must change the way they respond to crisis or scandal or get left behind in a cloud of public resentment.

In a post by the Bernstein Crisis Management team, they discuss how companies are hesitant to join the conversation during times of crisis, but how it is essential to the integrity of the company to release accurate and truthful information.  There are so many examples today of companies who leave for the weekend and come back on Monday only to discover that a social media storm has engulfed them  while they have been absent.   A company who does not respond or communicate effectively is often seen as lacking empathy and responsibility.

Major PR Blunders of 2012

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Even though we are only a few days into the third month of 2012, there have already been a healthy dosage of PR blunders.  From the rant of a popular football wife, to the poor handling of a major crisis, 2012 has already opened the gates with some major public relations mishaps.

One of the most talked about blunders was made by Gisele Bundchen, famed Victoria’s Secret model and wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.  After a devastating loss in the 2012 Superbowl in which the Pats had many chances to score a touchdown, Gisele was captured on video responding negatively to taunting New York Giants fans who were saying that her husband can only throw the football, but that he can’t catch it too.  She was blaming the loss on the numerous fumbles by the Patriot wide receivers.   Criticizing other players is  unacceptable  in the world of sports wives, and Gisele had the bad fortune to get caught on tape doing it.

Another major blunder of 2012 involved Susan G. Komen CEO Nancy Brinkler.  The foundation announced that they would discontinue funding for Planned Parenthood due to the abortion services that are offered.   The Susan G. Komen  Race for the Cure, is the largest breast-cancer organization in the U.S. ? and is known for providing womens’ services  such as breast cancer screenings.  After the announcement many supporters of Planned Parenthood were furious that they would stop funding an organization which offers free contraception and similar health screening services to women.  To make matters worse, CEO Nancy Brinkler appeared on MSNBC and further infuriated  her supportersby reacting  defensively and refusing to acknowledge the truth in the situation.  Instead of reassuring her supporters, she angered them by lying on national television about the influence of their vice president, who stated she was staunchly against the mission of Planned Parenthood, and also about the grants that they were supposedly continuing to give to the organization. Brinkler and the organization eventually apologized for their mishandling of the situation and retracted their announcement to discontinue funding.

These are only two examples of  many media blunders that have happened in 2012, but they demonstrate how aware the public has become.  Companies can no longer afford to ignore or manipulate the truth about a situation because the negative backlash can be profoundly influential, as both Gisele Bunchden and the Susan G. Komen foundation learned his year.

Should Celebrities Have Access To Twitter?

(Image via NYpost.com)

Celebrities are a big focus of my blog because they provide great examples of poor public relations. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, Twitter can give fans unprecedented access to their favorite athlete, public figure, actor, etc.  Twitters that are run by celebrities get the coveted blue check next to their name, verifying their account so you know its not an impostor.

Through Twitter you get a fairly unfiltered picture of your favorite celebrity.  The things they like, dislike, events they are promoting, music they listen to, what their dog does that makes them laugh.  You get the picture. But this free access to celebrities has repeatedly proven that maybe its not such a good idea for celebrities to run their Twitter account themselves.

Just to name a few Twitter scandals…….

1.) Chris Brown’s post-Grammy Tweet

2.) Chris Brown’s homophobic tweets circa  2011

3.) Courtney Love vs. Billy Corgan

4.) John Mayer calling his penis a “white supremacist.”

The list goes on.  A brief Google search brings up  any number of Twitter controversies between celebrities and their peers, celebrities and their fans, celebrities and their managers…..so this begs the question, should Twitter be the platform that celebrities use to post their innermost thoughts? In an article for Crushable.com entitled, “Dear PR People Stop Letting Celebrities Tweet,” Jenni Maier brings up a very valid argument. She remarks that every week there is some type of  offensive tweet put out by a celebrity that draws media attention but is then deleted quickly. Maier says, “Within 24 hours the tweets are deleted and replaced with a vague apology tweet that you just know was quickly crafted by an anxious PR person — desperate for her client not to sound racist/homophobic/ignorant/sexist.”

In a previous post I said that Twitters can be helpful in generating POSITIVE fan interaction, for example,  Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Shaquille O’Neal. Unfortunately,  many celebrities are using their Twitter in the wrong way, resulting in embarrassing/scandalous situations.   In fact, it has almost become expected for celebrities to tweet offensive, rude, or insulting comments.   Celebrities are human too, with thoughts and feelings like the rest of us, but they need to understand that there are certain boundaries when you are in the public spotlight.

Discovering And Developing Your Brand

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Whether it is for a company, product or person, there is a myth that people must “create,” their brand, as if it is something that they must invent about themselves.  The truth is that you already are your own brand.  But in order to develop your brand are who you have to first define the things that make you who you are.

In an article for Mashable Online, Dan Schawbel talks about the steps that you must take in order to truly develop and discover what makes your brand marketable.

Schawbel says, “Brand discovery is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan.”

Tell The Truth, Tell the Truth All the Time, No Matter What.

 

(Image via Christinabakerkline.wordpress.com)

Too often publicists and professionals in the public relations industry are falsely labeled as “spin doctors,” people who will change or put their best “spin,” on a story.  There are also those who say that that a publicist or PR agency has a duty to their client, and not necessarily to telling the truth. However, as I have repeatedly stated in other posts the public simply is not buying it anymore.  As audiences are becoming increasingly Internet savvy the age where companies and celebrities could get away with twisting or completely covering the truth is ending.

There are many examples in the past few years where the fabrications after a scandal generated  even more fallout than the initial problem. A good example of this is former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.  Cain was a promising Tea Party politician who threw his hat into the ring for the Republican party nomination.  However, shortly after announcing his intention to run for the nomination, a woman came forward with allegations that he had sexually harassed her during their time working together in the 1990’s.  Cain and his PR team vehemently denied these allegations, claiming the woman was a fraud and liar.  In an article for CommproBiz, Roshini Rajkumar discusses how skepticism is rampant among the public today. “Cain wants you to believe [the allegations] are all fiction. But the American public won’t rest with that…” The fallout continued when two more women came forward with similar accusations, and Cain continued to deny what he called the  “baseless,” claims.  Yet amid his denials, his once stellar public opinion was quickly dropping and soon his poll numbers were so low that he was forced to drop out of the race.

Sexual harassment is a serious allegation, and had Cain acknowledged that the allegations were true he likely would have had to drop out of the race anyways. The public may have appreciated hearing the truth, instead of spin and denials from  candidate.  In the Edelman Trust Barometer, it shows that the public trusts the government and CEOs of companies the least. Telling the truth may have cost him his presidential campaign bid but he may have escaped with something perhaps more valuable in the long run, his integrity as a politician.