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.

Chris Brown’s Attempt to Repair His Broken Image

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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.

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.

Lindsay Lohan- Lessons in PR

(Image via HuffingtonPost.com)

We first met Lindsay Lohan as the plucky red-head in the “Parent Trap,” a young girl so full of talent it was hard to imagine she would ever be unemployed in the acting world.  Fast forward ten years and you see Lindsay Lohan, the platinum blonde, orange faced socialite whose legal woes have made the press much more often than her acting roles.

In March of 2011, Platform Magazine compiled a list of the public relations flubs that Lohan has made ever since her 2007 arrest following her first DUI.  After a second DUI, three stints in rehab, a public altercation with her father, Lohan’s public image seemed irreversibly tarnished.  More importantly her personal life seemed to be getting increasingly dangerous and self-destructive. When she appeared in court, she was repeatedly chastised for dressing inappropriately, arriving late, and not taking the consequences seriously.  Family, friends, law enforcement and even dedicated fans of Lohan were getting fed up with her seemingly non-caring attitude, lack of responsibility for her actions and an overall blase attitude towards getting her life back on track.

One of the most important things that Lohan should have done initially was to take responsibility for what was going on and strive to keep the distance between her public and private life.  Her publicist repeatedly denied claims of substance abuse, claiming Lohan was doing just fine, while the tabloids were video taping her stumbling out of a night club at 4 a.m.  Instead of lying to the public to keep face, Lohan should have admitted her problems and sought to deal with them privately. While it can be unimaginably difficult to deal with personal issues as a celebrity, there are those celebrities who are able to be famous without having their lives splashed across a tabloid.

Lohan also needed to do the little things to show that she truly wanted to repair her image, as she claimed in an interview with Extra magazine last year.  Little things like dressing professionally and being prompt instead of showing up an hour late to a court hearing wearing six inch heels and a low cut blouse.  Platform Magazine also cites Lindsay’s tendency to fall back on her past successes without looking forward to future projects for motivation.

Lindsay Lohan has experienced the extreme pitfalls that come with being a celebrity and there have been many public relations lessons to learn from observing her media history.  The good news for Lohan is that things are looking up; she has almost completed her mandatory hours working the Los Angeles County Morgue,  she is planning on hosting Saturday Night live and she is also slated to portray Elizabeth Taylor in her biopic.  Hopefully Lohan has learned from her past and will strive to be a responsible and more private celebrity in the future.