So Anderson Cooper, CNN’s biggest “name” anchor, has confirmed he is gay. Cooper hit the headlines earlier this week with his e-mail correspondence to journalist and blogger Andrew Sullivan, which included the unequivocal message, “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be.” The phrase was reprinted endlessly over the next three days. The media wondered if anyone was shocked or scandalized. The definitive response: No.
From a PR point of view, this was handled perfectly. Cooper had never publicly indicated if he was–or wasn’t. That changed when a recent feature in Entertainment Weekly examined how celebrities handle coming out. Andrew Sullivan approached Cooper for comment, and Cooper’s response made headlines.
Cooper crafted a number of well-worded, thoughtful paragraphs explaining his reasons for coming out now and his previous reticence. He sent them to Sullivan who republished it in full, with Cooper’s permission. Next step: Cooper was unavailable for any interviews due to being on assignment. The void was filled with praise and endorsements from friends and colleagues. Nicely handled.
The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anderson Cooper and his PR regarding his coming out. Simple message, no details, well expressed, STOP.
The PR Takeaway: This was an elegant PR exercise. Closeted celebrities, take note: Keep the message and the delivery simple. Make your point clearly. Say what you have to say and make sure it is unedited (therefore, stay away from lengthy sit-down TV interviews). Place it with a friendly media source, and then be unavailable. Nothing more to add. Nothing more to explain. And, in Cooper’s case, get back to saving the world.
Will Anderson Cooper’s self-outing have any repercussions? Should he have come out, or kept himself out of the limelight? Give us your PR Verdict!