Anderson Cooper: PR Perfect

 Anderson Cooper: PR Perfect

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anderson Cooper and his PR regarding his coming out.

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!

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What is Your PR Verdict?

  1. MADAM X says:

    anderson cooper is a first class act… brilliant at what he does , caring and genuine
    he handled the press with his usual elegance ande no one ever cared.. nor will they in the future.. whether he is gay or straight.

    wonderful , when you have so much self confidence not to woryy about giving the press a new story..
    so divine when you difuse your own potential scandal…

    true art of a real Gentleman

    • Thank heavens the attitudes in the civilised world have changed. If only it had always been so.

      Way back, earlier in my career, I was a committed football (soccer to you!) fan and trained at a gym with many of the professional players from my home city football club, Norwich – now in the premier league. I worked out with Justin Fashanu and we became good friends; he was a hero of my two young sons who I took to the home games every second week. He came to my home and was very fond of my wife who treated him like a third son; he was not yet 20, then.
      He was celebrated as the first black player for the club and was immensely popular in the city. He asked me if I could manage his career, which I did with much success. I trained him in working with the media, how to react at the games with the crowds, and organised some very successful events including fashion shoots and a recording contract; these built him into more than just a good footballer but a broadcasting personality, a black celebrity and role model … across not just the UK but across Europe.
      Yet, against his wishes (and those of the fans), he was sold by the club which was in financial difficulties. The move earned him the unwanted title of the first £1 million black footballer. Sadly, he was sold to a club with a renowned bigot as manager, the late Brian Clough. At our last meeting in his hotel in his new club’s city, Justin asked me if he could work with a local management agency. Although we had a contract, I told him that, of course, he should do what he wished. We shook hands and parted.
      In our short but valuable time together, I had never charged him a penny and had covered most of the costs in building his career from my own pocket as I had such faith in his future and viewed him as more a friend than a client. Sadly that was the last contact we ever had, However, within a few of weeks of the transfer, to my shock, Clough publicly accused him of being gay. The poor fellow reluctantly came out: this did not bother the Norwich fans – but it went down badly with other players at his new club and their supporters. It was massive news story handled very badly by the firm who had taken over his management. Justin was sold on by the club and his career went into free fall. Eventually, after a dozen moves, he ended up playing in the US, but was accused by a youth of sexual misconduct and threatened with possible police action.
      Justin fled to the UK and, alone, after a visit to a gay club, he hanged himself. I had tried to contact him many times but never succeeded. How I wish he had stayed in contact as I could have helped him. Shockingly though there are today well over 3000 senior professional soccer players in the UK not a single one has come out – presumably in fear of the effects on their careers that they had seen had afflicted Justin.
      I told his brother, John, at Justin’s funerals that I felt I had let him down. He responded that this was not so, as I had been closer to him and a better than anyone. Yet I had had no idea he was gay and he had not had the confidence to tell me; I am sure I could have handled this for him and avoided the awful outcome. Perhaps he thought I would not have approved. I hope that is not so, but I will never know. To me his qualities and humanity were more important that his sexual orientation.

      • An extraordinary story thank you for sharing it. I was very touched that you took the time and trouble to write this powerful story down. Thank you.


  1. says:

    Anderson Cooper: PR Perfect…

    The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anderson Cooper and his PR regarding his coming out. Simple message, no details, well expressed, STOP….

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