Damage Control Handbook: When Celebrities Attack

 Damage Control Handbook: When Celebrities Attack

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Solange Knowles.

Publicists have always tried to control celebrity clients’ appearances and interviews; it reduces the need to break out the damage control handbook later. These days it’s especially important, when social media can go mad with, say, footage of Solange Knowles, sister of mega-star Beyoncé, attacking her rap icon brother-in-law Jay Z.

On Monday, social media went ablaze with a video showing a woman reported to be Knowles kicking and punching a man believed to be Jay Z. The video was security camera footage from an elevator at the Standard Hotel in New York. “Reported to be,” “believed to be,” “apparently”—in other words, nothing has been confirmed.

Nothing has been denied, either, and lack of denial is as good as a confirmation; were these not the people in question, flaks and lawyers would have responded with all the threatening impact of the Wildlings on Game of Thrones. So far the only comment has come from the hotel, “shocked and disappointed” about the release of the security camera tape. (They’ll need to go into damage control, too, to regain guests’ trust.) As time passes with no response from PRs, minor celebs opine, social media pundits make jokes, and the problem lingers… For now.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Solange Knowles.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Damage Control Rule #1: Think before you make a statement. Issues such as this require a huddle with all of the celebs’ representatives. Stick to the facts within your own confidential conversation, and then agree upon a plausible explanation that will douse the flames of interest. A misunderstanding; too many cocktails; people are making too much of this. Most important? Keep your clients quiet. The alternate route is to say nothing; it’s new page in the handbook, and one that allows the story to remain alive, but only for the few days it takes for social media to move on to the next viral trend.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

davisfamily The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Amber and Dru Davis, for classily defending mom Wendy, a Texas gubernatorial candidate, from conservative attacks on her background and parenting skills. Right-wingers jumped on the Democrat after a newspaper article delved into her backstory – a teen-aged single mom who went from trailer park to Harvard Law School. “Dru and I have always been her number one priority,” Amber Davis wrote in a public letter refuting claims that her mother abandoned family for personal ambition. With a similar missive from Dru, the ill-conceived attack on Davis’ motherhood folded like the losing hand of Texas Hold’em.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to New York Congressman Michael Grimm, who threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony after the president’s State of the Union address. The reporter asked about an investigation into alleged campaign finance violations. Grimm walked off camera, then returned to mutter, “Let me be clear. You ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this f*cking balcony… I’ll break you in half, like a boy.” Grimm later said, “I doubt that I am the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter and I am sure I won’t be the last.” But there is doubt as to how much longer Grimm will remain a member of Congress.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Beyonce and Jay Z’s opening act at the 56th annual Grammy Awards, which fell flat for many viewers. Singing  “Drunk in Love,” their ode to alcohol-fueled marital relations, the routine featured a scantily clad Queen Bey writhing on a chair and on all fours under the approving eye of her fully clothed husband. While many called the performance sexy, others deemed it denigrating to women. Particularly disturbing was Jay Z’s line “Now eat the cake, Anna Mae,” which refers to a scene in Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It, in which wife-beater Ike Turner slams a piece of cake into Tina’s face. An act that was off key, at best.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners and Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) TO Hillary Clinton. For turning the tables in an argument, the prize must go to the now-former Secretary of State, who testified this week at a congressional hearing regarding the deaths of US personnel in Benghazi, Libya. The PR turning point? When Hilary fired off her exasperated question, “What difference does it make?” in response to one particularly long-winded question from a committee member. Rhetorically asked with a flash of obvious irritation, this was THE moment that captured the media. Bad news for the committee, but good news for Clinton; her question implied that the scandal critics and pundits were hoping for was a non-starter.  Ah! The power of a question to change the conversation.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO TO) Coca-Cola. In a reaction to never-ending statistics about the rise of metabolic syndrome – the name now given to the grouping of damaging physical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension – Coke launched a new initiative called “Coming Together.” In the heartwarming commercial, Coke assures us that “all calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola.” Translation: We’re blameless! Result? Critics pounced. The PR problem is that this tactic is akin to sharks saying they’re not dangerous unless you insert your leg in their mouths. Metabolic syndrome is a national conversation, but Coke must realize it’s one they cannot possibly be a part of without looking self protecting and insincere. Yes a calorie is a calorie but sugared sodas have never been the healthy eater’s friend.Have they?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” PR AWARD TO Beyoncé. After a rousing rendition of the national anthem at President Obama’s inauguration, rumors began to swirl: Was that performance live, or did Beyoncé lip-sync? Given the condemnation and amount of media attention this question was given, one would think lip-syncing was on a par with treason. The temperature on the mall hovered around 40 degrees; who could blame Beyoncé for not wanting to take chances with such a public performance? Much ado about nothing, and Beyoncé, whose megafame invites examination of her every move, would be wise to remain silent and keep them guessing.

No Celeb Surprises at the Polls

cher and kathy griffin 150x150 No Celeb Surprises at the Polls

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK ) for both political parties and their star endorsers.

Does Cher love Mitt Romney? Does Chuck Norris endorse Obama? Both might have been sensational headlines, but the opposite was true. As the election draws to an inevitable close, celebrities have been in a rush to make their final public and political stand. Uploading their Presidential endorsement videos on You Tube and their own websites, there are disappointingly few surprises about their pickings.

Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kathy Griffin, and Cher have all thrown their weight behind the Democrats. Madonna seems to have had a harder time of it; when in New Orleans recently, she was booed off the stage for endorsing President Obama, but her experience doesn’t seem to have deterred others. Obama’s celebrity support continues to be broad. But is anyone really that surprised by Hollywood favoring the Democrats?

Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan also have their share of celebrity endorsements. Arguably, the list is somewhat broader (and older) in scope: Kid Rock, Kelsey Grammer, Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris, Meat Loaf, and, of course, Donald Trump. Golfer Jack Nicklaus and country music stars the Oak Ridge Boys and Lee Greenwood have been joined by celeb du jour Honey Boo Boo, the youngest of the pack and therefore ineligible to vote.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK ) for both political parties and their star endorsers. What we really needed was a surprise.

The PR Takeaway: Astonish if you want to make a difference. It is generally understood that while celebrities may not bring in more voters, they do boost a candidate’s base and help energize the campaigns getting voters to polling booths. Fine and well, but what would really move the PR dial is to have an endorsement from left field. The element of surprise was missing with nearly all celebrities this time around. Next time, flush out the star with the surprising point of view. It’s guaranteed to vitalize a campaign and minimize the risk that the A-Listers are simply singing to their respective choirs.

To see the latest Cher video endorsing Obama, click here. To watch Chuck Norris endorse Romney, click here.

Who would you most have wanted to see stump for Obama, and who for Romney? Give us your PR Verdict!