The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity Edition

 The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity EditionPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Joan Rivers, who stormed out of a CNN interview while on a publicity tour. Rivers might have expected questions about her latest book, Diary of a Mad Diva, but host Fredricka Whitfield asked instead if Rivers felt she was being mean on her celeb fashion critique show Fashion Police, and why Rivers, an animal rights activist, wore fur on her book cover. Rivers answered for a few minutes before snapping, “You’re not the one to interview a person who does humor!” and walking off set. A stunned Whitfield later suggested the walkout was a publicity stunt; the video suggests otherwise. Calculated or not, Rivers won more buzz than she would have for any normal interview.

 The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity EditionPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to The Daily Mail, which crossed a celebrity gossip line by reporting that George Clooney’s future mother-in-law opposed his marriage to Amal Alamuddin on religious grounds. Clooney struck back in an editorial printed by USA Today, saying that the article could inflame religious sentiment against his family. The MailOnline apologized and removed the story from the website, said to average 52 million visitors a month, but not without drawing criticism for the story.

 The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity EditionTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Robin Thicke, who last week was the subject of embarrassing media attention about a Twitter PR stunt gone awry. #AskThick resulted in a slew of scathing tweets regarding the lyrics to “Blurred Lines,” Thicke’s worldwide hit regarded by many as misogynistic. The attention continued this week as a humbled, vulnerable Thicke tried to explain his latest album, Paula, an undisguised attempt to win back his estranged wife. Public meltdown, or PR gold? Either way, Thicke is reaping the level of media attention required to support a new album and tour, even if it’s the Train Wreck method of PR.

Hotel Group Suffers Via Association with Sharia Law

 Hotel Group Suffers Via Association with Sharia Law

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Dorchester Collection hotel chain.

What’s the connection between Hollywood’s celebrity elite and an ancient law that punishes homosexuality with death by stoning? The Dorchester Collection, a string of luxury hotels including the famed Beverly Hills Hotel and other five-star lodging used by A-listers who have launched an aggressive boycott.

The problem is not the hotels themselves but their ownership by the Brunei Investment Agency. Recently, Brunei adopted the Sharia Law, which punishes theft with the severing of limbs, and adultery and homosexuality with death by stoning.

Celebrities and bold-faced names protested with a boycott of the Brunei-owned hotel chain. Understandable, though questionable; will oil-rich Brunei be affected by Richard Branson’s vow that no one from the Virgin family will stay at Dorchester hotels? No, but hotel employees will suffer, as Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, pointed out. “During this challenging time, we have been deeply touched by the tremendous support received from our loyal guests and longstanding business partners who recognize that Dorchester Collection hotels are part of the fabric of their social communities.” In other words, guilt by association should not be punishable by economic death.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Dorchester Collection hotel chain.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Just deliver the facts. There are times when companies may be adversely affected by their owners’ actions. In this case, there’s almost nothing the Dorchester Collection can do but what they did, which is to point out that they didn’t adopt the Sharia Law in Brunei, and there’s no reason their own employees should suffer for it. That said, financial boycott and the pressure of negative PR sometimes wins out. Will it here? It’s unlikely. If only to keep from losing face, Brunei will probably maintain their position. Dorchester walks a dangerous line between siding with an unpopular owner and maintaining business; best to keep quiet and hope for a sale to a less controversial owner.

Damon and Affleck Amaze with Omaze Charity Videos

 Damon and Affleck Amaze with Omaze Charity Videos

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Omaze.com charity date and videos.

Celebrities stumping for charities went from being a good use of excess fame to standard operating procedure, and a tool for PR flaks to use when naughty clients need to make penance. The public has gotten wise and grown bored. So when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wanted to raise money for their pet causes, they really upped the ante.

Affleck’s East Congo Initiative benefits organizations in that war-torn area. Damon’s Water.Org is on a mission to provide clean water around the world. Both worthy causes, but in a sea of celebs asking for donations for equally good causes, how to gain attention, and dollars? With a contest, and a series of hilarious videos to promote it.

Visitors to Omaze.com can enter the contest for $10. The prize is a trip to Los Angeles for a double date with Affleck and Damon at a Hollywood event, and a stay in a four-star hotel (presumably without the two married Academy Award winners). The promotional videos are the two old friends taking potshots at each other. “You could learn about…how incredibly short Matt Damon is,” says a smiling Affleck. “Or the fact that Ben’s left eye twitches every time you say the word ‘Gigli’,” Damon retorts, referring to Affleck’s bomb with then girlfriend Jennifer Lopez. The videos alone are worth the donation.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Omaze.com charity date and videos.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: In a crowded room, find a way to stand apart. Clearly, both actors’ causes are worthy, but a world confronted with a steady stream of bad news can’t bear more sad details that usually tug heartstrings and loosen pursestrings. Humor goes a long way, as does clever incentive. A reasonable donation of ten bucks buys a chance at a dream trip with a pair of famous, and obviously fun, actors: pure PR genius.

Jackman Addresses Rumors, for Better or Worse

 Jackman Addresses Rumors, for Better or Worse

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Hugh Jackman.

When an actor has a new movie out, particularly a summer blockbuster, part of the massive marketing process is interviews. The training for these Q&As, which run the gamut from magazine cover stories and chat shows to endless roundtables with press, require more stamina than the life-threatening stunts for an action movie. The same questions are asked over and over and over again. The only thing that can break the monotony is a star addressing a rather unorthodox question, such as the one confronting A-list actor Hugh Jackman, currently promoting The Wolverine: “Are you gay?”

An actor at Jackman’s level could treat this question the way his character Wolverine, a comic book superhero with a short fuse and long razors extending from his hands, might – with swift death. But he’s taking it on, as is his wife, and even his X-Men producer, all saying the rumors are untrue. These rumors about Jackman’s sexuality have been hinted at since he portrayed gay songwriter Peter Allen in the Broadway production of The Boy From Oz, though they’re nowhere near the level of the accusations hurled at John Travolta or Tom Cruise. So why even bother addressing them?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Hugh Jackman. This is likely not what his film studio wanted for press for an action blockbuster aimed at a teenaged male audience.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Where there’s smoke, put out the fire – by not dousing it with fuel. Clearly, when accusations come with legal issues, such as what Travolta faced last year, action must be taken. In this case, why even acknowledge them? A subtle “That’s not worth addressing because it’s not true” would suffice. PRs might also want to remind their clients that while this might have been appropriate during the press tour for, say, the musical Les Miserables, it’s an eyebrow-raiser while doing press for an action flick. Additionally, at a time when gay marriage is fighting tooth and nail for legalization, vociferous denial of homosexuality could read the wrong way. Overall, it’s a question Wolverine should have sliced off the list.

Witherspoon’s Withering PR Moment

 Witherspoons Withering PR Moment

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Reese Witherspoon, from arrest to partial apology.

The producers of the new film Mud, starring Reese Witherspoon, were probably hoping for publicity of a different sort for this week’s premiere. Instead of hitting the talk show circuit as planned, Witherspoon made the front pages after being arrested outside Atlanta for boozily mouthing off to a Georgia state trooper.

The officer had pulled over the actress and her husband, Hollywood agent Jim Toth, after seeing Toth driving erratically. As Toth was being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, Witherspoon became unruly, belittling the trooper, refusing to stay in the car, and pulling out the classic ill-advised celebrity line: “Do you know who I am?”  She was taken away in handcuffs, charged with disorderly conduct, and spent the night in jail.

What an embarrassment for Witherspoon, an actress of the American Sweetheart variety with now-punchline ironic credits such as Walk the Line and Legally Blonde. As a 37-year-old mother of three, she can’t claim youthful indiscretion for this performance. Witherspoon canceled several scheduled appearances to promote her latest movie and issued an apology through her publicist.

Conspicuous by its absence in Witherspoon’s mea culpa, though, was a lack of acknowledgement of the seriousness of her and her husband’s alleged actions. The truly problematic issue here isn’t the disorderly conduct charge, but the couple getting into a car allegedly – and in her case admittedly – intoxicated. “Friends” like E! Host Chelsea Handler downplaying the incident didn’t improve on the situation. Given the broader implications of the arrests, Handler and others would do well to steer clear of this mess.

THE PR VERDICT:  “F” (Full Fiasco) for Reese Witherspoon, from the arrest to the partial apology.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Note to celebrities: Sometimes it’s not all about you. Throughout this unfortunate episode, Witherspoon doesn’t appear to have thought about anyone else besides herself and her husband. Though she may be under a legal directive to say little given the pending criminal charges, one hopes her image rehab will involve admitting their lack of judgment and perhaps taking a visible stand against drunk driving. Fortunately for the tipsy couple – and everyone else on the road – the only damage done here was on the PR front.

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 Adele for reportedly declining a seven-figure offer from publisher HarperCollins to write a memoir. The 24-year old superstar allegedly described herself as wanting to live a bit more before chronicling her life – imagine that! In turning down the deal, Adele is taking a different tack than many of her peers, including Miley Cyrus, who penned a tell-all at 16; Justin Bieber, who at 19 has two memoirs under his belt; and, at 28, ancient Katy Perry, whose autobiography is due out this year. Kudos to Adele for wisely realizing that she’ll likely have a more interesting story to tell – and sell – in a few years’ time.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the PR team for Christine Lagarde of the IMF. Red faces at the PR office of Lagarde, who failed to make the recent list of Time Magazine’s top 100 people. The usual suspects were there, including Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, and even Chrstina Aguilera of talent reality show The Voice. But the rariefied list strangely didn’t include the widely travelled head of the IMF, who has been busy trying to save the euro and halt the ongoing European banking crisis. We doubt it bothered Lagarde herself, but it was a curious omission that someone in the IMF PR department might want to take a look at before the next staff meeting.

BRADLEYCOPPER 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Bradley Cooper.  The actor voted “Sexiest Man Alive” by People  in 2011 has just given an interview to Details that was immediately picked up by surprised media everywhere. The news hook? Bradley lives with his mom. Apparently he moved in with his mother Gloria following the death of his father two years ago and since then, they live in rooms next door to one another. Admirable though that may be, it does work against some of the PR positioning as one of Hollywood’s leading men. Explaining to Details, Cooper said, “She’s in the next room. But here’s the thing: She’s a cool chick. We can hang, and she can roll with the punches.” Bradley’s PR presumably winced when reading…

 

 

Yet Another Bieber Blooper

 Yet Another Bieber Blooper

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the Justin Bieber.

Teenage pop idol Justin Bieber caught the full wrath of the Internet this week during a visit to Amsterdam. The Canadian superstar, currently on tour in Europe, visited the Anne Frank House to view the tiny attic where Frank and her family hid for two years from the Nazis before being discovered and sent to death camps. Writing in the guest book, Bieber said the visit was “truly inspiring” and that he hoped Anne would have been “a Belieber,” the moniker given to his fans. Frankly, no one could “beliebe” he left the narcissistic scribble; as UK site Sugarscape put it, “The world smacks their hands to their foreheads.”

The gaffe follows months of questionable behavior for the young singer: showing up late to concerts or canceling, fainting at a London appearance, purportedly smoking marijuana at a party, scuffling with the paparazzi, and allegedly spitting at a neighbor.

The antics have begun to take a toll on the Bieber Brand, with media speculating that Biebs is on the verge of a Britney Spears-esque meltdown. Polls suggest his likability factor is suffering: teens are finding him less attractive, and parents are seeing him as “rude.” The clean image that helped launch Bieber’s successful career is starting to look rather sullied.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the Justin Bieber. He hasn’t lost any sponsors yet, but more bad-boy behavior could change that.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: It’s not easy being a teen, even less easy being a teen brand. The transition from adolescent to young adult seems to be one of the rockiest roads for celebrities, and one need only read up on the cautionary tales of Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Lindsay Lohan for guidance on what not to do during this unpredictable time. Just as parents must do for their unruly offspring, Bieber’s handlers need to keep the lines of communication open with their young star and stress that the consequences of his actions will become more serious as he ages. There’s more to lose than celebrity status; Justin can beliebe that.

Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift is one of the biggest pop sensations ever, so that should translate to huge sales for the magazines that put her on their covers, right? The swift answer: no. Or, in the parlance of Swift’s teenaged fans: Like, totally nuh-uh.

Swift released a new album, Red, last fall and magazine bookers were working overtime. Swift, who is 23, has a fan base in their teens, but that didn’t mean she’d only rate the cover of Teen Vogue. No, her bookings included Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Elle, all in the space of one year, while her cover for Vanity Fair – whose demographic generally skews older than the parents of Swift’s fans – is out this month.

Swift Glamour1 150x150 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for MagazinesSo how did this multi-platinum selling artist perform for magazine sales? She sold reasonably well for Glamour (at left), okay for Vogue (above) and Bazaar, and, perhaps most surprisingly, made a terrible showing for Cosmo: the worst-selling cover for 2012 (below). Possible explanation? Swift is mightily overexposed in all media. It’s a knee-jerk reaction for PRs to book as many covers as possible.

 

 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Taylor Swift’s PR machine. Mainstream covers are good for both star and publication…except when the mag numbers turn out to be poor.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The all-you-can-eat buffet does have its price. It’s great to have a star that every magazine wants on its cover, but should PRs say yes to every offer? While Swift’s PRs presumably enjoyed credit for booking “mainstream” covers, they now have to contend with the negative press that comes with the revelations that she was a worst-seller. Plum bookings in the future may be harder to come by. Next time, all parties should consider a celebrity’s fan base, and act accordingly – or face Swift retribution.

On the Red Carpet (Yawn) at the Oscars

 On the Red Carpet (Yawn) at the Oscars

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for PRs on the red carpet.

Was there anything of note to come out of the almost 90 minutes of interviews on the red carpet before Sunday’s Oscar ceremony? All interviews were tightly managed and controlled, with PRs flanking relentlessly both sides of the stars in question. The problem? Heavy PR supervision led to indistinguishable interviews and some mighty dull TV.

The format of the red-carpet interview is set in stone: Say you are having a wonderful time (“This SOOOO amazing!”). Name the designer of the gown you have been sewn into. Thank everyone who contributed to your look, including your best friend and brilliant stylist (usually the same). Say you chose the outfit because it is simultaneously comfortable, beautiful, and, above all, a reflection of who you really are. With a wave of the hand, show the jewelry. Finally, air-kiss the interviewer farewell while talking in a voice normally reserved for teens at a birthday party. Move onto your next interview, guided by your clipboard-carrying PR heavies, and repeat. No wonder host Seth McFarlane’s patter seemed so shocking by comparison.

PRs are notorious for picking and choosing which journalists will be granted interviews – those who are friendly to their star client, stay on script, and will allow the roll call of designer names to be dropped in lieu of a decent quote. But is this good PR? Why oh why can’t someone be allowed to occasionally go off script?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for PRs, who just might be doing their jobs too effectively, making glittering celebrities seem positively dull.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Leave some wiggle room for spontaneity. The most surprising thing about the Oscars was how utterly unsurprising the almost 90 minutes of interviews were before the show started. Nothing wrong with an upbeat tone, but why not have the client differentiate herself from the pack? This might mean the occasional tough interview, or even snarky comment. Sometimes the best PR is packaging the product so that all bases are covered. In other cases, when blessed with a witty, intelligent client, let the cards fall where they may. News is news when something surprises. PRs should consider giving the Twitterverse something to really tweet about.

Guest Column: Angelina Jolie to Syria’s Rescue

Angelinajolie1 150x150 Guest Column: Angelina Jolie to Syrias Rescue

PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for UNHCR and its association with Angelina.

Tired of reading about celebrities in US Weekly or People? Then turn to the Financial Times. The FT just ran an op-ed from Angelina Jolie, special envoy to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), co authored by António Guterres, the UNHCR High Commissioner and former Prime Minister of Portugal. Both made a plea to support Syrian refugees and the latest UN appeal drive.

This latest FT column follows Jolie’s televised visits to Syrian refugee camps, guaranteeing coverage where the plight of the refugees might not have ordinarily rated a mention. During the visits, Jolie appeared shaken and emotional; critics might say that’s no big stretch for an actress, but following up her well-publicized visits with the op-ed route was wise. No charity glamour, just simple facts and arguments.

The column summarized the situation clearly. Wearing her UN hat, Jolie got right to the point: This appeal is not just about helping refugees, but making sure help is on a sustainable footing. The FT ran a photo of the glamorous special envoy on its front page. Her co-author had to be content with a byline; presumably he doesn’t sell newspapers in quite the same way.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for UNHCR. Celebrity coverage is the stepping-stone for more serious follow up, but is Angelina Jolie the right celebrity?

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Choose your celebrity wisely. By pairing up with Jolie, the UNHCR got its cause more attention than it might have otherwise. But the nagging issue with Jolie is that it’s never really clear if she is smart and cool, or a wanna-be humanitarian who, in her personal life, is a bit of a loon. She has still not been able to shake off her “crazy” image, which includes an endless array of children and tattoos. (Have we forgotten the vial of Billy Bob’s blood she wore as a necklace?) Bottom line, her sincerity isn’t in doubt, but does she have the gravitas to take this issue any further?

To read Angelina Jolie’s and António Guterres’s op-ed column, click here.

What’s your opinion of the UNHCR’s choice of Angelina Jolie as representative? Give us your PR Verdict!