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.

Barney’s and Jay-Z Get Bad Rap From Shoppers

Jay Z 150x150 Barneys and Jay Z Get Bad Rap From Shoppers

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Barney’s and Jay-Z.

It would take a lot to equal the PR humiliation suffered by Zurich boutique Tres Pommes when Oprah Winfrey asked to see a handbag and was refused by a clerk who said she couldn’t afford it. However, Barney’s may find itself in the running; the luxury Manhattan retail store recently suffered two embarrassing moments that could impact a big celebrity tie-in with rapper Jay-Z.

Trayon Christian, 19, said he was stopped by police after buying a $300 Ferragamo belt from Barney’s flagship store on Madison Avenue. Kayla Phillips, 21, was also questioned by police after purchasing a $2,500 bag. Both are African American.

While the incidents occurred earlier this year, they made the news recently in conjunction with Jay-Z’s November 20 launch of a line of clothing and jewelry in association with Barney’s. The negative publicity triggered a storm of protest and a petition calling for boycotts against Barney’s for racial profiling.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Barney’s and Jay-Z.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  In tandem projects, take care as to who says what when. As the negative press hit the media and Jay-Z was called out by fans and fellow musicians alike, Barney’s was the first to respond with a statement of apology and a review of practices. As for Jay-Z, he remained mostly quiet – and got flak for it. “I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barney’s,” he said. Once Barney’s made its first move, Jay-Z might have been wise to jump in with some more supportive PR. After all, one speaker at a time makes good PR sense, but prolonged hesitation only dilutes the final message.

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!

Stella McCartney’s Icy Olympic Tweet

 Stella McCartneys Icy Olympic Tweet

The PR Verdict: ”D” (PR Problematic) for Stella McCartney and her PR.

What was the PR advice given to designer Stella McCartney, creator of Team Great Britain’s podium outfits, as the opening of the Olympics got underway? As the Olympians went down the fashion runway, everyone watching had a point of view about each country’s sartorial expression. The Brits wore white and gold uniforms provided by clothing retailer Next, and not everyone was a fan.

The New York Times pronounced the uniforms “over the top.” Other commenters described the outfits as “somewhere between celestial beings and extras in a Jay-Z and Kanye West video.” Despite the unqualified success of the outstanding opening ceremony, some of the fashion press could’t resist a swipe. Presumably Stella McCartney didn’t want her clothing to be confused with those from Next; she designed the uniforms for the podium, not the opening. What to do?

Team McCartney dove into the world of social media and Tweeted, as the Brits’ uniform was unveiled, that Stella “designed the Team Great Britain performance kit, podium suit & village wear, not the Olympic ceremony suits.” Got that? Nothing to do with us, effectively read the message on Twitter. Her Tweet got more attention than it ever intended.

The PR Verdict: ”D” (PR Problematic) for Stella McCartney and her PR. Why not err on the side of generosity by congratulating Next and setting the record straight at the same time? Clarifying an issue with the word “not” is always open to misinterpretation.

The PR Takeaway: Be nice! Gushy good manners can make the same point as clarifications that may come off as harsh. From a PR point of view, it’s understandable that Stella McCartney wants to set the record straight about what was and wasn’t hers. Congratulating Next, instead of sending them out in the cold, would have been nicer and could have made the same point. How about this PR Appropriate Tweet: “A big fat congratulations to Next. My turn follows with our podium suits when we win our medals. Happy Games!” Exactly the same point, but nothing defensive, and it includes praise for  your Olympic partner. Sometimes good PR really is just about good manners.

To read more bitchy commentary about the Olympic uniforms, click here.

What’s your opinion of Stella McCartney’s clarification? Give us your PR Verdict!