Jason Collins Makes a PR Slam Dunk

 Jason Collins Makes a PR Slam Dunk

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to NBA star Jason Collins.

In the world of PR, it’s not just what you say, but what media outlet you say it to. A perfect example? Basketball star Jason Collins coming out in a cover story in Sports Illustrated. By all accounts, this was a major announcement: Collins is the first male major league athlete to reveal he’s gay. By PR accounts, the way he made the announcement was even more interesting.

That there are gay athletes is a given. Women’s sports seem to be more tolerant; women’s basketball pro Brittany Griner came out recently, and the hullaballoo rating was low.  But in men’s basketball, baseball, football, and hockey, the policy is don’t ask, don’t tell. While opponents, and even teammates, may be openly homophobic, there is also the question of fan reaction. Will the people who spend billions on sporting event tickets and merchandise tolerate openly gay players, and the teams who draft them?

This past Monday, Collins revealed that he was gay directly to a media outlet that speaks to the sports fan: Sports Illustrated. The magazine is known for its sports reporting but is most famous for its annual Swimsuit Issue, the cover of which – a barely clad female beauty – tells much about its audience. If fan reaction was in question, Collins addressed it directly.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Jason Collins. It’s not just what he said and how he said it, but to whom he said it.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When making an unexpected announcement, consider making it via an unexpected source. How typical – and not terribly brave – it might have been for Collins to weep on Oprah’s shoulder, or Ellen’s, or Anderson Cooper’s as the latter two compared coming out stories. The hosts would have been all too sympathetic, and Collins would have lost face with sports fans. However revealing his truth via Sports Illustrated almost said, “This isn’t a big deal.” It is, of course, and it may go into PR history books as a slam dunk.

The First Wives PR Club

 The First Wives PR Club

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) to Ann Romney and “B” (Good Show) to Michelle Obama.

Still undecided about who to vote for on November 6? Tired of thinking about tax rates and foreign policy? Just turn to Woman’s Day and US Weekly for some guidance. Women’s magazines have just been enrolled into the election battles. The result? Ann Romney and Michelle Obama are everywhere.

Woman’s Day broke the news that Michelle Obama’s favorite food is mac n’ cheese, while Ann Romney’s favorite film is The Sound of Music. Michelle told US Weekly that her favorite guilty pleasure is French fries while outlining to Good Housekeeping the Obama family’s daily exercise program. Family Circle took a poll of the ladies’ recipes: Michelle Obama’s chocolate chip cookies won over Ann Romney’s M&M cookies. Oprah has interviews with both couples in October’s O Magazine.

From a PR perspective, how and where to do the interviews? Solo, or as a couple? What to talk about, and to whom? Ann is doing most interviews with her husband Mitt and focusing on magazines such as Good Housekeeping that have a median readership age in the mid fifties. Michelle, on the other hand, is going for the hipper vote. Doing interviews as a couple but then breaking out solo, she is talking to Elle and People en Espanol.

The PR Verdict:  “B” (Good Show) to Michelle Obama and “C” (Distinctly OK) to Ann Romney. Michelle has the edge in appealing to a wider audience.

The PR Takeaway: Have your cake (or, in this case, cookies) and eat it; be traditional and hip at the same time. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are courting older female voters by giving insights into their respective domestic bliss, but Michelle is also playing to a younger crowd, with solo interviews in their favorite magazines. Ann Romney is doing well in her established segment, but so far her appeal to young fashion- and celebrity-reading females remains untested. It may be time to stop concentrating on the base she already knows and take a leaf from her opponent’s PR handbook.

What’s your opinion of the first wives’ PR tactics? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

Is Tom Cruise Really That Dull?

tom cruise Is Tom Cruise Really That Dull?

The PR Verdict: “A” for Cruise and his PR strategy.

Is Tom Cruise as achingly dull as his recent profile in Playboy would seem unintentionally to suggest? In honor of his fiftieth birthday and to publicise his new movie Rock of Ages, he has given an interview the length of War and Peace to the once racy, but now vaguely suburban magazine.  His interview is almost as tough to get through as the Russian novel.

For an actor who has had his share of PR blunders it is little wonder he became media shy.  Whether it was bouncing around on Oprah’s couch talking about Katie Holmes, criticizing Brooke Shields about post natal depression or waxing lyrical about Scientology , his star fell and his box office allure faded.  Suddenly America’s leading man was polarizing instead of interesting.

Playboy’s recent interview should help remedy that.  Cruise talks about his love of Katie, his children and his strong work ethic.  Yes, he considers himself blessed and fortunate and no, he doesn’t read negative press about himself.  As it happens, he  hasn’t had plastic surgery and his secret to keeping in shape is eating right and exercising.  Cruise has made the PR transition from Hollywood loon to male soccer mom. And done it in Playboy!

The PR Verdict: “A”  for Tom Cruise and his PR Strategy.  An astonishingly dull interview that has got his PR profile back on track.

PR Takeaway:  Being boring has its rewards.  The most interesting insight Cruise offers in the article is that he realised his own PR missteps cost him plenty.  He took a PR break, stayed out of the press and what has now followed is an interview that gives him the space to sound reassuring and not the slightest bit controversial or interesting.  While sensible for the box office and his PR machine, we did prefer him jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa.  Much more amusing.

What’s your PR Verdict?