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!


How Funny Was The Dictator On The Red Carpet?

sachabaron choen1 How Funny Was The Dictator On The Red Carpet?

The PR Verdict: “B” for General Aladeen and his ho-hum stunt.

Did anyone find Sacha Baron Cohen on the Academy Awards red carpet funny? As a comedic exercise it was at best lukewarm, but as a PR exercise it hit the mark, securing more coverage than if he had topped the “best-dressed” list.  Is spilling pancake mix the new way to secure coverage?

Prior to the Oscars there had been some noise about whether the Academy would allow Cohen to walk down the red carpet dressed as the fictional General Aladeen from his upcoming movie The Dictator.  Earlier reports claimed he had been forbidden to attend the ceremony, which the Academy denied.  In any case, the anticipation generated some pre-Oscar column inches.

During a red carpet interview on the night with Ryan Seacrest of E!, Cohen, carrying an urn filled with the “ashes” of former North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Il said it was Kim’s dream to attend the Oscars and “to be sprinkled over the red carpet and Halle Berry’s chest.”  He then tipped the urn to cover an un-amused Seacrest with dust.  Cue laughter.

The PR Verdict: “B” for General Aladeen who, despite the joke falling rather flat, got the PR bang he was hoping for.  There is no doubt the Dictator got more coverage than if he had walked down the red carpet as plain Sacha Cohen.

This PR stunt generated endless replays, went viral and gave commentators, tired of debating the length of Angelina’s leg, new material.  It created the sort of fuss that is the dream of every PR and has been followed up assiduously on social media by Cohen’s PR and marketing team. Now, the  the real test will be to see whether the 1.5 million hits on You Tube translate into movie ticket sales.

To see the interview click here and to read more click here. Take our poll and let us know how funny you found the interview:

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