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.

Katie Holmes’s Stealth Divorce Bombshell

 Katie Holmess Stealth Divorce Bombshell

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Katie Holmes and her stealth divorce bomb.

TomKat–Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes–are now officially over. Just like that. The surprising announcement that Holmes had started divorce proceedings seemed to catch her actor husband Cruise off guard. The filing was made on Thursday afternoon; the media went crazy on Friday. What happens now?

Speculation has already begun as to the cause of the marriage breakdown. Whispers of Holmes’s resistance to Cruise’s Scientology pals abound, as does the sneaking suspicion that the marriage was, from the start, a five-year contractual understanding. Other media speculate that Cruise’s alleged ambiguous sexuality is the genesis of the crisis, with one New York tabloid sarcastically commenting, “Holmes will keep the house while Cruise keeps the closet.”

Was the split expected? The gossip magazines had not speculated about Cruise’s third marriage in any meaningful way (despite ongoing low-level chatter). Cruise showed up alone at the recent premieres of his latest film Rock of Ages with no significant adverse comment. With the media off guard, the time for Holmes to file was now. At least on the PR front, this was minimally damaging, given the couple’s notoriety.

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for  Katie Holmes, whose divorce strategy is like a precision bomb. Taking the media by surprise means that phase one of the divorce agenda is owned by Homes, hands down.

The PR Takeaway:  Quick precision bombing has its advantages. Making a sudden filing before the weekend, while not making substantive comments keeps the scandal level relatively low. Holmes followed the template of her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s own divorce from second wife Nicole Kidman: no comment, no explanation–the PR exercise equivalent to ripping the band aid off quickly. No one ever really got to the bottom of the Kidman/Cruise divorce in part because it seemed so unexpected. The explanations this time around might be just as elusive.

Will Katie Holmes’s sudden, stealth divorce bomb shatter the media’s speculative attack? Give us your PR Verdict, below.

Hey ! Did you see that the Financial Times (Alphaville) republished our PRV on Barclays? Take a look: http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2012/06/29/1065981/barclays-pr-rating-d/