This week, Arnold Schwarzenegger began promoting his book, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. Schwarzenegger’s life is nearly unbelievable – he was a champion body builder who became the highest paid actor in Hollywood despite a heavyweight German accent and a nearly unpronounceable name. He then married a member of the Kennedy family and become governor of California. And the focal point of all his latest interviews? His affair with the housekeeper.
Surely Schwarzenegger didn’t want to include the chapter detailing his affair with housekeeper Mildred Baena, yet on some level he must have known this was the double-edged sword of PR: talk about the thing you don’t want to talk about, or no one will buy your book. In interviews, Schwarzenegger shows contrition, albeit insensitively, referring to the affair with Baena as “my screw-up” and “a disaster.” Arnie, it seems, is untroubled by how this might affect the result of this affair: his youngest son, Joseph. And it’s hard to tell whether he’s sorry for what he did to wife Maria Shriver, or sorry he got caught.
Schwarzenegger follows Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, and many others whose works and lives became defined by a single act: that of schtupping the maid, or the prostitute, or sexting the intern. Only Bill Clinton moved beyond Monica, though his career remains tarnished by the scarlet letter. Yet what do we really expect from The Governator? Nothing other than what he’s giving, and gives well: He doesn’t care what you think about him, only that you think about him.
The PR Verdict: B (Good Show) for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The grade is based not on character but for his handling of the media and for canny self-promotion via contrition.
The PR Takeaway: Scandal always outlasts notable works. Whatever leads those in positions of power towards the scandalous is for the Psychiatrist’s Verdict. But for our purposes, as Arnie clearly shows, the public relations prescription is to own up; apologize with sincerity; pour barbecue sauce on yourself in preparation of being grilled by the media; and get back to the business of doing whatever good works were interrupted by your poor judgment. Finally, get on with counting the royalties, while remaining contrite at all times.
What do you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s media profile? Give us your PR Verdict!