Entertainment & Sports Archive

Don’t Get Trumped by False Media Narratives

May 18th, 2011

In the past we’ve written about the PR tactic of riding the media coattails of major scheduled events.  It’s hard enough to drum up publicity from scratch, so when possible, your business should leverage existing high-profile news to your advantage.  For example, accounting firms can get PR mileage around April 15, the same with gyms around national health observances, and so forth.

But in public relations there’s always an exception, and that applies to media narratives.  Just because some item or matter is getting buzz doesn’t mean it’s best to cinch your horse to it.  And the biggest hype-fest of the moment is Donald Trump’s flirting to run for the US presidency.

Had Trump ultimately launched a formal presidential campaign, it might have presented other colorful CEO-types nationwide an opening to extol the virtues of brash business practices, in an attempt to get on the media map.  In fact, numerous talking heads and commentators were absolutely certain Trump would seek high office.

This is the point where smart PR counselors would advise their clients about the highly scientific, intellectually rigorous evaluation process known as the “smell test”…  If at a minimum one is a student of history, then a quick gloss would reveal that every president since 1961 has held a prior political title – and the one right before that had quite a bit of legitimate global stature.

So beware the lure of questionable media narratives, particularly ones based on absolutely outlandish and farcical premises.

Is Vogue Taking Crisis PR Lessons From Asad Regime?

May 11th, 2011

In a recent post we offered Vogue Magazine a four-step crisis management plan to dig the publication out of its ongoing PR crisis.  As many media watchers know, Vogue published a spectacularly ill-timed, fawning profile of Syrian First Lady Asma Asad, whose husband’s regime continues to lead a violent and murderous campaign to crush popular dissent in his country.  To date, the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria estimates that nearly 800 people have been killed in the crackdown, and 9,000 are in detention.

Vogue’s leadership apparently has taken a very patient wait-and-see approach to managing the PR fallout from glamorously featuring a family with the blood of thousands of citizens on its hands.  That was until yesterday, when Vogue executed the mother of all careless crisis public relations tactics.

Vogue deleted the Asma story from its website.

Yes, Vogue Magazine “disappeared” the article, much like Syria’s government “disappears” citizens who protest the Asad regime.  Instead of smart crisis management, Vogue’s literal “nothing to see here” approach feeds precariously into an all-too-easy-to-script media narrative.

The elementary failure of Vogue’s PR strategy is that the Syria story simply will not go away, and not for a long time.  As long as the Arab Spring continues, as long as Syrian forces use violence to counter protests, as long as Syrian secret police get caught on camera beating and torturing citizens in full public view, Vogue will not escape this crisis PR nightmare of its own making.

Client News

April 26th, 2011

My Guy Trip Press Release, announcing launch of adventure travel service in California. (Link takes you to PDF press release.)

The Publishing Industry’s Lame Crisis Management Playbook

April 20th, 2011

Greg Mortenson – author of now-in-question memoir “Three Cups of Tea” – is giving the public a real-time crisis PR train wreck situation to watch.  This past week, both 60 Minutes and venerable adventure author Jon Krakauer questioned the veracity of Mortenson’s best-selling account of building schools in Pakistan.  It ain’t pretty – Krakauer’s blistering critique is titled “Three Cups of Deceit.”

Many angry voices are joining this debate about the latest high-profile memoir scandal; after all, the media narrative has strong legs given the tremendous fallout from James Frey’s fabricated (and also best-selling) memoir “A Million Little Pieces.” Mortenson’s attempt at damage control is riddled with double-speak and thinly veiled “oops” which do no favors for his cause.

But we’re not here to talk about the fabricated content; rather, as crisis management observers, we’re interested in how Mortenson’s publisher, Penguin/Viking Press, responds to the public outcry.  Anyone can rightfully heap scorn on Viking for having first made a ton of cash and now examining Mortenson’s book for inaccuracy(s).  So, Viking’s claim that it will “carefully review the materials” is extremely flat-footed on the crisis PR front.

How about a stronger condemnation, discussing next steps specifically and improvements in the internal review process, and communicating grave concern about the damage this does to future memoirists?  Why isn’t this Viking’s standard crisis management plan?

Ideally big publishers will be careful with checking the accuracy of future memoirs, that is if they want to preserve any sort of credibility with this medium.  But even if they do review manuscripts for truth vs. fiction beforehand, what is the crisis PR plan they have in place when – not if – the next great memoir is revealed as a total flight of fancy?

Corporate and Litigation PR Must Sing in Tune

April 8th, 2011

Anyone who doubts high-stakes lawsuits require smart litigation PR should ready our post today, where we (continue to) deconstruct the awful media narrative of the music industry self-immolating on its tried and true, counter-productive PR strategy.

Mashable has a great post today about the music industry’s looming trial against LimeWire, the file distribution service they accuse of illegally distributing digital music.  When you have a lawsuit with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, it’s no longer a matter of “if” but “when” the proceedings will get heavy media attention.

We’ve written here and here about how tone deaf the music industry’s PR strategy is.  Not only do the heavy-handed statements alienate consumers, they also show incredible contempt for technological advancement, a trend the music industry has famously ignored at its own collective peril.

But, even if the music industry understood the power of positive and persuasive PR, can we assume that their publicists are coordinating messaging with their legal teams?  Probably not, as the Mashable article shows.  The plaintiffs’ prime argument basically amounts to “technology is evil.”  The best comment to the article so far is this:

Corporate titans and captains of industry, know this – if your media team and legal team aren’t coordinating, and litigation PR doesn’t have a special place in your set of business priorities, you’re only hurting your bottom-line.

Big Record Labels Ready to Rain on Amazon’s Cloud

March 30th, 2011

Once again, technology has improved consumer options for music listening.  And, once again, sadly, the music industry is predictably blowing the dust off its “Obtuse PR Tactics” textbook.

Litigation PR plays a big role in the school of obtuse PR, and offers perspective in understanding what’s about to unfold.  When major corporate entities file lawsuits, smart public statements help advance the case in the court of public opinion.  Not-so-smart public statements, conversely, can hamper public attitudes.

We’ve written before about how record labels are, ahem, tone deaf to consumer sentiment and public perception of mindless business practices.  And they’re about to step in it all over again.

Background: Amazon has stolen the fickle tech spotlight by announcing its new cloud drive music service.  Basically, people can now store digital music on an Amazon.com account and stream songs to integrated devices.  This allows potentially limitless music storage, compared to the hard drive confines of a computer or portable music player.

In truth, Amazon’s move isn’t revolutionary technology; rather, it’s a smart assessment of consumer preferences and leverage of wireless bandwidth.  We’d argue that the shift from cassettes to CDs was way more important, as that transition represented a dramatic boost in enjoying audio quality.

Regardless, the music industry seems ready to fight tooth and nail against advancements and technological trends.  Here are choice music executive quotes on Amazon’s cloud:

“Keeping legal options open.”

“The locker service that Amazon is proposing is unlicensed by Sony Music.”

“It sounds like legalized murder to me.” (Seriously?!?)

In other words, the record labels seem ready to bellow: “We will sue Amazon, as scorched-earth litigation PR is in our collective genome.”  Instead of such statements, what if the RIAA, on behalf of the record labels, simply said:

“Cloud music is an interesting technology development.  We’ll keep our eye on it.”

See that?  Framing the industry’s official position as passively interested in no way compromises litigation potential.  Such a statement certainly helps avoid negative headlines and mistaken context as the cloud music media narrative gains momentum.  Better to be a bit mysterious and noncommittal in this case, as opposed to playing the oppressive tactic of “let’s sue ‘em into oblivion.”

The Fractal Theory of Crisis Management and Public Relations

March 25th, 2011

Besides being fun for hippies to stare at, fractals offer enormous intuitive and guidance value.  Definitely one of the cooler mathematical models, fractals predict patterns in nature.  Fractal theory has enormously advanced many fields, including ecology, medicine, even special effects.

Of course, one might hope fractals can predict patterns in media coverage.  Wishful thinking… right?  Maybe not.

• Four years ago, Oprah Winfrey fielded allegations that the school she funded in South Africa was physically abusing students.  Oprah apologized and promised reforms.

• One year ago, Wyclef Jean fielded allegations that his Haiti charity had questionable accounting practices.  Wyclef (sort of) apologized and promised reforms.

• And the latest – Madonna is fielding allegations that the school she funded in Malawi is now defunct due to unethical management and cost overruns.  Madonna (you guessed it) quasi-apologized and (sort of) promised reforms.

If you’re a celebrity and wish to start your own overseas charity, how do you break this miserable crisis PR failure pattern?  Certainly not an easy thing to do, but one thing is clear: before you get started, have a respected third party – who’s a trusted authority on legal and ethical charity practices – validate and support your charity before you launch your operation.  Now that’s a PR tactic worth repeating.  Just sayin’…

The Art – and Ugliness – of the Twitter Apology

March 17th, 2011

We’ve recently analyzed the fallout that leads to a Twitter apology, a format that’s growing in popularity.  Presumably we shouldn’t be surprised – after all, who wouldn’t love to escape the principal’s office after ‘fessing up in 140 characters?

The point is that while a 140-character-or-less apology may seem superficial, it’s quickly growing as today’s mea culpa standard.  But, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated with the same care and attention one would normally employ when apologizing.

For example, a grown adult wouldn’t shout or sing an apology, right?  After all, yelling “I’M SO SORRY” really comes across as shrill.  That’s why proper tone is essential to crafting a Twitter apology.

Unfortunately for WNBA player Cappie Poindexter, shouting an apology was the best she could muster after she exclaimed on Twitter that the unbelievably tragic Japan earthquake and tsunami were signs that “God was tired of the way [the Japanese] treated their own people in there [sic] own country.”  (Here’s an excellent summary of this PR disaster.)

After the resulting outcry, Poindexter offered her Twitter apology:

Unfortunately, her decision to take to Twitter in such a rambling, incoherent, grammar-nightmare rant – AND IN ALL CAPS – actually makes her come across as insincere and mouthing words because she got caught, not because she feels remorse.

Apologies, an integral part of crisis management, are all about showing true contrition.  If you can’t show real regret in 140 characters, then Twitter’s not the place to repent.

We’re Crossing Our Fingers, Lance…

January 20th, 2011

Lance Armstrong‘s beating cancer to become a cycling great is the stuff of legend, there certainly is no quarrel with that.  Still, the ongoing whispers and allegations about doping continue to take their toll, and have suddenly become that much more real.

As crisis PR experts, all we have to say at this point is that it’s wise for the LIVESTRONG to run a crisis management playbook.  That means preparing holding statements, talking points, prepping leadership on media Q&A, and media training for the cameras and mics.  LIVESTRONG can’t say that Lance Armstrong isn’t part of the organization, and hence that his private concerns do not matter to the organization — both the man and the organization are brands, and they are one and the same in the public eye.

If the authorities do pursue the criminal investigation into Armstrong, it’s best for LIVESTRONG to not get caught flat-footed when the US Attorney’s shoe drops.  Good luck, Lance