Ever notice how when a celebrity or a business mogul gets in trouble or makes crazy headlines, all of the sudden his or her publicist is the one who is the spokesperson for their actions? When a client receives negative press attention, publicists are trained to give excuses, clean-up dirty statements made by clients, and to encourage them to do a miraculous act of good charity- like donate to a cause or work at a soup kitchen, all in an effort to shine up their image once again. Remember everyone, when Lebron James betrayed his city on television, it was all for charity right? That’s what his marketing team told the press at least. It seems like the only time that publicists get into the news themselves is when something negative happens, then they turn into a spinner scrambling to stick up for the person who writes their checks.
Bouncing back from negativity is just part of the job, but what about building up so much positivity that minor negatives will just be easily swatted away like an annoying mosquito at a summer barbecue?
After negativity strikes, not only does the publicist then become the automatic spokesperson for their client (right behind his or her lawyer) but they also are in charge of coming up with marketing campaigns to improve images. Is that what a PR person does? Just markets images to the public? Well, yes and no. A GOOD publicist will monitor news, and try to establish credibility first, before a positive turn-around marketing campaign for an individual or a company is needed.
How? — Journalists always need sources. So the important thing for a publicist to do is look for stories always pertaining to their client or client’s company no matter what the circumstance. It’s important to create credibility along the way in a PR campaign- not just when there is big news to share. The campaign must be consistent, steady and maintain enough exclusivity that it doesn’t appear the client is a “media slut”.
The best example I can give of what NOT to do is Dominoes pizza. Dominoes is doing a brilliant advertising campaign that has the undertones of a publicity stunt going right now. They are taking their negativity and displaying in interviews, hidden cameras and taste tests. So yes, it does prompt the public to want to engage in their “new” positive image. HOWEVER, there was not any press attention or positivity surrounding them from the beginning, so when their business began to tank, they needed to turn their marketing into a spin campaign, and pretty fast. It is working great for them, so I do want to applaud them on a great spin gone well; however, they had to spend thousands of dollars to do the spin. Who wants to have to do that when a sustainable positive image for a client is attainable?
PR is not simply taking negative events and turning them into a positive when a client does a boneheaded move. The recipe for that is simple: address the issue, make excuses for it, then have your client donate money to a cause or volunteer somewhere.
The real PR master will have their client held in such high regards by the media already, that negativity will just be easily swatted away. A full spin won’t necessarily be needed, HOPEFULLY. Unless the client is Chris Brown when he beat up Rihanna, there is usually hope.
Remember, reporters need sources, and good sources. Pitching them only when you have client news isn’t going to be effective in the long-run, make sure you establish relationships with them on the day-to-day and once in a while, just write them to see what they have on their editorial calendar.