July 15, 2008

Newsweek Asks the Big Questions

Posted in In the news, Media tagged , at 9:28 am by R

A few weeks back I wrote a post about a Time article that addressed the story of a bunch of teenage girls from Gloucester, Mass. getting pregnant.

In that post, I asserted that while the media might not be responsible for this situation, they do have a certain responsibility to portray teen pregnancy in an honest and complete way. I used Jamie Lynn Spears as an example of how teen pregnancy can be glamorized, what with her exclusive story with OK! Magazine and million dollar deal for the first baby photos (ON STANDS NOW! — please read some sarcasm into that line.)

In a Web exclusive, Sarah Kliff of Newsweek Magazine interviews OK! Editor Rob Shuter. She asks him poignant questions about reporting responsibly about teen pregnancy, about celebrity pregnancies and the weight of some of these editorial decisions. Read it.

Here’s one of my favorites…

What message do you think it sends to your teenager readers?
I think it’s a very sensitive subject. I can totally understand why people have concerns about it. I can tell you too it’s nothing Jamie Lynn hasn’t had to deal with herself on a daily basis. This young girl has made some very hard choices … She can only talk about her own circumstances but she certainly is not a spokesperson for teen pregnancy. I think what we try to do in this story really carefully is say that this is Jamie Lynn’s story. This is not a girl at a high school story. This is a story about Jamie Lynn and her exceptional story in really, really unique circumstances and how she’s making decisions. That’s what this is about. We don’t set out to be the moral authority. We try to present the facts and let our readers decide.

Two important things here:

  1. Ok! Doesn’t assert that it’s a “moral authority.”
  2. Nor does it take responsibility for the impressions it may leave on readers.

These are the facts, and I’ll let my readers decide…


July 14, 2008

The Brangelina Public Relations Agency

Posted in In the news, Media, Spin tagged at 11:47 am by R

Welcome little Vivienne Marcheline and Knox Leon Jolie-Pitt (that’s a mouthful!). Your new little lives are a PR/media case study.

Over the past several weeks (really since the Cannes Film Fest), media have speculated about the arrival of the twins and if they had in fact made their debut. ET (Entertainment Tonight) even made a notable gaffe a few weeks back, which they have yet to retract. Although, I suspect that with the formal arrival of the little ones they won’t ever note their mistake.

What I thought was particularly interesting about the announcement of Vivienne and Knox, was the local flavor the Jolie-Pitt clan stuck with. They deliberately chose Nice-Matin and the mayor of Nice to formally announce the birth. Whether it was a nod to the locals for their support and shelter toward the end of Angelina’s pregnancy or a snub to the always-on-alert tabloids, I thought it was a hand well-played.

Major news sources keep repeating the news that the local Nice paper got to break the news. People, the AP, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, MSNBC, you name it. They were all second fiddle to the local paper. That has to be good for Nice-Matin. Think that day’s issue sold out? Think their server crashed? Yes or yes.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter…are there times when it is more important to select what publication you break news in, versus shotgun, wide-spread coverage? Oh yeah.

I can think of plenty of cases where I’ve argued for a more strategic placement over lots of less targeted hits. In the long run, it’s much better in my mind to tailor the message, select the right messenger and take aim over tossing the info to the wind and taking anything that will hit. Maybe even more important, if there’s a media relationship which is particularly important to a client for long term coverage, tossing them the bone might be the best strategic move for the long-haul. Now, it’s always a case-by-case basis, but it’s a strategy that has served some very well…I mean look at Spencer and Heidi and their relationship with Us Weekly…that’s (and I cannot believe I’m saying this) a well-nurtured and fruitful relationship.

Congratulations to Brad and Angelina and their newest little ones. Also congrats on a smart media move. Your PR strategy was well executed.

Vivienne and Knox, as they say in your native land: Bienvenue!


P.S. Perez Hilton hits on this too. He might be a gossip blogger, but he hits on poignant stuff from time to time. http://perezhilton.com/2008-07-14-french-media

June 20, 2008

A (Baby) Bump in the Road

Posted in In the news, Uncategorized tagged , at 7:16 pm by R

I saw the most disturbing thing ever on the Today Show this morning. A whole slew of high school sophomores at Glouster High School in Glouster, Mass. DELIBERATELY got pregnant. None of them is older than 16.

The Today Show segment featured comments from the Time Magazine writer who broke the story, the lovely & talented Kathleen Kingsbury. She noted that some of the girls wanted the unconditional love and security of being something, someone…a mother.

But I wonder if the influence isn’t compounded by the decreasing availability of jobs in the city of Glouster or even past a desire for immense love. Could the media play a role in this?

By no means am I asserting that the media is solely responsible for the decisions of these young ladies. Nor am I saying that new mother Jamie Lynn Spears recent, public pregnancy is why, for the first time in years, there’s been a rise in teen pregnancy. But there is something to be said about the pervasive coverage of pregnant celebrities. It’s become this weird status thing.

If you stand in line at a grocery store, chances are you’ve seen a pregnant celebrity lately. I’ll list a few (because, I can’t tell a lie, I get US Weekly, People AND OK magazine delivered to my house – a bit shameful but true): Nicole Kidman, Angelia Jolie, Ashlee Simpson and, of course, Jamie Lynn Spears.

Jamie Lynn’s pregnancy is the one that really sticks out for me with respect to this Glouster situation. She is a 17 year old girl. She’s the one these girls in Glouster can relate to. But can they really? Uhhh…NO. They aren’t TV stars from a family who can offer every advantage and support a new baby too. I certainly don’t know what their individual circumstances are, but my guess is none of them is independently a millionaire.

When Jamie Lynn’s pregnancy was announced on the cover of OK Magazine, people asked what kind of consequence her situation might have on young girls who look up to her. Well, I think we know now. But someone has been telling that story all along. (Read: Someone has been sugarcoating this all along and now teenage women are CHOOSING teenage pregnancy because it seems acceptable, even cool.)

The most ironic (and maybe even appropriate) twist to this story is, the day the Time story made its debut, so did Jamie Lynn’s baby. A girl. Maddie Briann.

As publicists and marketers we are supposed influence teen girls want a certain pair of jeans or some celebrity’s new fragrance, not to make life decisions that will effect their existence. The third party editorial endorsement (simply by being included in pages of popular culture magazines) is strong medicine.

Let’s make eating healthy, exercising regularly, loving your body, being green, serving your community, loving yourself the status symbols. Why aren’t we lavishing praise and adoration on people and celebrities who achieve these things in balance?

As much as I’m guilty of digesting the information in celebrity gossip magazines, guessing if people are sporting baby bumps, commenting on weight loss, weight gain, questionable red carpet outfits, etc., I like to believe that as a part of the media process I can help lift up the content; help lift up the readership through content with substance.

I hope it all works out for these girls and for the youngest Spears…I take that back, the SECOND youngest Spears.

June 17, 2008

Same old thing all over again

Posted in Spin tagged , at 8:33 am by R

I keep the Today Show on while I get ready in the mornings. Today, Billy Ray Cyrus was on talking about “Nashville Star.” At least he spoke about “Nashville Star” for about thirty seconds. The conversation promptly turned to the Vanity Fair photo shoot and the controversial photos of his daughter Miley.

Call me crazy, but I thought we addressed this in April?

My question is: who suggested that Meridith Viera ask poignant questions about Billy Ray’s presence on set?

If the controversy has all but gone away, why go back? It’s not as though the public is still demanding answers about how a father could have let his fifteen-year-old daughter be photographed provocatively. Six weeks ago — yes. Now — not so much.

When I media train clients, I teach them to keep their power in an interview. I try to give people skill to keep the interview on their terms and get across their messages. Mr. Cyrus could have quickly and easily addressed the question by saying something like:

“That was a learning experience for us as a family. We have learned some important lessons and moved on to more exciting and important things like our new Hannah Montana Movie.”

And poof, you’ve addressed and redirected in two sentences.

Billy Ray, I’m here if you need me.