Monday, June 11

Slaying Media Statements: Paris Hilton

One of the least understood and possibly most abused tools in the public relations arsenal is the media statement.

Once upon a time, it was simply meant to grab the attention of reporters and give them a lead on a story. Today, however, it seems like more and more celebrities, elected officials, and corporate executives are attempting to use them as masked position pieces with little interest in reporter follow up.

In fact, most statements made today try to end stories, not begin them. It almost never works. Sure, there are plenty of examples out there, but Paris Hilton's recent weekend statement, published by the TMZ, really drives the point home. (Hat tip to Spin Thicket for the link.)

"Today I told my attorneys not to appeal the judge's decision. While I greatly appreciate the Sheriff's concern for my health and welfare, after meeting with doctors I intend to serve my time as ordered by the judge."

Stop. The first graph of her statement works. It might have worked better with a little polish and perhaps a better reveal of what her doctors concluded, but this would have been short, sharp, and to the point. Unfortunately however, it doesn't stop ...

"This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. During the past several days, I have had a lot of time to reflect and have already learned a bitter, but important lesson from this experience."

Um, stop. The second graph begins to tread murky water as an attempt to employ the traditional practice of showing empathy, sympathy, or embarrassment. You know: I'm sorry, I learned my lesson, it won't happen again. Except, in this case, it's blatant overkill. Paris Hilton had a probation violation. And unfortunately, it doesn't stop ...

"As I have said before, I hope others will learn from my mistake. I have also had time to read the mail from my fans. I very much appreciate all of their good wishes and hope they will keep their letters coming."

Um, please, really, stop. While I believe Hilton might mean some of it, it's beginning to read as a publicity ploy. It lets people know that although the media has been covering some overzealous public outcry, she still has fans. This is a mistake that is easily seen in the next graph, because, unfortunately, it just doesn't stop ...

"I must also say that I was shocked to see all of the attention devoted to the amount of time I would spend in jail for what I had done by the media, public and city officials. I would hope going forward that the public and the media will focus on more important things, like the men and women serving our country in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world."

Um, really, please, please stop. You're killing me. While she might be right about media coverage in general, some sentiments just doesn't ring true. Like many who act as fair weather friends to the media (please cover me when I win, but never when I lose), Paris is attempting to shift the story at best and shame the media and others at worst. It's doesn't work, especially on the heels of calling for good wishes and more letters.

All in all, this statement becomes a classic example of having just enough rope to hang oneself, which is typical of most statements issued today. You see, the best statements are simple. They avoid infusing too many facts that are unrelated to the story. In this one from Paris, it carries no less than fifteen (maybe more) points, ranging from sincere to uninspired to just plain silly.

When you issue a statement like that, the best you can hope for is that a reporter will focus on one point. The worst thing that can happen is they publish it in entirety, which is exactly what happened here. Yeah, publicity. It's seldom around when you need it to be and always around when you don't.



Anonymous said...

Paris THERE is a train wreck in the making. She is an american citizen like the rest of us and she pays for her deeds like the rest of us. I say RIGHT ON JUDGE for throwing her hiney back in jail. DID SHE LOOK PATHETIC or what going back to the pokey! They say there is no such thing as bad press...but in this case, people who already could not stand PARIS...really hate her now! I personally think that ORANGE is Paris' new FAB color fashion statement!

Rich on 6/11/07, 11:45 AM said...

You're very right. The irony in this case is that it wasn't her decision to be released (though it seems certain that she wanted it), but she seems to be catching most of, if not all of, the heat.

Unrelated to Paris, but equally pointed on statements, I could have done the same with Nina Tassler's show announcement. It started very strong (ended perfectly) but the statement gets a little lost in the middle.

The lesson here is to keep those statements on point without drifting too far off into opinion, marching orders, and mixed messages. The same thing happens in interviews. Interviewees start strong and then get lost when they feel a need to fill the silence.

They are in good company though. President Nixon did the same thing during a Watergate interview. Whoops!

Geoff_Livingston on 6/11/07, 1:08 PM said...

There's a time to communicate, and there's a time for silence. One must say that the best course for Paris at this point is to grin and bear it. Anything she does will only add fuel to the fire.

Rich on 6/11/07, 1:45 PM said...

Hey Geoff! Spot on right. Unfortunately, there is no chance of that...

"I used to act dumb. ... That act is no longer cute." — Paris Hilton to ABC

Sweet Tea on 6/11/07, 10:06 PM said...

Paris is a trainwreck now & although I couldn't stomach her from the beginning I surely can't stand her now. The only thing that bugs me worse is the way the media won't let go. TMZ seems enamored of her. Things like her situation get all over the press & they just won't let it go. Maybe you, Rich, could talk about that sometimes. Does the news really think we all love Paris or is it something else? Not enough news to report?
Great article as always.

Rich on 6/12/07, 6:27 AM said...

"Does the news really think we all love Paris or is it something else? Not enough news to report?"

Great question; it deserves more insight than this, but for now, I'll share the short answer: for all apparent missteps in network entertainment, the network news (and all news for that matter) is very adept at giving viewers exactly what they want. Unfortunately, celebrity train wrecks are at the top of the list. So until viewers decide in mass not to tune into them, drive them into the top ten on search engines, or make the tabloids the largest circulated publications on the planet... then the networks will continue to deliver.


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