Showing posts with label Barba. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barba. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 25

Solving Mysteries: Rosie O'Donnell

When I participated on the The Recruiting Animal Show, I ended by saying that "If you live only by publicity, you will likely die by publicity." Recruiting Animal called this statement a mystery. Today, Rosie O'Donnell solves it.

She is leaving ABC's "The View" when her contract expires at the end of this season. She made the announcement at the top of today's program. Sure, she said she will be back as a guest and Babara Walters claims O'Donnel is leaving on good terms.

However, in the last few months O'Donnel has made dozens of "publicity stunt" comments designed to do nothing more than raise eyebrows and hopefully ratings. Some of the more notable comments included accusations that "American Idol" is "racist" and "weightist" (ignoring evidence that suggests otherwise) and her ongoing conflict with Donald Trump (making erroneous personal remarks about him) after the Tara Conner scandal.

Now it seems the publicity stunts didn't pay off enough. ABC Daytime was unable to come to a contractual agreement with her. So while time will only tell whether or not "The View" viewers will care, publicity alone was not enough.


Monday, April 2

Covering Hot Topics: First Quarter 2007

Last year, we published a recap of our five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of hits after they were posted. Today, we've decided to keep it simple, covering the top five of the first quarter.

Antonella Barba Buzzes Up American Idol

When photos of the presumably modest Catholic University student and American Idol contestant posing in front of the U.S. war memorial in Washington, D.C. surfaced on the Internet, everyone from the cruel and crude to the curious and complimentary surfed the Web to see what was there or perhaps not. For our purposes, Barba proved to be an excellent case study in publicity gone wrong. Although we were among the first to call the pornographic photos phony, Barba's insistence that she could sing despite some obvious inability, landed her a series of offers that suggests she has different talents. Recently, Star Magazine listed her as more foolish in Hollywood than no-talent American Idol Sanjaya Malakar. We know why. Do you?

Link: Barba

Julie Roehm Sues Wal-Mart For Her Behavior

Maybe it's because some people still think Julie Roehm sports some nude photos too or because "anything Wal-Mart" always seems to command attention. Either way, the suit and countersuit, that reveals scores of ethically challenged e-mails, raises dozens of questions related to business behavior in a new world with social media. Workplace privacy, business ethics, and the pitfalls of second-tier executives becoming public figures are all part of the equation. Perhaps we're oversimplifying, but our interest in this case study is about whether it pays to draw continuous attention to your own shortcomings. Roehm would have been better off leaving things alone than attacking a former employer who is tired of hearing her name.

Link: Julie Roehm

Jason Goldberg Can't Shake Bad Habits

Jason Goldberg, CEO of Jobster, presents the ultimate paradox in social media. In 2006, he used social media to float the rumor of layoffs at his company and everyone from the New York Times to (most recently) Wired Magazine, as reported by Cheezehead, has chastised him for it. Yet, as crazy as it sounds, social media saves him as often as it slays him. So in what has almost become one sequel too many for the story that would not die (much like the Halloween franchise), Goldberg seems to have taken some lessons to heart despite being unable to break bad habits. He has a nasty tendency to hint before taking action as evidenced by the layoffs, his brief 'engagement' of me, and recently, about the fate of much-loved Jason Davis at, who is allowing his contract to end after Goldberg hinted that changes were in the works (Davis was not fired nor forced to resign). We're adding a post to this living case study tomorrow, hopefully to shed some light on the continuing confusion.

Link: Jobster

Royal Spring Water Dances With Creative Ethics

Although new, Royal Spring Water seems to be gaining traction as another case study to watch. Just a few days ago, we called the company on peddling fear with its anonymous publisher-produced direct mail piece that sold stocks and the end of the world. Hailing water as the new oil, Royal Spring Water seems to be coming under fire for questionable marketing practices, stock valuation, and its product, billed as "structured water." While most of the muck seems buried by a mountain of news releases about anything and everything to demonstrate momentum, we cannot help but to wonder what the future holds for a company headed by former filmmakers.

Link: Royal Spring Water

Blogging ROI Is Real With The Right Measures

We are always a bit discouraged knowing that bad news tends to trump good news in attracting attention (for traditional and social media alike), but one idea surfaced above the clutter this quarter. Although it is only a sliver of a bigger theory we're working on in between servicing our clients, the 5-in-1 tool concept for blogging accomplished its objective: we were hoping executives and communication-related professionals would think of social media as a very versatile tool rather than force cookie-cutter frameworks upon companies. Simply put, appreciating that social media is a tactic and not a strategy, we recommend looking at existing communication challenges and/or opportunities before attempting to apply social media. By doing so, it's easier to establish measurable objectives that can deliver a tangible ROI.

Links: Blogging ROI, Social Media

Those were the top five most read posts for the first quarter 2007. Runners up (no order) included: Julio "Assad" Pino, JetBlue, Social Media Influence, AP Style on Web site, Using The Force.

A special thanks to all those who dropped by, added comments, and continued to help us shape a blog that is hopefully more useful than entertaining, but sometimes entertaining all the same. Thank you very much. Until tomorrow.


Thursday, March 29

Using The Force: Social Media

"It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together." — Obi-Wan Kenobi

I'm fully prepared to take a little flack for drawing an analogy between social media and the Force from Star Wars, but the comparison can be as startling as it is humorous. Like the Force, social media has various manifestations with the light side focused on elegance and beauty and the dark side aligned with fear, hatred, aggression, and malevolence.

One side doesn't impose any restrictions on the use of this binding, metaphysical and ubiquitous power. While the other, well, it includes a moral compass. No wonder businesses are reluctant to use what I recently called a 5-in-1 tool because some people are bent on making social media more mysterious than it is with terms like "social computing," "message salience," and "first source analytics."

This thinking serves as a precursor to tomorrow's post on the shell game being played with social media when I'll try to sound more like Qui-Gon Jinn than Yoda who might say "social media is everywhere, and everywhere is social media." Ha! Today, I'm more inclined to address a few heroes and villains in the new world of social media.

There's a smart post from Dina Metha in India pinpointing a very real Sith-minded threat against what I would say might be the least likely blogger to deserve it, Kathy Sierra. This is pretty serious stuff despite my resolve to remain light in this post. What else can you do?

Death threats against people in the public eye or with a public opinion predate blogs by a few million years. Ask any celebrity or politician on the planet and you'll find most of them have more than their fair share of nasties tucked in between the fan mail. It's not right, but it's certainly the price of being a public figure. My sympathies to Sierra; I am hopeful they catch the perpetrators. Indeed, a death threat is NOT protected speech.

In a seemingly unrelated-yet-related story, stands Julie Roehm, who is hoping social media begins to buy into the idea that the evil empire is Wal-Mart. She told the Associated Press in a statement and anyone else who will print it that "...Wal-Mart is insinuating things about my personal life and pretending I violated some code of ethics with advertisers, all to distract from the reality that it didn't want my form of progressive marketing." And then goes on to say: "When you patch together pieces of messages sent at different times, you can create pretty much any story you want."

I'm sorry. For all of Wal-Mart's overspun and supposed "public relations" woes (which is baloney, considering the public seems to shop there with a clear conscience ... giving rise to the notion that Wal-Mart has media relations challenges, not public relations challenges), it's hard to misconstrue "kissy face" e-mails. I write e-mails to people all the time, and don't recall ever needing to mention how I like to look at their face when I'm kissing it, in context or not.

The tie-in here is how some folks like Roehm attempt to manipulate mainstream and social media. Sorry Ms. Roehm, the ethics debacles are your own and I have yet to see any progressive marketing. (Clarification: I have nothing against Ms. Roehm, but I disagree with the concept that you can sue your employer for your own bad behavior.) Still, it's working. Ho hum. Some bloggers are beginning to feel sympathetic toward her (Google: Julie Roehm sympathetic and you'll see). Given many of her supposed professional decisions were obviously for personal gain, how can we really separate the two?

And finally, in what almost became its own post entitled "A Tale Of Two Idols," some folks seem confused as to why Antonella Barba and Alaina Alexander can create such different online images by doing virtually the same thing. In what some might call the school of new social media ethics, it's pretty easy to understand.

Barba, who doesn't sing well (but wants to be a singer without selling sex), presented herself as a good girl but secretly enjoyed bad girl behavior. While Alexander, who can sing pretty well (but is happy to sex it up), presented herself as a borderline bad girl (who burps) who decided to go for it without any remorse on MySpace. The difference is miles apart, but both hoped to sway public opinion by employing traditional and social media directly and indirectly for their own gain. Given the two outcomes, it proves once again that publicity without strategy is fraught with disaster.

The lesson for today, before tomorrow's more business-minded post, is simple enough. Social media (and the publicity that comes with it) is not all that dissimilar from the Force. The big picture is that the social media world, or blogosphere if you prefer, is a collective that binds people together, and is ripe with Sith, Jedi, and everybody in between. There will be those who use it to create wonderful things and those who abuse it for their own agenda, even if that agenda is nothing more than to fulfill their own source of self-loathing by sending death threats.

Really, it's not any different from any community with its heros and villains. It just "feels" different because the community is newer, bigger than ever, and the people, by in large, seem less reluctant to interact with anyone they meet in passing. For those who use the Force for good, you need to know that it takes some resolve, courage (preferably fearlessness), and skill to swim in these waters because the better you swim, the more likely someone will come along to try and sink you.

No wonder executives are unsure of social media. It seems crazy, unless you accept that most often, like anywhere, you create your own experience in the blogosphere just as Roehm, Barba, and Alexander created their own experiences. (I'm excluding Sierra here because I just don't get it beyond the idea the death threats are merely random acts of violence.)

You see, business blogs or any other blog ideas I shared a few days ago do not need to be controversial to be effective. They simply need to be strategic. Oh, and you might want to look for social media Jedi, avoid the social media Sith, and use the Force for good. Just don't fear it because, well, you know, "… fear leads to anger... anger leads to hatred ... hate leads to suffering."

May the Force be with you. Ha!


Friday, March 9

Paying For Infamy: Antonella Barba

On Wednesday night, Simon Cowell made note that Antonella Barba had "taken a lot of stick in the media. I think you’ve handled yourself well throughout and I don’t think anyone should be put in that situation.”

But when pressed that perhaps she was not on the same footing with the other female contestants, Barba claimed she was different and unique. Her comment prompted Cowell to be clear, saying she had "gone as far as you can go ... I don't think your voice is going to get any better."

On Thursday night, she was voted off. Unlike Sabrina Sloan, Jared Cotter, and Sundance Head, the judges had no comments for Barba after her "farewell song." American Idol host Ryan Seacrest simply asked her to step to one side, ending what was one of the odder runs in American Idol history.

Without question, Barba got a lot of stick in the media for borderline racy photos, the worst of which were not her. (For the life of me, I cannot see how anyone can claim the two girls are the same. There were many differences beyond the ears.) But the rest was all her, lackluster singing and sometimes smug comments. And that is the price of being infamous.

One poll before the Thursday show even placed her in first, supposedly capturing 26.8 percent of the poll vote, demonstrating, once again, that polls can be very unreliable. For the show, it's probably for the best the poll didn't stand up given Rosie O'Donnell's erroneous attack that Idol is racist and "weightest" in order to drive up her show's ratings. (Nowadays, O'Donnell will say anything to get attention.)

Given Barba still holds the top spot on search engines, even after being voted off, it is a clear indication that the public is mostly interested in what she'll do next. She has some options, but most, SugarDVD or Girls Gone Wild would likely lead to instant cash without any real entertainment career. According to Hollyscoop, the choice is hers to make, given she is staying in Los Angeles to sort through offers.

"It was hard to deal with it. It was an unnecessary distraction ... trying to stay off the Internet," said Barba, according to the blog. "I tried to get through it. My family has been so supportive, they told me to stay focused and we will worry about all that later."

She might rethink that decision and worry. As a semi-public figure hoping to eek out another five minutes of fame, her next decision will be her last decision for the rest of her life. Instant fame has always been a double-edged sword and not everyone can handle it. The price: loss of privacy and even some personal choice, once the public brands you.

For Barba, she obviously wasn't ready. A little more humility might have given her a leg up to something else. Instead, she insists she's good enough. Now the only question that remains is "good enough for what?" Case closed.


Thursday, March 1

Being Almost Famous: Antonella Barba

In one of the more interesting recent public figure public relations twists in television, Antonella Barba managed to surprise American Idol viewers with mildly risque photos, gain their sympathy when a second set of pornographic photos were proven to be fakes, and then lose all likeability last night with a display of spoiled daughter syndrome. Many viewers seemed put off after she likened herself to Jennifer Hudson given Barba delivered the worst performance of any female vocalist.

Hudson, of course, went from American Idol contestant to star as Effie Melody White in the 2006 musical film Dreamgirls, for which she won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a SAG Award. Most people look back and conclude she was voted out too early. Barba brought Hudson up after sticking her tongue out at Randy Jackson and then claiming Simon Cowell was as wrong about her as he was Hudson. Cowell said he didn't vote Hudson off, the viewers did.

Barba's mini-tantrum over the judges comments won't bode well for the 20-year-old wannabe singer, especially after Jackson, Cowell, and even Seacrest went to bat for her in USA Today. Here's a recap of USA Today sound bites...

• "Nobody's clean in the entertainment business," said Jackson.

• "[I would] absolutely let [Barba] stay on. If American Idol is a true representation of American youth, we're going to find imperfections," said Seacrest.

• "[The photos should] not affect her standing on the show, and if the public wants to keep her in, they'll keep her in," said Cowell, who also stressed the photos were not illegal, but personal (but not so personal nowadays).

After last night, their USA Today opinions read as pointless. After Barba's extremely bad performance, followed by an unwillingness to accept criticism (which traditionally prompts viewers to vote ego-oriented contestants off), it seems to me that Barba's best bet is if she carries the vote. She'd better hope so, because if last night's public relations/personality gaffe is any indication of the real Barba, then her 15 minutes of fame might be over.

From a public relations perspective, Barba would have been better off agreeing she could have done better, leaving the American viewing audience to wonder if the stress of the photos possibly impacted her performance. Instead, she came off as smug, irritated by the fact the judges didn't think she did as well as she thought, giving viewers a clear indication she's not bothered by anything other than something standing in her way to being famous, er, almost famous. I guess we'll see tonight.


Tuesday, February 27

Running With Rumors: Social Media

When you look at a social media tracking sites like Blogpulse, graph spikes tell part of the story: when she made the finals, after her first performance, and when both sets of photos (the real ones and the fake ones) were seeded by social media. Without question, social media (blogs, vlogs, message boards, and e-mail lists) is changing everything. Sometimes it's for the better. Sometimes it's not.

The best of it, as Anders Gronstedt, president of the Gronstedt Group, describes in the Communication World Bulletin (CW Bulletin), which is a members-only electronic publication available to members of the International Association of Business Communicators, is that "Phenomena like MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, Flickr and YouTube aren't just Web sites. They are platforms of collaboration, where sprawling and vibrant communities socialize, innovate, transact and learn."

The worst of it, as seen by the Barba case study, is inexperienced people wanting to attract attention and drive their "hits" up by perpetrating the hottest topic regardless of accuracy. In many cases, their posts are devoid of second tier research. In this case, that means they literally cut and paste the most recent post they found elsewhere (sometimes without reading, let alone thinking) and attempt to claim it as an original idea.

Why should they? For the most part, while some myth originators have faced prosecution, few myth reposters ever do. Oh well, they say, after posting or linking to the lewdest photos and passing judgement on someone who wasn't even in the shot. They are neither embarrassed nor apologetic for contributing to mass character assassination and sometimes blatant plagiarism.

As CNNMoney pointed out nearly a year ago (sourced from CW Bulletin): the new culture on the Web is all about consumer creation, composed of nearly 30 million blogs and 70 million photos (on Flickr alone). With a click of the mouse, anyone can be a journalist, a photographer, or a DJ. The audience is the 1 billion-plus strong.

Angelo Fernando, a marketing and communication manager at interactive marketing agency iCrossing (also in CW Bulletin), cautions business communicators that before they jump up and down about social media and the wonderfully transparent world it is creating, they might consider the consequences. "Leaky information, errant e-mails and inappropriate instant messages now have the capacity to become very, very public," he writes.

Based on the Barba story, they don't even have to be "real leaks" to attract attention; the first set of less revealing photographs was enough to erode her credibility, making room for the second set of fakes to take hold. And nowadays, as social media goes, so does traditional media. The Boston Herald proves this as its wire services story teases "More salacious Internet photos - purportedly of “American Idol” wannabe Antonella Barba - surfaced yesterday but spokespeople for the FOX mega-hit reality show continued to remain mum on her fate."

"The new pictures depict a woman, alleged to be the brunette Jersey girl, posing partially nude on a World War II veterans’ memorial. Hardcore porn pictures of a woman - purportedly Barba - engaged in a sex act were also posted on the Web but a friend swears they aren’t the reality-show contestant," continued the story. I don't know about you, but this reads to me as if the Boston Herald has planted enough bias in this article to call her guilty.

Indeed, it's a sad day when traditional media no longer bothers to check sources or invest in its own research, driving home the point that the lewdest photos are "purportedly Barba" while a much fewer number of bloggers have already established, well beyond a reasonable doubt, that the girl in the pornographic images is NOT Barba. Ho hum. It's the not the first time, and it won't be the last.

Barba is in an especially difficult position because under American Idol rules, she cannot defend herself by addressing the media (traditional or otherwise) until she is ousted. Some viewers don't seem to care, citing that she is hardly the best singer and not very likely to win. But then again, they dismiss that no one would believe Taylor Hicks would go on to win in season 5 based on his early shows. In fact, based on album sales, Chris Daughtry looks like the winner despite who ultimately wore the American Idol crown.

Sure, Barba can partially blame herself for not realizing there is no such thing as a private conservation or photo shoot for that matter. This is doubly true today, given that America has seemingly been taken in again by yellow journalism. But, despite Barba setting the stage with typical college pics, the rest of the responsibility belongs to bad reporting — social and traditional media alike.

Does this mean I'm no longer embracing social media? Not hardly. I just hope we can get past the growing pains and focus on the best of it. I hope social media is not the beginning of the end for corporate transparency, leading to a world where companies have cause to spy on employees for fear of self-preservation.

I hope traditional media might consider that it will continue to erode its already jeopardized credibility unless they stop reacting to social media and stick to their primary job of finding the truth (because someone has got to do it). And I hope that public relations professionals will pick up the pace to address the major communication shortfall with social media. The very idea that they continue to source numbers from a year-old CNNMoney story, tells me they are still catching up.

Maybe at the end of the day, all I'm really asking is if we want our Internet future to be Star Trek or Escape From New York.


Monday, February 26

Selling No Comment: Antonella Barba

American Idol has no comment on 20-year-old contestant Antonella Barba's wet T-shirt (spoiler: just shy of topless, but no links here) photos that surfaced last week. This time, after learning public relations lessons the hard way with Derrell and Terrell Brittenum, American Idol is sticking to the statement that it conducts background checks (but largely stays out of the personal lives of contestants).

Indeed, there are a handful of times when "no comment" withstands the scrutiny of the media, and making comments or personal assessments on the private actions (or past actions) of employees is one of them. Considering this is true in extreme cases, American Idol will be smart to stick to the issues that involve the show and off any speculation of Barba's past.

The buzz has, however, driven Barba to the top of most search engines, outpacing Britney Spears' self-destructive behavior by a healthy margin according to TMZ. Several less flattering shots were taken from her Myspace (the photos have been taken down) profile.

While there seems to be a clear contrast between the innocence of the Catholic University student (she said she did the shoot to pay for college) portrayed and the one who might pose for a professional photographer in somewhat revealing poses, Barba's photos and the context bear little resemblance to those that resulted in second season contestant Frenchie Davis being booted from the show. (Davis was featured on a porn site.)

American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe, who had not seen any photos when Entertainment Weekly first asked if Barba would go the way of Davis, said ''We have really good background checks on everybody, and we deal with that every season. It's sad, isn't it, that your best friends are the ones that come forward with information that will go to Smoking Gun or put your photographs on the Web?''

Over the weekend, several more sexually explicit photos that are allegedly of Barba have been produced, but their authenticity is in question. While the girl in the new photos seems to resemble Barba, it seems probable they will be disproved in time.

The net sum of all the photos is that Barba seems several levels shy of producing anything even comparable to the judgement lapse exhibited by former Miss Nevada Katie Rees. Then again, no one has ever said being "wholesome" was a key ingredient for an American Idol contestant.

Still, there are a lot of lessons that can be learned here for anyone who ever hoped to one day pursue a path that would make them a public figure. Just say "no" because what seems like a secret will always surface when you least expect it and possibly cost you a crown, or in this case, a little more time to polish lackluster vocals. (It will be interesting to see if the pics have any bearing on this week's vote).

Over here, we call it the Wall Street Journal equation. If you wouldn't want it featured in The Times or Wall Street Journal, don't do it.

For employers, with exception to how any incident might impact your company (or show), it's best to stay out of the second-guessing game. Stay away from assessing the personal choices of employees and stick to the relevant answers: will they stay or will they go. With the exception to Lythgoe expressing some sympathy for Barba, it seems to me that American Idol has finally got that part of its public relations right.


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