Showing posts with label Paris Hilton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paris Hilton. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 6

Knowing The Opponent: Paris Hilton

There is plenty of commentary out there about Paris Hilton responding to a John McCain advertisement that called Barack Obama "the biggest celebrity in the world" over Hilton and Britney Spears.

In fact, there is enough buzz that some people are wondering if anything might be gleaned from the original ill-advised commercial that takes a cola vs. cola contrast and turns itself into a cola vs. soda pop uncertainty.

The initial ad and post communication fall flat.

Sure, the McCain advertisement only flashed Spears and Hilton in the opening shots. But considering Kathy Hilton was a McCain campaign contributor, his continued references to the Hilton daughter were bound to backfire.

"It is a complete waste of the money John McCain's contributors have donated to his campaign. It is a complete waste of the country's time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs. And it is a completely frivolous way to choose the next President of the United States." — Kathy Hilton

Initially, McCain aides said there was no sinister intent. But then campaign manager Rick Davis gave reporters a sound bite that demonstrates the opposite.

“Look, it is the most entertaining thing I have seen on TV in a while … I don't know Paris Hilton and Britney Spears but they are international celebrities, so, you know, apples to apples."

Exactly. The campaign was attempting to draw a parallel between Hilton, Spears, and Obama while demonstrating that the McCain campaign is up to speed on celebrity pop culture. We got it.

Except, they aren’t up to speed. Until the McCain comments, Spears and Hilton were still recovering from some self-inflicted brand damage. Now, it seems the advertisement gave at least one of them a lift.

Hilton’s best branding message has always been that she can handily dismiss most critics. She does exactly that in her rebuttal, and then goes a bit further by demonstrating that she can sound just as serious about energy as any presidential contender. So what can the McCain team say now? Nothing.

Keep the focus on one choice and steer clear of other sodas.

Maybe someone needs to remind the McCain campaign team that Paris Hilton is not the opponent. So as good as the comparison could have been for an in-house chuckle, the execution came across like a gym room joke gone wrong. Yep. Sometimes campaign team muses are better left behind closed doors.

What is even more surprising to me is how often it comes up. Last year, Hillary Clinton tried to take a shot a Gen. David Petraeus and it backfired. John Edwards’ campaign was slowed when his opponents became staff members. And Mitt Romney, whom I liked, lost some momentum after taking on an Associated Press reporter.

Locally, it’s the same story. Assemblywoman Francis Allen, who told the press that she would not comment on her most recent scandal, is now attempting to discredit her husband with voters. She sent residents a note that states ...

“I have decided to file for divorce because of my husband’s recent unstable, even volatile, behavior.”

Attempting to target her husband, who recanted his police report after learning Allen would be arrested, certainly wasn’t the answer. If anything, Allen’s risking a libel suit while reinforcing some heavy spin on a story that not all residents knew nor really cared about. With three other challengers poised to unseat her, it doesn’t make sense.

Hmmm … maybe that’s why when Coke and Pepsi were heavily engaged in brand wars, they tended to pair themselves up against each other and not every other soda pop on the planet. Right on. One cola was enough. It's the same in politics: know your opponent.


Wednesday, July 11

Branding Public Figures: Tom Cruise

I’ve been working on a mathematically provable brand theory for the last few months and Nicole Sperling’s article on Tom Cruise that appears in the July 13 edition of Entertainment Weekly provided a pretty good public figure example of its most basic (but not complete) premise.

She points out that Cruise’s brand used to be all about his boyish charm turned “rugged good looks, flashy smile, and three Oscar nominations.” But then something happened, starting just prior to the release of Steven Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds (photo above).

Cruise’s increasingly visible dedication to the controversial beliefs that accompany Scientology has produced brand instability and disastrous results. Most recently, on June 25, the German Ministry of Defense announced that “it did not want him to film United Artists’ upcoming WWII movie Valkyrie at the country’s Bendlerblock war memorial” because, according to ministry spokesman Harald Kammerbauer, Tom Cruise is affiliated with a cult.

The ministry has since backtracked, now saying their decision has “nothing to do” with Cruise being a Scientologist. Likewise, Cruise has made the case that he is always an actor first and foremost. Hmmm… neither statement seems very credible and there is a very simple explanation that fits in within the aforementioned theory, which we might call the “Fragile Brand Theory.”

The Fragile Brand Theory accepts the definition that a brand is the net sum of all positive and negative impressions of the subject, Cruise in this case, and then breaks it all down into something that resembles an atom.

Imagine Cruise (the person, not the brand) is like a nucleus that represents the reality of Cruise. It doesn’t really matter what this reality is because people will generally accept realities regardless of what they are, which is why very, very different public figures usually succeed (whether you like them or not): Rush Limbaugh, Paris Hilton, John Edwards, John McCain, Al Gore, etc. Really, it doesn’t matter who any of these people really are because while the nucleus is related to and can be impacted by a brand, it is not the brand.

Unlike the nucleus, brands are reliant on the collective public’s perception about people, products, and companies. As mentioned, they are the net sum of positive and negative impressions. Using the atom illustration, they might look like layers of electrons that circle the nucleus, with the strongest, most authentic electrons being closest to the nucleus, and those that are “made up” or “stretched” being the furthest from it. When too many electrons are too far from the nucleus, the more likely a brand will become unstable, collapse, or be ripped apart.

In a case study of Cruise, the 1995 off-screen Cruise brand came close to mirroring the image of the much-loved character Jerry Maguire (and most characters Cruise portrayed before that). He was a somewhat private but daring actor who, despite being overconfident at times (the classic pride comes before a fall syndrome so many of his characters endure), always managed to better himself and triumph in the face of insurmountable odds.

That is a very different brand than the post-2005 Cruise brand we see today. Now, most of his impressions seem to suggest an arrogant and impulsive actor who frequently uses his fame to argue controversial topics if not create controversy while promoting beliefs grounded in Scientology. Actor first? We think not.

Regardless of how you feel about Cruise, Scientology, his relationship with Katie Holmes (including the Oprah brouhaha), or his war against certain prescription medication (which was at least half right as supported to the extreme by John Travolta), the Fragile Brand Theory suggests whoever the real Cruise is (1995 or 2005) doesn’t matter. What matters is that current public opinion is a reaction to the realization that the 1995 brand they loved is apparently very different from the reality that seems to be.

Generally, if the majority of all electrons remain close to the nucleus, they are more likely to remain in place, creating an extremely strong brand that can withstand anything. But when the majority of all electrons are revealed to be too far away from the nucleus (or in contrast to the existing brand), it becomes unstable.

In other words, if Cruise always acted like he has over the last two years, recent events would hardly be considered controversial let alone impact his career. But, since he has not always acted like this (at least that is the perception), he is suffering from brand instability.

Personally, I don’t really know whether the old Cruise or new Cruise is the real Cruise, but what I do know is that the Fragile Brand Theory demonstrates why a public figure like Britney Spears will always find public sympathy after countless train wrecks and public figures like Mel Gibson will always receive public scorn over a single drunken outburst. En masse, the public does not like it when public figures do not meet brand expectations. (Eg. the Paris Hilton brand can go to jail, but she’s not allowed to cry over it.)

Or perhaps this provides a better example: Rosie O’Donnell can run amok at the mouth because we expect it; Oprah, on the other hand, has to be a bit more cautious as she presents herself to be a grounded and trusted advisor.

In sum, one of the most basic concepts within the Fragile Brand Theory suggests it is more important to stick with your brand choice — whether you choose a halo or horns — than the choice you make.

Of course, you also might want to keep in mind that if your brand is more made up than real, sooner or later, it will collapse under the sheer weight of contrary actions or be pulled apart by unanswered accusations made by more credible sources. It also assumes you or your consultants know how to brand from the inside out; sadly, many say that they can, but most cannot.


Sunday, July 1

Covering Hot Topics: Second Quarter 2007

Every quarter, we publish a recap of our five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of hits after they were posted. While we base this on individual posts, some are related to larger case studies.

Jericho Fans Make Television History

When CBS executives cancelled Jericho over Nielsen ratings, fans of this post- nuclear terrorist attack/small town survival drama went nuts, literally. Using the Internet and social media as their point of organization, they launched the largest cancellation protest in history: sending 40,000 pounds of nuts (from just one store); rallied almost 120,000 petition signers; cancelled CBS related-cable subscriptions; boycotted network premieres; sold network stock; sent in countless letters, postcards, and e-mails; captured media attention in every major newspaper and tabloid; and flooded the network with phone calls. Within a few weeks, CBS reversed its decision in record time, heading off what was quickly becoming an exercise in crisis communication. Of all the posts, pointing out the error in CBS’ marketing of Jericho took top honors with over 10,000 hits.

Link: Jericho

Wal-Mart Strikes Back Against Julie Roehm

If networks are looking for a new made-for-television docudrama, the ongoing Julie Roehm story continues to turn heads (and maybe stomachs). Filled with twists, turns, sex, back room deals, character defamation, lawsuits, countersuits, media bias, allegories, and more spin than the planet Jupiter (which rotates once every 10 hours), this story demonstrates the pitfalls of second-tier executives becoming public figures and the companies that keep them. In the end, if she has any credibility left, Roehm’s personal brand will always be linked to the short-lived, um, alleged Wal-Mart funded affair with a subordinate, her master-class ability to spin herself into another lawsuit and, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, being more indestructible than a cockroach.

Links: Julie Roehm, Wal-Mart

Digital Media Will Change Everything

While some might say it was the very loose Jericho link, we like to think it is related to the increasing interest in the future of digital media, specifically how old media is becoming new media. When we gave some attention to how News Corporation and NBC Universal are speeding ahead with the addition of FUEL TV, Oxygen, SPEED, Sundance Channel, and TV Guide as content partners committed to bringing programming to Web video consumers, people wanted to know what it might mean. To us, it means that one day very soon, broadcast news and entertainment will be forever fused with the Internet, people will access it all via versatile technologies like the iPhone, independents will have the potential to break into the big leagues overnight, and businesses will fully develop what we sometimes call income marketing.

Links: Digital Media, NBC Universal, FOX

Paris Hilton Splits Public Interest

We don’t know about you, but Mika Brzezinski of MNSBC perfectly captured the public’s sentiment over Paris Hilton. In a YouTube clip, Brzezinski refuses to lead the news with Hilton, but then goes on and on about how she refuses to cover it, making her refusal to cover Hilton carry on probably three times longer than if she would have just read the script. Love her, hate her, love to hate her, or hate to love her, we’re not buying that you’re not interested because if we post about her, we always see spikes even though we generally only cover communication side items like blaming publicists, marketing humor, and overly long media statements from jail. Hmmm… maybe that’s why Hilton took second against Roehm in terms of most read public figure.

Link: Paris Hilton

The Office Parodies A Public Relations Nightmare

Although some follow-up stories to JetBlue and Jobster came close, NBC Universal's 2006 Emmy Award-winning show, The Office, proved fictional crisis communication is sometimes more fun than real life. For our part, we wrote up how The Office episode "Product Recall” mirrors how executives sometimes allow a crisis to run away from them by applying “tried and true” communication strategies. In the show, Michael Scott (Steve Carell), regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin, applies the practice of “always running to the crisis and never away from it” after a disgruntled employee at the paper mill put an obscene watermark on one of their most popular paper products. The operative word in this case is “always.” Crisis communication rules are only guidelines, silly.

Link: The Office

It’s very promising to see non-bad news posts starting to give bad news posts a run for their money. We're still hoping good news and educational posts might one day dominate the top five (admittedly doubtful). For example, when it comes to social media, we’d love to see more attention given to our underpinning concept that strategic communication is best suited to drive social media despite the fact that most companies seems to be trying to do it the other way around.

Anyway, while those were the top five posts (and related case studies) for the second quarter, several others came close (and almost all of them beat out last quarter). Runners up (no order): Fans of the The Black Donnellys lobby for HBO to save the canceled NBC show; PR bloggers made a non-issue into an issue over Nikon; JetBlue proved you really can overapologize in a crisis; Jason Goldberg of Jobster goes a whole week or so before behaving badly again; and our sum-up of Harris Interactive mobile advertising research despite my initial skepticism, mostly fueled by a not-so-great Webinar release.

So there you have it, except for one very, very important ingredient: thank you all for dropping by, adding comments, promoting several stories, and continuing to bring communication issues to our attention so we may offer up our sometimes serious, sometimes silly take on them. Whether you agree or disagree, all of it lends well to the discussion and I appreciate those who remember to target the topic and not each other in providing input.


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.


Friday, June 8

Bailing Paris: Sheriff Lee Baca

Sometimes when you win, you really lose. At least that seems to be the theme for Paris Hilton, who was released from jail yesterday for a mysterious mental medical condition. She was released after serving three days of a 23-day sentence.

With more public outcry than most mass murderers, media and concerned citizens made her the poster child for "buying freedom." Suddenly, without warning, the publicity beast she has gracefully embraced for more than a decade turned to bite her back.

The decision to free Hilton prompted attorney L.A. city attorney Rocky Delgadillo to file a petition questioning whether Sheriff Lee Baca should be held in contempt of court for releasing Hilton, led to media coverage that largely mocked the Hilton heiress, and convinced Rev. Al Sharpton to organize a march protest. Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer then ordered Hilton to report to court today at 9 a.m.

"There are any number of cases of people who handled being incarcerated badly and even have health conditions that are not released," Sharpton told The Associated Press. "But I think that it gives a very bad signal when Ms. Hilton is treated any differently than any other parole violator in their county or in this country."

While I have a hard time believing this a blatant case of racism (maybe), I do lean toward the John Gibson take: "Was it because she's white? Maybe just a bit, but more likely it happened because she's rich and her parents can make lawyers and shrinks work round the clock to move mountains."

For my part, I'm less interested in what is really non-news and more interested in the publicity beast that once appeared to be tamed by Hilton. As hard as it might be for some people to see it, she may have been happy to be released, but she did not do the bailing. Sheriff Baca did that. (As if the Los Angeles County Police Department didn't have enough public relations problems.)

No matter, it seems. Most people want to have the privileged head of Hilton, regardless of her role in the release. She may have had a hand in it or not. If she did, she did herself a great disservice.

Hilton's sometimes odd popularity was always fueled by her ability to woo a majority of the public (not the media, the public), which is why people petitioned for her not to go to jail in the first place.

The result of her release, however, unless publicist Elliot Mintz can master some major spin (he often does), could erode her credibility to the point where her brand of being strangely famous forever turns into unpleasantly infamous. It will be interesting to see who remains a friend after the popularity polls begin to dip over trying to bilk the system (whether she had a direct hand in it or not).

Ah publicity ... sure you can use it to be released from jail early, but this get out of jail card is not like Monoply. It's almost never given for free.


Sunday, May 13

Freeing Paris: Palms Las Vegas

Free Paris At The Palms
The grassroots movement to free Paris Hilton seems to have taken to new heights in Las Vegas, adorning the billboard at the Palms Las Vegas. Or has it?

At a glance, the sign seems to pay homage to the heiress who was sentenced to 45 days in jail. But as Norm Clarke of Norm! Vegas Confidential points out in his Las Vegas Review-Journal column, Palms owner George Maloof is having fun with a publicity stunt.

The easily missed fine print on the sign says "trip," referring to a buffet promotion that includes a drawing to win a free trip to Paris, France. According to Norm, there has been a lot of buzz about the offer, including one man who asked if the free trip was to see Paris Hilton in jail. Ha! Now that is a trip that some might consider priceless.

In addition to its marquee, the Palms is running a full-page advertisement in Sunday's Las Vegas Review-Journal that screams FREE PARIS and whispers "trip" along with the phone number and nothing else. It will be interesting to see what kind of response the property receives in the days ahead.

Maloof, who has always been supportive of the community, is also donating a week's buffet revenue to Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD), about $60-$70,000.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I'm not a fan of piranha publicity, but this stunt has real merit. The buzz over Paris Hilton's plea for a get out of jail free card has captured the fancy of almost everyone. So, this publicity stunt is timely, topical, raises money for charity, and, best of all, no one gets hurt. Besides all that, it's very, very Vegas.


Tuesday, May 8

Laying Blame: Paris Hilton

When in doubt, fire the publicist (and then rehire them later). At least, that is what Paris Hilton might have us believe.

It was also the original thrust of her message when spoke publicly for the first time after being sentenced to 45 days in jail. At the hearing, Hilton said publicist Elliot Mintz told her she was permitted to drive for work-related reasons after the first 30 days of her license suspension. She also said she was unaware her driving privileges had been completely suspended.

"I told the truth," the heiress told photographers waiting outside her Los Angeles home on Saturday night. "I feel that I was treated unfairly and that the sentence is both cruel and unwarranted. I don't deserve this."

Hilton’s lawyer, Howard Weitzman, has planned an appeal in order "to modify the sentence." Weitzman said his client has been singled out and the punishment doesn't fit the crime. He's also the guy that Hilton should have turned to for legal advice regarding her driving privileges.

Although Mintz corroborated Hilton's story, offering "my sincerest apology for any misunderstanding she received from me regarding the terms of her probation," one wonders what degree of responsibility Hilton will accept. Perhaps it also draws the distinction between handlers and trusted advisors in the field of public relations.

Handlers are people who call the shots, sometimes trumping the judgment of their clients. Trusted advisors are more interested in helping clients work through decisions as they relate to public perception. The difference is subtle, but important.

Had Mintz acted as the trusted advisor, he might have suggested Hilton ask Weitzman about the terms of her probation, while suggesting that any infractions while driving could damage her credibility. Driving without lights certainly qualifies. But then again, that assumes the original story wasn't a spin.

Yesterday, Mintz told Us Weekly that, despite confirming the split himself in a statement over the weekend, “the rumors of our professional separation were over-exaggerated." Um, yeah, by Mintz.

What did Seth Godin say recently about going too far? In sum, if the second story doesn't hold up, the first story might be scrutinized even more. Very right.


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