To Sheen or to Tebow: The Celebrity PR Dilemma

Just when you thought the Charlie Sheen saga couldn’t get any stranger, Fiat and Direct TV enter the picture.  The newest commercials for the Fiat 500 Abarth and Direct TV showcase the actor who now is perhaps best known for having the mother of all public meltdowns, at least it appeared to be a meltdown.  Looking at it now it might just be the newest PR and media relations strategy for actually “winning” product endorsement deals.

Yes, the actor and warlock Charlie Sheen has emerged from the ashes in a big way. The ex Two and A half Men star has reemerged as a commercial hit.  Perhaps this marks traditional advertisings full embracement of celebrity train wrecks as marketing tools.  Reality TV has used that formula for years now.  In the formula, the most obnoxious one is the biggest celebrity. The train wreck is the one who lands all of the publicity.

It’s hard to deny that these ads are funny, but what’s interesting is to try and figure out what they say about us and our culture.  It’s as though Superman’s Bizarre world came to life in front of our very eyes.  Forget the celebrity with the wholesome or upstanding image, now advertisers will fall all over themselves in search of nasty, disagreeable, noxious.

The DirecTV spot, illustrates how a personal encounter with Sheen happens at the end of a downward slide into ruin which comes about as a result of having regular cable TV.  In the end Sheen and the protagonist are in military gear play-acting scenes from Platoon. In the Fiat commercial, Sheen hoops and hollers and spins in his Fiat Abarth around the inside of his mansion. Later, while Sheen, wearing a fitted suit and ankle bracelet, exits the car stands next to model Catrinel Menghia, and grinning up at a cheering crowd standing on the balcony above him, cries out: “I love being under house arrest!” Not that Sheen has ever actually been under house arrest, but by now most people probably think he has.  Is this the Resurrection of Sheen?  Was “winning” more a prediction than a boast?

When Fiat was questioned as to why they decided to go with Sheen (who many would have viewed as a commercial liability) Olivier Francois, who also serves as Chrysler’s chief marketing officer explained:  “The Fiat 500 Abarth is the bad boy of the Fiat vehicle lineup, and Charlie Sheen personifies the edgy and fun attributes of the Fiat 500 Abarth.”

Who can argue with that? Not that wholesomeness and apple pie are complexly off the radar.  Tim Tebow represents the counterpart to this Sheen PR strategy.

Tebow is the Heisman Trophy winning former quarterback of the University of Florida Gators. Tebow who lead the Denver Broncos into the playoffs.  Tebow is known for his trademark one knee prayer stance.  He was followed through his senior season by a film crew, which produced the “Chosen One”. A one-hour documentary that looked at Tebow’s football career, work ethic and family life.

Both celebrities are now household names and both have now become verbs.  When in doubt celebrities now have a choice, they can either Sheen or Tebow.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Thompson, Rebecca. “Americans want to live next to Tim Tebow, not Nancy Grace, Charlie Sheen.” Photos. Landmark Report. 16 Mar 2012. <http://landmarkreport.com/rthompson/2012/01/americans-want-to-live-next-to-tim-tebow-not-nancy-grace-charlie-sheen&gt;

PR for Fashion Designers

So, you now have a number of media pitches, stories and hooks that you can present to various media outlets that don’t have a thing to do with celebrities.  Using this approach, you and your fashions are the stars.  This is the approach I suggest focusing on.  Then after you’ve made your splash and established yourself through the media as a hot designer, maybe, just maybe you’ll let one of those celebrities wear them.

Public relations is an important marketing component for nearly any company or product, but when it comes to fashion, beauty or style an effective PR campaign is not an option, it’s a necessity.  Think about it, fashion and style is directly linked in our culture with celebrity and fame.  When Entertainment Tonight or In Style feature the latest singing sensation or movie star, it’s not just the person who is being spotlighted it’s also what he or she is wearing including what bag, jewelry, blouse, pants, skirt, scarf or coat they are sporting at the time.

When Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt prance down the red carpet, they’re not the only ones being scrutinized, the magnifying glass is also on their shoes, their blouse, the sunglasses – everything they are wearing is now suddenly in the grip of the star making machine.   A fashion designer we were working with had one of her designs worn by Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson in the same week.  That opened the door to the People magazines and In Style’s of the world.  That is a definite plus.  As a designer you want celebrities to wear your clothing.  It helps media-wise, there is no doubt about that.  But a mistake that designers often make is that they place their primary focus on chasing down celebrities and celebrity stylists thinking that the only way to establish themselves in the world of fashion is to get the latest A, B, C (and if all else fails) D-list celebrity to wear their designs.

As I mentioned, that helps, but your primary job is not to chase down Hollywood’s latest flavor of the month.  Your job is to create the best fashions you can.  You want to develop a line that the public reacts to.  The bottom line is you want your creations to be your star, not the celebrity that wears them.  So, how do you do this?

Here’s your exercise, forget (for a bit) that celebrities exist. Put aside your desire to have the latest celeb wear your designs.  For now, that approach is off the table.  Now, what are your stories?  What makes your designs special?  Who are they created for?  What are some ways that they can be used or worn that is a bit different?  What are some interesting visuals that can be used when pitching your fashion story? Is there a story that has to do with how your fashions are made?  Are unique materials used?  Keep drilling down this way.  Focus on what makes your designs unique, different or what makes them perfect for a certain target market.

Now what about you?  What makes your story interesting?  What was your journey to become a designer?  What obstacles did you have to overcome?  How was your life changed by your decision to enter the world of fashion?  Realize that your journey and your transformation offers you a wealth of media pitches and approaches.

So, you now have a number of media pitches, stories and hooks that you can present to various media outlets that don’t have a thing to do with celebrities.  Using this approach, you and your fashions are the stars.  This is the approach I suggest focusing on.  Then after you’ve made your splash and established yourself through the media as a hot designer, maybe, just maybe you’ll let one of those celebrities wear them.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Controlling Your Media Image: Why Many Celebrities Fail

Generally those who have the most trouble trying to utilize the media are those that have no real idea how it works.  Simply because someone is a celebrity, or head of state, and has been continually highlighted in the media, doesn’t mean he or she truly understands the inner workings of the press.  Appearing in front of the camera day after day does not make one an expert in the process.  Those who have had the most media coverage are often the ones that have the most naive or delusional take on how the media actually works.  Often when celebrities run into a damage control situation (such as the Charlie Sheen fiasco) they believe they are the story, where generally it’s the train wreck that’s the real story.  They simply happen to be the ones driving that train.  They eventually end up trying to put out fire with gasoline and their media and image problems only continue to grow.

It used to be that newspapers, magazines, along with network and cable TV, defined and shaped the stories we read or watched.  We’re now in the world of citizen journalists and social media.  Twitter or Facbook not only distribute information, now they become stories in and of themselves.  For example, when Sarah Palin or Charlie Sheen posts a Tweet and you suddenly have a news story.  But, as we’ve all seen, they don’t necessarily control that story.  Tweets and posts take on a life of their own and can often backfire.

Whereas many have tried to utilize the media for their own ends and have failed, there are cases where individuals have been able to achieve their ends.  Howard Stern was certainly a master of utilizing the media.  Those that are most successful, like Stern, generally have a media outlet where they can actively control the message if it starts to run amok.  Glen Beck comes to mind.  He has a nightly forum where he can shape his message.  It’s much more difficult to control if you are outside of the media.  Yet we’ve all seen damage control scenarios where a celebrity or politician goes on the “right” shows to get his or her message across and then steps back.  That can work.  But it is getting more and more difficult now.  Interacting with the media isn’t something that should be taken lightly.  There are inherent dangers in carelessly playing the media game and being a celebrity or a “star”, does not immune you.  In fact the bull’s-eye on your back is all the bigger.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

 

The Charlie Sheen Media Saga: Is Violence Against Women Really Okay?

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the whole Charlie Sheen media storm, at least from my perspective, is that the furor has been about his drug use and his tirades against his producer.  Don’t get me wrong, those aren’t good things, but physically and verbally abusing women, seem like activities that should be a bit higher on the outrage meter.  Yet Sheen always appears to get a pass when it comes to those behaviors.

One would think that such actions against women would cause overwhelming media furor, some national outrage, maybe a few raised eyebrows on the part of CBS.  And Sheen didn’t simply accost one woman, there were a number and he did it repeatedly over the years.  Why was this behavior so forgivable, whereas drug abuse and name calling cause production to come to a halt?  Much of this behavior started before his current TV show, but it has continued throughout the years.  To give credit where credit is due, CNN did report on these issues with a report called: “Scandals Don’t Faze Charlie Sheen’s Career.” The segment echoed the fact that no one seemed to care.

Just to cover some of his history on this front, Sheen served two years’ probation for a 1996 assault on then-girlfriend Brittany Ashland.  A year earlier he settled a case out of court with a woman who claimed he’d hit her when she refused to have sex with him. In 1990, in an incident deemed an accident; he shot his then fiancée Kelly Preston in the arm; not to mention the accounts by ex-wives Denise Richards’ and Brooke Mueller.  Other accusations coming from hookers and porn stars have followed. His choosing to take drugs, or going off on a tirade against his employers just doesn’t seem to fall in the same category as physical abuse; yet it was his most recent actions that caused to (at least temporarily) pull the plug.

Granted Sheen was not overly polite to his producer.  In a recent interview he said that he (Sheen) must have embarrassed him (Lorre) “in front of his children and the world by healing at a pace that his un-evolved mind cannot process.”  He then ranted on calling Lorre a “turd” and a “clown” and later used an anti-semitic term while referring to Lorre’s name. None of that will win you high grades with your employer, but still it pales compared to some of Sheen’s other actions.

But, so seems to be the case.  Now that Sheen has been chastised by CBS and his show has been halted, what moves can he make?  First and foremost he needs to stop trying to control the media storm.  Currently he’s basically trying to put out the fire with gasoline. From what I’ve seen, his recent interviews are only digging a deeper hole.  He needs to understand he’s not the one to make the call in this situation.  That’s obviously something that’s difficult for him.  Right now it’s not clear if he fully understands the gravity of the situation.  He’s in crash and burn mode and he might need to completely hit the wall before he can start to work on repairing the damage.  It will take time.  He’ll need to publicly own up to what he’s done.  He’ll need to show true remorse and find ways to make amends.  The public is forgiving.  If they see that he has changed his ways, that he sees what he’s done and that he is truly sorry, he can start to win them back.  He’s one of, the if not the, top paid actors on TV (or was until recently).  He’s the star of a top rated network show.  He can turn this around, but not by continuing his current behavior.   An advisor needs to step in and take control of this free-fall.  It can be reversed to some extent, but before the media damage can be repaired, the crux of the matter needs to be dealt with.

From my perspective, the real question isn’t whether Sheen can turn this situation around, but why this fiasco was allowed to drag on so long and why action wasn’t taken sooner.  More importantly why were the acts of violence against women not deemed that important?  In the end that might say more about us and the media than it does about Charlie Sheen.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

What Was the Biggest Media Story of 2010?

I generally write articles about PR and marketing tips but would like to turn the tables and have you write us for a change.  Send us what you believe was the biggest media story of 2010, and why.  If we pick your submission, you and I will have an hour and a half PR brainstorming and strategy session.  We’ll focus on developing your stories, how to pitch your stories and how to develop a comprehensive PR/Social Media program to help take your business to the next level in 2011.

To be eligible you need to email or comment on the blog- your submissions by no later than 11:59 on December 31, 2010.  We’ll be contacting the winners via email on January 7th, 2011

All you need to do is comment here, or email me at pryourstory@gmail.com, what you thought was the biggest or most important media story of 2010 and why.  It could be a story of genuine importance, or perhaps a story you thought was trivial but was given importance by the media coverage. You choose.  At year’s end, Anthony Mora Communications, Inc. will post a blog showing everyone’s thoughts and submissions.  I’ll write my take on it and will incorporate your various submissions.

Have fun with this and remember to check your emails on January 7th to see if you won a free hour and a half PR brainstorming and strategy session with Anthony Mora Communications, Inc.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

email:  pryourstory@gmail.com

The Tom Cruise/Les Grossman Image Dilemma

Tom Cruise is back, although the opening number of his new film might not be anything to write home about.  He’s not the Tom Cruise of old.  It’s not a return to Mission Impossible, but he is working hard on his comeback.  And this is indeed a comeback.  He never truly left, yet we have watched as he fell from the heights of box-office gold superstardom.   He’ll never get back to being the go-to, number one film star in the world, nor will having him in a film any longer guarantee a box-office smash, but that is the nature of the business and would be changing now regardless of his eccentric behavior.

Granted jumping up and down on couches or battles on national TV didn’t help.  That probably hastened his career’s transition period.  But chances are, if he continues to play with his image, as he’s now doing and focuses on building the next stage of his career, he’ll be just fine.   It’s a bit of an uphill battle, but it’s one he can win as long as he keeps his focus on the entertainment world and away from religion.

Les Grossman is an interesting approach, although I don’t think he quite had to go that far to accomplish what he was aiming for.  He could have come up with a character not quite that far gone. But it does play against his film idol image, does show he can make fun of himself and does show us a different side.  I suppose it’s all going to come down to whether that is a side we really want to see?  But in this media landscape where characters from the Jersey Shore and Prison Wives are our new celebrities Les Grossman seems to fit in quite nicely.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

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