Friday, October 23, 2009

What you can learn about crisis PR from Perez Hilton

Once you start, it’s nearly impossible to stop. You think you’ll do it once… just today… and then you find yourself a month later entangled in utter madness and completely devoid of rational thinking. They will make you do things and say things you never thought you – an intelligent, well-rounded person – could possibly do. They will change you. Forever.

I’m talking about celebrity blogs. Perez. TMZ. The Superficial. Defamer. Gawker. Click the links if you DARE.

But why are these trash sites so compelling, so completely… addictive? Because people love gossip. They love to see someone fall from grace, and they love to watch them suffer. Let’s face it. It makes us feel better about ourselves. And yes, I am a professional psychiatrist.

And that’s why, as PR professionals, our jobs are so important. Under careful supervision, follow the likes of PH and study crisis PR at its best… and more often than not… its worst. And then take what you’ve learned and apply the lessons to your clients’ crises. Lindsay Lohan will make your job look like a piece of cake.
For those of you trying to stay celeb blog-free (best of luck to you), keep in mind the following dos and don’ts of sticky situations.

DON’T avoid the facts – or the press. While celebrities have the option of living on a desert island for six months following embarrassing and/or difficult times, you don’t. Like, for instance, if you stage a hoax involving your small child and a large balloon, you’re probably not going to have the option of disappearing until it blows over [the state of Colorado]. Face the music and talk to the press to get the story straight. Once it’s all out in the open, people will move on to the next interesting news bite.

DO sincerely apologize if you’ve done something wrong. Even if you have to do it a million times… Kanye style. It’s hard to hate on people when they’ve admitted to the err of their ways and at least appear to be making amends. And if you need to apologize, DO it in person. Having the balls to say it out loud, face-to-face with real people will gain your audience’s forgiveness faster than anything else. David Letterman is the perfect example.

DON’T play the denial game. If you really didn’t do something, address it in a professional, tactful manner and approach the accusing party personally. If you DID, we’re going to find out the truth eventually, so why not save the embarrassment and move on? It’s hard. Everyone knows that. John Edwards knows that. Leann Rimes knows that. Jon Gosselin knows that. But you can be better than them.

DON’T make the same mistake twice. Once is forgivable… twice is embarrassing. If your client is not fixing their problems, it’s going to land on your face.

DO make an image-switch. This may be hard to pull off, but if your client’s on a rocky road, it’s your job to take things in a new direction. Ever notice that when celebrities (Paris, Nicole, Martha Stewart) go to jail, their next step is to pose for the cover of People magazine in a pastel twin set? See? They’ve learned their lesson, and now they’re good people because they’re wearing sweaters.

It seems like common sense, but questionable decisions are always made in the heat of a crisis. Plan ahead and know as much as you can about your client. The more informed and honest you can be, the better things will turn out for you and the people you represent. It’s a cruel world out there, so stay prepared and don’t spend any fewer more than 1.5 hours on tabloid sites daily. Shear Creativity’s all you need anyway.

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