Hollywood Spin-Doctor: Part-1

9 Jan

By: Open Book

It’s been proven that in 2010 public interest in celebrity scandal was at an all time high. So much so that celebrities were getting more attention than regular news stories. Here are the major culprits leading the way in celebrity coverage in 2010.  According to a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, cables news stations cover 54%, network news 27%, Internet news 15%, Newspapers 8% and Radio 4%.[1]

Due to the high demand for celebrity scandal, it’s imperative today for a celebrity to employ the help of a good publicist a.k.a. (spin-doctor) to manage public perception in their favor. The “spin-doctor” in the entertainment industry is a crisis manager and crisis PR expert that can assess a situation quickly while at the same time, be savvy and courageous enough to protect the celebrities from themselves. Yes! It’s easy to succumb to the idea of telling “your side” through social media sites. Many celebrities have tried and failed trying to manage a crisis this way. As a result, their career and image took a major hit for it.

There’s a wide field of celebrities who have found themselves under scrutiny. Some are high profile, while others are new or fairly unknown but the news media and public interest aren’t picky when it comes to celebrity scandal. Over the past two years the list include, David Letterman, Tiger Woods, Sandra Bullock, Chris Brown and Kristen Stewart. Needless to say not all of them overcame their scandals with flying colors. Why? Vulnerability, sincerity and time were the major contributing factors.  It’s been said David Letterman’s quick vulnerable apology on his program before his sex scandal went public saved his career. Sandra Bullock recovered quickly from her embarrassing divorce scandal, using well-timed poignant responses that were admirable.  Where as Tiger Woods ill timed, slow, overly scripted, guarded apologies cost him dearly.  Chris Brown? Hmmm! Train wreck, due to his excessive use of Internet social media sites and unscrupulous behavior. Kristen Stewart, although she is not a high profile celebrity like Letterman, Bullock or Woods, she came under fire in 2010 due her lack of decorum in interviews.

Now, I won’t make a list of Kristen Stewart’s many offenses because what’s more important is how she handled the negative press, how well the public responded and how well she bounced back.  In 2010 Stewart apologized to rape victims after making a comment where she compared the swarm of paparazzi attention (she was receiving) to being raped. Many fans (that were offended by her rape comment) believed her apology was insincere and too late.  I don’t know if Kristen Stewart’s career will suffer as a result of her early PR faux pas. However, Stewart made the BBC’s “Most Annoying People list of 2010,” she came in at number 25, “For constantly being grumpy and ungrateful about her fame.” Oh! Tiger Woods came in at number 9, “For his embarrassing live apologies for all his affairs.”[2]

Ron Sachs Communications is the PR firm that handled David Letterman’s crisis. Sandra Bullock’s publicist, are with PMK/HBH Public Relations agency. This agency has just merged with PMK, HBH and BNC[3] in December 2009 making it one of the largest celebrity public relations agencies in Hollywood.  Ari Fleischer who handled Tiger Woods crisis was the former press secretary for the George W. Bush Administration. Fleischer now runs Ari Fleischer Sports Communications a joint venture with Wood’s management company IMG.[4]

The Hollywood publicist job is a vast one that entails crisis management and crisis PR. In this article I have only covered crisis management. Part-2 will cover crisis PR where scandal and spectacle is used to generate publicity for a celebrity.

Please join us for a discussion on this topic on: Monday, January 10th at 7:00 p.m. EST.

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58 Responses to “Hollywood Spin-Doctor: Part-1”

  1. Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 4:01 AM #

    I love this article! Can’t wait for Part 2. In your opinion, do you think that there was anything KS could have done or said that would have seemed like a sincere apology to the people she offended?

    I know that she apologized but then she also said her publicist made her do it. MISTAKE #1 on her end. Never say someone made you do something, its only logical. MISTAKE #2 NEVER EVER EVER EVER tell a fan that “there is a whole bag (of rings) in the back.” Did you watch Oprah when she had on R/K/T and D to talk about Eclipse? There was a young girl ( about 14) who flew from Jamaica, I think, to meet her because she looked up to “Bella”. She gave the girl bella’s ring. The girl had to ask her for a hug, which I thought was really sad.

    Anyhow, KS just needs to learn to guard what she says. Either that or she needs to wear an ear prompter and have someone tell her what to say to people until she can learn to think/speak in a gracious, intellegent manner for herself.

    • Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 4:04 AM #

      And I also wanted to say and i hope that no one lays into me for this. THIS IS ONLY MY OPINION. I don’t think all of K’s synapses are firing on all cylinders. Know what I mean? 😉

      • Kim January 10, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

        No Paris, I agree. You know Rob has a tendency to say things off the cuff, but nothing in bad form like KS.

        What she said about the Queen of England in the EW interview was so wrong.

    • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 7:22 PM #

      Timing is really, really, really, really important!!!!! Also, allowing yourself to be vulnerable seems to be what people find most sincere in these apologies.

  2. Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 6:47 PM #


    I just stopped in early because i have to run but I have a question about how PR is “spun” Does the celeb tell the pr people…”this is the image I want to portray.” or do the pr people tell the celeb what to do in order to do damage control?

    • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 7:13 PM #

      Well I found, in a crisis situation a publicist will asses the damage than come up with a strategy. Now, regarding improving their long term image and career it depends on the person. Some people who employ the help of a publicist often times want to become famous instead of being known for their work. So it depends on the individual but everything begins with an assessment.

      • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 7:38 PM #

        What key points would be looked at for the assessment?

        • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 7:43 PM #

          Good question…. In would involve looking at a person’s past, current and work they want to do in the future. U know with anything it’s all boils down to money. To employ the help of a publicist is like hiring a lawyer. They have to see if u have the potential to win before they take on your case.

          • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 7:51 PM #

            True and like hiring an attorney you need to see if you have the same style and no personality conflicts. They have to be part of your team.
            You have to build a trust I would assume.

  3. Lurker January 10, 2011 at 7:24 PM #

    How does this come back to what we have previously discuss with scandal media addicts?

    • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 7:29 PM #

      Well again it’s about supply and demand. For example in this national survey taken by Pew. Most people blamed the News stations for covering celebrity scandal. However, News stations found they received higher ratings when they cover celebrity scandal.
      So what are News stations suppose to do to maintain an audience?

      • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

        Shock and Awe does seem to sell. The problem is we have a short attention span, thus creating the need for more gossip. I agree it’s nuts.

        • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 7:38 PM #

          Shock & Awe has always been around. I just think people want it quicker and in abundance. Having enough scandal to choose from the better. I really think people are looking to escape more than ever given the economy. Do u think the poor economy plays into peoples insatiable appetite for scandal?

          • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

            Absolutely! People are looking for an escape. I think there is a new phrase out called ‘guilty pleasure’ I heard on the PCA’s. How else do you describe the odd fascination with the lives of people like Kate Gosselin, and Jersey Shore. They don’t have any specific talent (singing dancing, etc). The definition of a celebrity also seems to have drifted. No one seems to use infamous or notorious anymore just famous.

            • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 7:51 PM #

              Yes!!! In this case u have people looking to be famous for 15 minutes for nothing rather than their work. It takes more money to build a persons image around their work. The Jersey Shore, Gosselin etc…can only afford Shock & Awe tabloid scandal etc….

              • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:04 PM #

                I meant to say, it takes more “money and time” to build an image around their work. People who are looking to hire a publicist for fame often time don’t have a lot of either one.

                • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 8:13 PM #

                  I would think that building an image is a different strategy than worrying about the latest scandal, no? Crisis mgmt is vastly different.

                  • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:42 PM #

                    Absolutely, crisis management it’s a completely different strategy. In that situation it requires looking at how bad the problem is then attacking it. It’s all about damage control at this point.

          • Kim January 10, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

            I think you may have something, just like movies were a big escapism for people during the Depression, it seems like the internet and scandal is an escapism for people now.

            • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

              And all the various forms of technology play into that. Its not just tv, internet and mobile devices allow for INSTANT everything. I think for some celebrities like Chris Brown it was his downfall. So its still fraught with peril.

              • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 7:53 PM #

                What do u think Chris Brown and Kristen should have done when they apologized?

                • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 7:58 PM #

                  I think that something is lost in the communication when there is no facial expressions. We talk about this a lot at work with doing a lot of remote work that in order to establish a rapport its important to have some initial face-to-face meeting to set the tone. I think the non-verbal clues about remorse are just as important as the words.

                  • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:12 PM #

                    I completely agree no visual contact makes a huge difference. I think people assume u are hiding behind a publicist if u don’t address an issue straight on. However, not all crisis are created equal. I think K suffered from a build up of all her previous faux pas and the “rape” comment was the last straw.

                    • Kim January 10, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

                      Totally agree, but even in the EW article were she goes and tries to correct the ‘rape’ comment she makes the ‘queen’ comment and gets back in trouble.

                    • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:29 PM #

                      SMH!!!! at Kristen….

                      Kim, u are absolutely right. Why do u think she keeps putting her foot in it?

            • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 7:46 PM #

              Hi Kim!!! I absolutely agree with u.

  4. Kim January 10, 2011 at 7:39 PM #

    Its very interesting I was watching a tv show (The Mentalist) and there was a line in the show that really struck me as becoming true. That journalist are becoming a dead career, btwn newspapers and magazines losing business and bloggers spreading so much gossip as real news its scary. No one bothers to check the facts and it is very sad.

    • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

      Yeah and there was the line in State of Play about ‘upchucking on line’ without checking facts. What goes on in the blogging community is truly scary.

    • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 7:59 PM #

      Yes!! I know fact checking is a huge problem. However, I think news stations are under the gun to produce news so quickly they often times forgo fact checking themselves. What should network news do to respond to this instant news situation?

      • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 8:03 PM #

        I would think a line about – ‘developing story we are following’ like a teaser could be just as effective. THe local news here does that sometimes. So you know they are working on a story. – “News at 11” that type of thing. I think the whole concept of ‘exclusivity’ is really an old news horse because you realize how quickly a breaking news story is ‘copied’ around?

        • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:07 PM #

          I agree developing news stories are excellent for local news. How about cable news like CNN?

          • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

            That’s really hard to answer and I’m giving it some thought. I think there is an assumption by the public that the network news is always legitimate and reliable. So the network news chasing ‘instant’ news poses a problem between gossip and fact based news. I think the network news would have to become dependent on inside sources who are always reliable or have a deal made in order to compete. A ‘back channel’ sort of.
            I’m not sure i”m making sense.

            • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:37 PM #

              U are making absolute sense, and I agree with u completely!!!

              I find whenever there is a breaking story on CNN. I go to the local news where the story is based for more detail..

              • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

                That’s true. The local news tends to have more detail because the are closer to the story.

        • Kim January 10, 2011 at 8:12 PM #

          I agree. Because the sad thing is if the particular news was wrong or had wrong info. The correction is usually buried somewhere and isn’t given much notice.

          • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

            There is an organization that investigates and hold news networks accountable for this, I will send u the link.

  5. Kim January 10, 2011 at 8:33 PM #

    I think Kristen Keeps putting her foot into it, because she keeps getting pr from it.

    She reminds of a child that craves attention and wants any kind even if its negative.

    • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

      Bad new is still media attention, right? Guess that’s the difference.

      • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:51 PM #


        • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:55 PM #

          I must say that kind of philosophy is an old one used really in the 90’s. Today not all publicist follow this philosophy bad news is good. Like I said it depends on time and money and ultimately talent……

    • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:49 PM #

      I will expand more on this topic u brought up in my next article, it will cover crisis pr. There are a lot worst offenders out there than K believe or not. Actually, all of the 90’s is where u find the highest number.

      • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 8:52 PM #

        I’m looking forward to the next article!
        This was a great article Open Book!

        • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 8:58 PM #

          Thanks for participating in the discussion everyone. Always a pleasure!!! Until next time…..Have a good night!!!

          • Kim January 10, 2011 at 9:10 PM #

            Good night ob, talk to you soon.

      • Kim January 10, 2011 at 8:52 PM #

        Oh yeah the Hiltons, Spears, and others.

        • Open Book January 10, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

          Yep!!! This is just the tip of the iceberg. LOL!!!

          • Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 10:21 PM #

            When I lived in Fl and the Casey Anthony situation happened…..I’m sorry i don’t know what else to call it. All the local news channels covered it so intensely that people actually called into the stations and complained about not having any other news. The entire news cast was devoted to her.

            i feel sad for what happened to the little girl and i don’t want this to sound mean and please don’t take it the wrong way but life goes on.

            I don’t think people stop to think about that when they become addicted to scandal media and also that people all over the world are dying for freedoms of many people. Yet no one decides to do a story on them or follow anyone in any military around. Everyone is worried about what K or R is doing or this actor or whoever. That no one stops to think about the people who give their lives so that people like Robert Pattinson and everyone else on God’s green earth can wake up in the morning with their freedoms still intact.

            Those are the people that the paps should follow.

            Sorry for the rant. 🙂

            • Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 10:58 PM #

              I’m sorry I hope my post made sense. What I meant to say about the Casey Anthony story is that it wasn’t what people wanted to know about/hear 24/7. They wanted normal news as well. I’m sorry if i seemed unsensitive in my previous post.

            • kneon65 January 10, 2011 at 10:59 PM #

              No I agree. It is a sad reality that some stories get more coverage than others. Mostly, its all about ratings and money. Viewers really don’t want to know how tough it is for our military (head in the sand). Yeah, they feel grateful for them doing the service but that’s as far as many want to think about it.

              Its just reading, watching and escaping seems to be what most people want to do when times get rough. They really don’t want to see how bad other people have it.

              • Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 11:08 PM #

                Yeah but do people really want to hear about the murder of a child constantly? Its very depressing. So i don’t know what people are trying to escape to….depression seems to be all around.

                • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 11:11 PM #

                  I think that is why the news ratings are all down in viewers. And people are watching these reality shows – they don’t want to see the news and the news people are attaching themselves to scandal to draw the viewers. You would think they would figure out that they need to figure out what would draw the people back or look at their ratings differently.

                  Same thing we talked about with BO draw.
                  That’s not the only venue for money and to consider that as the only measure for determining success is ridiculous.
                  Same thing with new. We had print, then tv and print, now tv, print, internet. Yet they are still only relying on TV ratings? makes no sense. Your models have to evolve when the medium evolves.

                  • Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 11:15 PM #

                    Oh reality shows…..Some reality shows make no sense. Which is why I only watch wedding and cake ones. LOL

                    Take for example 16 and pregnant and Teen Mom. They are not “stars” they are children having children. They are paid lots of money for what? They obviously are not using their money wisely unless they are told that they have to set the money aside in some type of account for the child.

                    • lurkerm3 January 10, 2011 at 11:20 PM #

                      I do not understand the draw of reality tv. Seriously, I do not watch any of it. I really do not spend my time watching the jerry springer lives of these people who are being awarded money of sums that others will never see for being what – their 15 minutes. I wish the consumers would stop watching them and tune into real stars people with talent and real tv shows.

                    • Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 11:24 PM #

                      I went to a Jerry Springer show many years ago. The entire thing was scripted. The people are all actors. I went to Oprah too. I loved O. She wasn’t scripted. 🙂 Well she did read from a teleprompter but you know what I mean.

            • Lurker January 10, 2011 at 11:02 PM #

              I agree. I think breaking news is like this. Have you guys ever watched CNN around the clock? If there is a breaking news story it gets covered for HOURS of total repetition. A lot of times that’s why I turn on CNBC at least they are not repetitive. The market changes plus market news is always coming fast. Its almost tough to keep up. But it’s not “oh here we go again” re-hash re-hash.

              I agree that it would be nice if the media learned a balance. They tend to be at two extremes. Oversaturation or no coverage.

              • Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 11:12 PM #

                Yeah but the entire conscience of the people has to change as a whole. I mean no wonder why people are killing their kids. Violence is what is on t.v. and the economy is not getting any better. When its put on replay constantly thats all the public can relate to. Changes the images. Change some minds.

                • lurkerm3 January 10, 2011 at 11:17 PM #

                  I like that idea. The media needs to seize your idea!

                  • Parisienne January 10, 2011 at 11:20 PM #

                    Thank you. 🙂

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