Kylie Jenner – PR Nightmare or Publicity Princess?

Kylie Jenner – PR Nightmare or Publicity Princess?

Whether you love her or love to hate her, it’s impossible to ignore Kylie Jenner’s success. At just twenty years old, she became the youngest celebrity to feature on the Forbes 100 list earlier this year, with a staggering net worth of $41 million (£31 million.)  To put that in context, I’m a year and 8 months older than Kylie and would probably place my own net worth at around minus £20,000, thanks to the Student Loans Company.  That’s a little bit of a bitter pill to swallow!

But how did Kylie manage to go from being the baby of the Kardashian-Jenner Klan, to perhaps the most successful of all the sisters – including Kim?  It would be easy to dismiss Kylie’s rise to the top as being the result of a perfect PR storm.  We often imagine famous celebrities and their multi million pound endorsements being carefully manufactured behind closed doors by scheming PR managers with dollar signs in their eyes.

But when you really think about it, Kylie’s career would send any sane PR practitioner running screaming in terror.  Forget the modern definitions of public relations that talk about ‘managing reputation’ and ‘creating mutually beneficial relationships’ – Kylie’s empire is built on publicity rather than PR, and her success is definitive proof that it’s still a relevant method today.

As the first of Grunig and Hunt’s Four Models of PR, publicity or ‘Press Agentry’ involves purely one-way communication from Press Agents to the public. The aim is to create publicity by any means, including by telling half truths or downright lies.  One of the classic quotes which just about sums up press agentry is, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” which is probably the Kardashian family motto.

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“That’s why her lips are so big – they’re full of bad publicity”

Let’s go back to the rumours that started it all.  In 2014, when a few Insta selfies of Kylie’s lips looking plumper than usual began to make tabloid headlines, the question on everyone’s (normal sized) lips was: has she had fillers?  Kylie denied any surgical enhancement, instead attributing her newly plump pout to using particular shades of MAC lipliners and lipsticks. Many of these shades sold out internationally almost immediately.  I would know, because I was one of the many trying to buy them.

Even after Kylie eventually came to admit to having lip injections, it didn’t stop fans rushing out to buy whatever lip colour she recommended. It also led to lip augmentation topping the list of most popular non-surgical cosmetic treatments in the UK in 2016.  Any product that Kylie Jenner’s lips touched seemed to turn to gold, and perhaps this is where she had her lightbulb moment – what if you could package up Kylie Jenner’s lips and sell them?

And so Kylie Cosmetics was born.  The first batches of Kylie lip kits sold out in minutes, despite conspiracies surfacing online that her $29 lip kits contained a virtually identical formula to US makeup brand Colourpop’s $6 liquid lipsticks.  Videos and pictures comparing eerily similar shades began sprouting up across the internet in a Kylie vs Colourpop showdown.  You may think a PR nightmare like this would be enough to destroy the Kylie Cosmetics brand before it had even begun. But you would be wrong – in the 18 months since, it’s raked in roughly $420 million.

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Just as before with her lip fillers, Kylie eventually addressed the accusations, promising her fans that while they shared the same manufacturers, her products used an “exclusive” formula that she “created herself”.  Yeah, sure, I buy that completely…just like I bought her Holiday Collection and Vacation Collection Lipkits later that year.  (Another classic quote of the press agentry era is, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  I am that sucker.)

So we’ve established that Kylie is clearly gifted at working bad publicity to her own advantage, but earlier this year when possibly the biggest rumour of her career hit the headlines, she showcased just how gifted.  In case you’ve been living underneath a soundproof rock without Wi-Fi for the last few months, in September 2017 TMZ reported that Kylie Jenner is allegedly pregnant with rapper Travis Scott’s baby.  When I first read this news on my Facebook timeline, I gasped so loudly that my sister ran into my room to check if I was okay.

At the time of writing this, almost two months on, Kylie has neither confirmed nor denied that she is with child – but she continues to benefit from daily tabloid coverage as journalists analyse her every prenatal (or not) move.  Meanwhile, posts to her social media accounts appear as normal, promoting her Kylie Cosmetics Autumn collection and new Velvet Lipkit Shades.  Despite hiding possibly one of the biggest events of her life from even her most loyal of fans, her products continue to be snapped up by her followers without hesitation.

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Preggerz? Kylie and BFF Jordyn Woods test out the new Kylie Cosmetics Autumn Collection in a recent Youtube video

Kylie’s career breaks every rule in the PR handbook, with reputation and Two Way Symmetric Models of the communication going out the window long ago.  So how does she continue to be such a success?  As an unashamed Kylie fan, I think that keeping somewhat of a smokescreen between her and her fans is what keeps the Kylie brand thriving.  While many brands and celebrities become increasingly tangible and relatable as they open up every aspect of their lives to us through social media, Kylie Jenner remains an untouchable force in an A List celebrity world far, far away from our own, and by buying a little piece of her exclusive, sold out cosmetic line that she “created the formula for herself”, maybe we feel like we can buy into just a little bit of her untouchable world. Either way, I think Kylie will continue to build her booming career on half truths, downright lies and bad publicity.

And when she releases a Limited Edition Kylie Cosmetics Baby Shower Collection, I’ll still be snapping up all the shades.

 

Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq

Shine bright like a Trophy Wife

I am a massive makeup collector.  New collections are my cocaine, new products get my heart pumping and when a new brand drops, you’ll be sure I am there on the launch date.

My latest obsession is Rihanna’s new brand Fenty Beauty. Named after her family’s name, our RiRi has teamed up with the massive makeup creators Kendo to produce a makeup line “so that women everywhere would feel included” according to the website. Kendo’s portfolio of brands today consists of Kat Von D Beauty, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Fenty Beauty and Bite Beauty.  Hence why they call themselves “an innovative brand incubator”. Continue reading “Shine bright like a Trophy Wife”

Harvey Weinstein: Protected by PR

Over the past four weeks, Harvey Weinstein has joined the ever-growing list of men who apparently can’t keep their hands off women.  This list includes President Clinton, President Trump, Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski, men who don’t know how to behave as Gentlemen.   

How did a culture of silence build up around Harvey Weinstein?

The pace of the allegations against Weinstein has been rapid over the past four weeks, allegations against him include sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and the systematic silencing of victims.  The New York Times divulged the information on Harvey Weinstein in a scathing article which accounted for many of his victims.  According to The New York Times a female assistant working for The Weinstein Company claimed Mr Weinstein harassed her into giving him a massage while he was naked.

“I am a 28 year old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64 year old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.”

– From Lauren O’Connor‘s memo

 

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Since the explosive article appeared, the number of women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or sexual assault is staggering.  Over 50 women have bravely stood up and accused him of something.  Yet Mr Weinstein has, “Unequivocally denied” any allegations of non-consensual sex.

I find it inconceivable that a man like Weinstein, with such a disturbing scope of behaviours was considered a normal and genuine man.

Harvey Weinstein has been protected by Hollywood.  All things ‘Hollywood’ are all things ‘PR’, and Weinstein was most definitely all things ‘Hollywood’.  He was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood – a ‘movie god’, possessing an unrivalled combination of political influence, power and money; and so it was clear the disgraced film mogul’s own institution were keen to keep quiet.  It is now the case that The Weinstein Company has fired Weinstein (that’s right, from his own company) in response to the publicity surrounding his sexual predatory behaviour.  In my opinion, The Weinstein Company should have had fired him 30 years ago when IT found out; rather than now, only when WE have found out.

Weinstein’s friends were his fixers and lawyers, they too are the powerful PR of Hollywood, yet once again, they kept quiet. Quentin Tarantino revealed on the 20th October 2017 he knew about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct towards women for years. “I knew enough to do more than I did”, the film director declared to The New York Times.  So why did he remain silent, consequently protecting Weinstein?  Behind the glitz and glam of Harvey Weinstein, he was piling up the victims and according to two company officials who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity; he had reached at least 8 silent settlements with women.

 “The men who do this, do it because they have the power and wealth to get away with it. They deliberately pick on women who are less powerful than themselves.”

– Joan Smith, writer, speaking about Weinstein

In a just world, Harvey Weinstein’s actions are indefensible, yet Weinstein defended them when he issued one of the strangest public apologies I have ever read. It’s clear he is now struggling to hire someone adequate enough to do his PR for him, now we all know the truth.

He starts by saying, “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”  Sorry Mr Weinstein, but sexual harassment and assault was never culture, you should blame yourself, not ‘The culture’.

Weinstein goes on to say, “Over the last year, I’ve asked Lisa Bloom to tutor me, and she’s put together a team of people. I’ve brought on therapists, and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women, and regret what happened.”  Mr Weinstein, if you need a team of people and therapists to tutor you on how to behave like a civil, decent man and keep your hands to yourself; you really have no respect for anyone, not just women.

Weinstein closes with the following, “I am going to need a place to channel that anger, so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah. I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party. One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC. While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom, and I won’t disappoint her.”

As I’m sure many of you will agree, upon reading this my first thought was, “What is he talking about?”  How can he talk about the NRA, his Bar Mitzvah, the President, and an upcoming movie project all in an apology statement?  Is this an attempt by PR to distract us from the apology and his acknowledgement of his actions?  I don’t believe honouring his mother with a $5 million scholarship for women will eliminate the lifelong hurt and pain suffered by women he has abused either.

Harvey Weinstein has been protected by PR for most of his career and his serial sexual harassment went under the radar.  The powerful public’s who had every opportunity to challenge this animal unfortunately turned a very detrimental and destructive blind eye.

Lauren Hill is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on LinkedIn.  

Dior Catastrophe With Cara Delevingne

WHAT DID DIOR DO WRONG IN THIS CAMPAIGN?

 Dior has successfully gotten international media coverage about their new Capture Youth product with the face of the product being Cara Delevingne. The response to Dior’s selection of a 25 year old model/actress, Delevingne, was definitely not the coverage or reaction that they expected. The target audience of this product is not having it, and quite an uproar has commenced with all different generations expressing feelings of confusion, anger, and hurt. Women of all ages say that Dior missed the target audience by selecting Delevingne to head the campaign because she’s too young, she doesn’t have any wrinkles, and they have nothing in common with her.

In fairness I can certainly see why Dior might have thought it was a good idea to have a beautiful 25 year old woman as the face of their campaign, but their obvious message, if you use our product, this is the results that you’ll get – the flawless look of Cara Delevingne, is so far out of the realm of reality as to be absurd. Now that being said, can we just talk about all the different ways Dior’s PR with this campaign was a huge flop? Dior’s intended audience is women who have wrinkles, so clearly women pushing mid-thirties and beyond. That makes sense; this is the correct target audience. These are the women who are going to be buying this product with the hopes of seeing less wrinkles and a younger face. Dior needed to be a little more realistic… no matter how much of this cream women in their target audience use, they are never going to look like Delevingne, someone who hasn’t lived long enough to have any wrinkles, so why piss off and offend your target audience? Delevingne would be perfect if you were targeting audiences who consisted of teenagers and twenty year olds. At least then Delevingne would give an accurate and more realistic product testimony on what the product did for her and could do for them. Dior’s target audience is not going to take this product seriously because they’re not seeing someone their age “using” it and showing the “amazing” results. The lack of common ground they have with Delevingne when it comes to products like this is decades’ worth. There is just absolutely no way that she can give a product testimony that will actually persuade the target audience to take this product seriously and to actually try it. Rightfully so.

You wouldn’t see Clinique release some product aimed at twenty year olds with Jennifer Aniston as the face of their campaign because the product doesn’t relate to Aniston and Aniston doesn’t relate to the target audience. (Still a huge fan of Jennifer, goals.) I honestly don’t understand how Dior thought this was a good idea. How did they not see the problems that would come from this? It was a good try, Dior, but better luck next time. Next time go with Jennifer Aniston or someone equally as beautiful and equally as mature. At almost 50 years old, Aniston is the beautiful woman whom your target audience would’ve related to the most and would’ve sold the product better.

INSPIRATION THAT DIOR CLEARLY NEEDED

 I guess it was wishful thinking that Dior paid attention and took notes from past campaigns that were successful. Let’s take a look at Aveeno’s 2014 Positively Radiant Face Moisturizer with Jennifer Aniston as the face of the campaign.

Younger and older generations look at Jennifer Aniston as a beautiful, successful, glowing woman. In the commercials you see Aniston’s face literally radiating with a healthy, young, and wrinkle free look. Yes, we know Photoshop has a lot to do with lack of wrinkles and the exuberant radiant look on her face, but when people see that commercial, that is not the first thing that comes to mind. The first thing that comes to mind is, “Wow, she looks absolutely stunning. I need to use whatever she’s using.” Next they see and hear Aniston’s product testimony on how that specific product is what made her face look so flawless on top of radiant. I mean, why would the target audience not buy and use a product that looks like it has successful results with a ‘credible’ product testimony?

DIOR’S NEXT STEP

Dior is one of the most well-known and respected brands in the world, so no matter how horrible this campaign went, they have the chance to really fix this. They could partner Delevingne up with an actress or model who is older and produce a short film. In the short film they could have a woman reminiscing about her younger days with her young, radiant, and smooth looking skin. Her younger self could be portrayed by Delevingne and have the more accurate representative talk about how well the cream has worked to getting back to her old skin.

No matter what Dior chooses to do next in response to this campaign, they better go at it with a more conscious and sensitive approach. Audiences don’t like to be lied to or insulted, and with this campaign Dior tried to do the former and succeeded brilliantly with the latter. It remains to be seen whether their reputation is injured beyond repair. After several decades of selling fine cosmetics, I tend to think they can rehabilitate their reputation, but this kind of campaign can’t be ignored. The modern consumer is a lot more intolerant of such antics and companies, like Dior, can quickly find themselves in quite a fix. A repeat performance may have women permanently abandoning the brand altogether in favour of a more respectful vendor.

 

Emily Williard is an exchange student, currently studying public relations at Ulster University, as part of her degree in Public Relations at Appalachian State University in the US. She can be contacted on Instagram at emilee_5 or LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/emily-williard-0196a4151.

#DontBottleItUp: Bizzare or Brilliant?

L’eau de Chris

When Chris Hughes (one of this year’s Love Island stars, for those who managed to stay away) took to social media to announce he would be launching his first ever product with Topman last week it initially generated a lot of mixed reactions.

Chris Hughes

The product called L’eau de Chris is described by Topman as “mineral water infused with a Chris Hughes tear”. Some followers found the announcement hilarious whereas many took to Twitter to ask whether this was an April Fool or just banter. Naturally the announcement gained a lot of attention, not just from Topman and Hughes’ followers but also from the media declaring that the Love Island star was being “slammed across social media” for his latest bizarre career move. Just to reassure their readers Metro even said: “Just confirm: Yes, this is real life.”

The product was officially launched the following day via a Facebook Live at Topman HQ to reveal the true story behind L’eau de Chris.

The Launch: Mental Health Day

The Facebook live began at 8:15am where the meaning behind the product as well as the full title was revealed: L’eau de Chris? No, Ludacris; turns out the ridiculous product was a publicity stunt to symbolise the ludacris fact that 84% of UK men bottle up their feelings on a daily basis (YouGov). Along with partnering up with Topman, Hughes also became a brand ambassador for the UK mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), an award-winning UK mental health charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. The limited edition bottles were auctioned at the calmzone.net/dontbottleitup and sold for £2 online at Topman (now sold out) with all proceeds going to support the charity.  Topman are also donating £2 from every pack of Topman boxers sold from October 10th-31st to CALM.

Facebook Live

So, What Didn’t Work?

When the announcement first came out that Chris Hughes was selling bottled water infused with his tears I thought it was hilarious, not to mention I appreciated the slo-mo black and white video, however when I read that there was an official launch the following day I had no interest in learning more about why or how Chris Hughes was shedding a tear into a plastic bottle – the same goes for the media. While the announcement of the product gained lots of media attention, the launch and the meaning behind the product didn’t come close. Was it almost too ridiculous that people lost interest in hearing more?

Katherine Quote

Additionally, whilst Mental Health Day was a perfect launch date for the product it also meant that it didn’t get as much visibility as it probably would have hoped for. Every celebrity, influencer and blogger took to every social media platform to discuss their experiences of mental health by sharing inspirational quotes and stories. This meant that news stories became the generic: “55 celebrities talking about their depression, anxiety and mental health”.

Or Did Topman have any idea that Mental Health Day would also be the day that A- List Hollywood celebrities would announce that they had been sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein? Absolutely not. Of course this also an extremely important issue but again meant that the media’s focus was elsewhere.

But What Did?

The humour of the campaign as a whole, from the word play on Ludacris to Chris Hughes bottling his tears there’s no denying it provided a good laugh. Whilst humour isn’t on everyone’s mind when they think of mental health, maybe this is exactly the kind of campaign that engages young men and gets them interested and makes them aware of the help that is available.

People also questioned the appropriateness of Chris Hughes as an ambassador for mental health, some thought “little bit leave it” however Hughes bravely discussed his past struggles with anxiety during the Facebook Live. It also helps that he has an astonishing social media following that includes the campaign’s core target market and as the saying goes: go hard or go home.

My Thoughts

Whilst the campaign wasn’t perfect it was definitely a step in the right direction. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK, with 76% of all suicides in 2014 being men (ONS, NISRA, GRO 2014) but how many people know this? I know I didn’t until I followed the link to CALM’s twitter page, a charity that deals with everything from anxiety to self-harm.

Whilst mental health is affecting families on a smaller scale, until the media, brands and influencers get involved on a national and global scale this is an issue that won’t get the necessary attention that it needs. I applaud Topman for being one of the first leading men’s brands in the UK to try and communicate with young men about mental health and hope that this blazes the trail for a wider discussion.


Roisin Watters is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/roisin-watters-661a03a6/, and on Twitter @Roisin_Watters

The Clare Balding & Saga magazine saga

If you have even the slightest bit of interest in sport, chances are that you are familiar with Clare Balding the sports presenter who works for both the BBC and Channel 4. Balding’s ubiquitous sports coverage was memorably lampooned by British comedian Tracey Ullman earlier this year in a sketch that seemed eerily accurate. 

 

Balding presents a wide range of events from the Olympic Games to Crufts (the world’s largest dog show) on Channel 4. She is one of these presenters who always seems to be on television. She appears to be someone who has a genuine love and passion for what she does. She comes across as unassuming and approachable on any broadcast that she makes. This is why I was absolutely mystified at an article that was published in The Guardian on Saturday, where a journalist claimed that Balding was a controlling diva who wanted the final say over an article that was to be published in Saga magazine. In the article “How BBC star Clare Balding nicked my byline” Ginny Dougary lamented the fact that Balding insisted that she have final say over what was included in the article. “Who is this insecure diva who does not know better about what should be an essential divide between journalism and public relations? It must be one of those Hollywood actors, you might think, represented by aggressively image-controlling agents. Well, it is disappointing to report that it is one of the nation’s darlings and a champion of other women, particularly right now in the battle for equal pay at the BBC. Yes, it’s all-round good egg Clare Balding.”

As all good PR students know, there is a divide between PR and journalism, or at least there should be. What interested me about this article is the fact that previously I would have thought nothing negative about Clare Balding, now I am not so sure. The seed of doubt has been planted. It seems crazy to me that what is essentially a fluff piece (my apologies to journalists but unless you are a sort of Lynn Barber type interviewer, that is how they come across, but if they help you stay afloat in your chosen career by all means carry on) merits such rigorous protection.

Apparently, one of the main problems that Balding had about the article was that it focused too much on her sexuality. “The next day, I receive an email from the editor, Katy Bravery, apologising but adding: “Clare and her agent have complained that there is way too much about her being gay in the interview, and I have to say I agree.”  Now here is the thing, it could be that Balding spoke at length about her sexuality to this journalist, however upon reading the article felt that it was not doing enough to promote what she really wanted to talk about, her new children’s book. Balding is very clear about her sexuality in her daily life but could it be that she just didn’t want it to be mentioned within this particular article? I don’t really understand why Dougary seems so fixated on Balding’s sexuality, could it be that Balding inadvertently said something that she wished to be kept “off the record” and realised that this might be included in the article. Maybe Balding herself thought that it was not information that the readers of Saga magazine would be interested in. Is Balding within her rights to retract some things that she has said over the course of the interview or not?

Here is the real issue though, the article goes on to mention that Balding has clearly added quotes to the interview, which the journalist was previously unaware of. Alarm bells should be going off by now, Balding’s job is to answer the questions she was asked, not to suddenly decide after a while that she now has something better to say.  A journalist should have the final say not the interviewee, a journalist’s job is to scrutinise power after all. Does an interview with a celebrity do that though? Are they a clear opportunity to scrutinise someone’s position or are they simply a PR exercise? There is far too much emphasis nowadays on what celebrities have to do and say.  Each article or pre-recorded chat show interview seems the same. If you want to gain a real insight into how a celebrity thinks or feels then you need to talk to them one on one. Average people such as you and me do not get this opportunity though, so instead we turn to our magazine articles and chat show interviews desperately wanting to relate to these celebrities. We want to believe that their interviews on Graham Norton et al are real, unrehearsed, spur of the moment events.

However, do journalists really believe that each interview that they have with a celebrity is not a carefully constructed PR exercise? Do we the readers really believe that? Think of Hollywood’s stars of the Golden Age, everything was controlled. There were no photos of actors falling out of nightclubs. These stars were “perfect” supposedly.  Has anyone ever seen a bad photo of Lauren Bacall or Grace Kelly in their heyday for example? Call me old-fashioned, but I fail to see how this could lead to accusations of “fake news”. The interview would have to be newsworthy in the first place, celebrity interviews are not the most important thing that someone will read over the course of a day.

I am going to end this long-winded post by saying that both Saga magazine and Clare Balding have come out strongly denying Dougary’s claims. However, the damage has been done for me. Now every year when I watch Crufts I will be thinking is Clare Balding actually nice or is she a controlling diva? It’s highly ironic that by trying to control this interview, Balding has damaged her brand for many people including myself. I am sorry if this comes across as a rant against objective journalism, it is not meant to be. Impartiality in journalism has never been more important, I just want all parties involved in celebrity interviews to acknowledge the unspoken truth, that these type of interviews are a type of PR exercise. Celebrity interviews are where public relations and journalism collide, like it or not. Maybe it’s time we started to have a look at how we view the journalistic merit of such interviews in the first place.

 

Catherine Leonard is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Political Lobbying at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @CLeonard1212