The Power of PR in Pop Culture

Public Relations surrounds me in my life and, whether I like it or not, influences me.
Pity it only took me three years into a degree to fully understand how much of an impact it has.EO3
The undeniable Queens of publicity stunts- the Kardashians- influence what half the teenage girls in the world are probably buying. We have an image in our heads of who they are and we feel like we personally know them due to the fact that they have spent years creating and building upon it. They have such a strong public image and following that now when they buy a product and show us it on their social media, we believe it’s the best of the best. So why will we so easily believe that Kim K’s new skin brand is all we need to make our life better but still ignore centuries of advice from the more experienced skin specialists. Do people only believe what they want to believe?
There have been some obvious Public Relations horror stories documented over the years in the music industry but the big question is where any of these people or their brand seriously affected or are perceptions of big celebrities and public image something as trivial as gossip and rumors? Here are three major examples of when the person behind the story was too popular to be brought down.

Kanye west

Kanye West has NEVER been one to shy away from speaking his mind and giving his opinion on subjects, even if he is not asked to. The American singer, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur and fashion designer has had his fair share of publicity blunders and bad reactions from fans. Although he is the rap worlds equivalent to Marmite and despised by so many the big questions is,
Does Kanye even care?
EO2
Back in 2009 Kanye west made his first widely controversial debut by interrupting Taylor Swifts speech to accept her MTV award to tell the audience Beyoncé should have won instead…. Ouch. Although this resulted in some huge backlash from the general public and from other celebrities who were at the MTV awards that night it did not affect Kanye’s own sales of his album at the time. So yes, everyone thought what Kanye did was horrible, but they still will listen to and buy his music? For someone with Kanye’s ego, does this really affect him in any way? Probably not due to the fact that it gave him nothing but attention. This started a spiral of PR blunders from Mr. West who has been recorded stating president Bush doesn’t care about black people, that he is in full support of Donald Trump and that he wants to run for President himself. Kanye again came under backlash in the mid 2000’s when he defended Chris Brown for beating his girlfriend. Endless Twitter feuds with celebrities and public figures mean Kanye is never out of the tabloid headlines especially since he is married to Queen Kim K. Dr Phil even went as far as to diagnose him with mental health problems on Television. Despite all of this Kanye will still sell out every tour date he release, lives in a mansion with his multi-millionaire wife and continues to be a successful business man. So is Kanye invincible because no matter what PR disaster comes his way he survives and becomes more successful, or has Kanye created the best image for himself to do whatever he wants and not have to deal with as much back lash because that’s just what people expect of him now. Is he a mad man who doesn’t care or a genius marketing expert who has always known exactly what he is doing?

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was a chart-topping success both as a child with the Jackson five and as a solo artist, so it is easy to see why die-hard fans refuse to see him as anything other than the king of Pop. MJ’s whole life was filled with controversy and publicity blunders but due to the fact he has a following of devoted fans who had watched him grow up he was immune to the bad press. Who else in the world can turn into a different race and carry on as if nothing ever happened? Who else is the world can change their nose, skin and entire face but still receive nothing but love and encouragement from fans who continued to buy all his merchandise and defend him to the death that this was a skin condition and Michael had nothing to do with it.? Nobody else I can think of off the top of my head has got away with such extreme dramatic changes with such ease. Growing up I heard whispered rumors of MJ being involved with young boys but it seemed to be something nobody wanted to speak of until the recent documentary that came out in 2019 called ‘Leaving Neverland.’ This movie on Netflix is the testimony of how two boys were groomed in MJ’s mansion by the man himself. If you heard these types of allegations about your neighbor or relative you would be shocked and appalled and not stop until the truth is uncovered however MJ’s team merely brushed the documentary under the carpet as ‘Fake News’. The movie was met with hostile incredulity from Michaels die hard fans who said the boys were lying for compensation. With such a disputed take on events and many different people’s opinions coming out since his death it still doesn’t change anything and it does not take away his ‘King of Pop’ title. This makes me ask myself, what will?
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R. Kelly
Surviving R. Kelly is a 2019 documentary on Netflix that presents substantial evidence that R. Kelly was having sexual relationships with underage girls. Key witnesses, ex-wives, lawyers, friends and even his brother came forward in the movie to speak about the years and years of horror R. Kelly inflicted on the women in his life. The most shocking part of the documentary was that although the evidence was there this was still seen as a conflicting situation in people’s eyes as they did not want to give up the music and the artist they held so dear in their lives. The evidence against him was so over whelming yet his public image was so strong that R Kelly appeared to be invincible. Every time a story came out or a young girls parents tried to alert the public R Kelly would release another banger that distracted the media and not once during his years of torture and negative headlines did his record sales drop once. That is of course until recently when radio stations across America have refused to play his songs because of the Surviving R Kelly movement. All he had to do was simply re-brand himself and his loyal following would accept everything he said. He changed his image from the Pied-Piper of RnB who sings songs like ‘bump n Grind’ to a spiritual black man singing gospel songs such as I Believe I can Fly.

So, although headlines and stories could be irritating to these celebrities does it actually have any sort of overall effect of their careers or is it just an inconvenience to them?

Emer O’Neill is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram – emeroneill29 ; and Facebook Emer O’Neill

Feuds: Easy Press or PR Nightmare?

We all love a good argument. The drama, the intrigue, taking sides; it’s all fascinating. But, when there is a public feud between celebrities all of these aspects are multiplied. We love to know EVERY SINGLE DETAIL about who said what, who did they say it to, who was actually involved. It’s sometimes even more interesting to see who gets themselves involved. But, do these feuds provide easy press coverage for both parties? Do they prove to be beneficial for both sides? And what happens when your dirty laundry is aired all over the internet for everyone to see?

Now celebrity feuds are nothing new and the Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Feuds have been happening in the celebrity world for as long as anyone can remember, the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford which began in 1935 was so iconic it has since had its own dedicated series documenting the events. Since the likes of Twitter and Instagram were obviously not around in 1935 the two were creative in how they played out their feud in the press. Without their own personal outlets to voice their opinions, the feud centered around statement given by the two in newspapers, something we could not imagine today with the rise of social media. At the peak of their feud when Bette Davis was married to the CEO of Pepsi, Joan had a Coca Cola machine in her dressing room, probably the sassiest thing to happen in 1935. Joan however did not fare as well out of the feud as what Bette Davis did, her action got her branded as petty and cruel. It also destroyed her friendship with Bette as it was assumed that Joan, as Bettes friend knew of her attraction to the man in question.

Over the years, since the scandal of 1935, celebrity feuds have been played out quite differently than the tactics of Bette and Joan. On the whole they are still fuelled by statements given by the opposing parties, but they are mainly focussed on Twitter and Instagram. 

The Kanye West and Taylor Swift feud started on live TV, who could forget that acceptance speech for best album. From then the feud escalated. Kanye did apologise, but took the apology back and added more fuel to the fire by using Taylor’s name in his song famous. Kanye was very vocal across social media, something his PR team must have been absolutely thrilled about. But that didn’t stop the world being fascinated by the argument. With Team Kanyes and Team Taylors firmly established the feud became interactive on twitter with the world voicing their opinions in the matter. With 10 years passed since the feud was ignited, will these two put their differences aside and finally make up? Or will they make for more celeb news in the future? The exposure for both sides could really be considered as invaluable.

Celebrity feuds bring a reality to the saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad press?’. No topic is left untouched when it comes to a feud no matter how personal. Feuds can bring celebs to the forefront of the media even when they are considered to be minor on the celeb scene. 

No feud is more prevalent in this than the emotional feud that erupted between Khloé Kardashian and Jordyn Woods at the beginning of last year. With Jordyn being accused of using her friendship with the entire Kardashian family to boost her own career, she was slated for admitting to kissing Khloés baby daddy Tristan Thomas. Jordyn did not come out of this feud unscathed however. Khloé very publicly accused her of a user, and a liar. She was also cut off from the whole Kardashian family. Jordyn also lost a huge following on her social media accounts as a result of the allegations, despite her attempt to make amends with the Kardashian tribe by doing a media interview. Khloé however, did not receive the same backlash for her actions, which she received some hate for her tweets she did not receive the same amount of hate as what Jordyn did and was relatively praised for how she handled the entire situation. But, are we surprised that this feud started days before Khloé stepped out at a launch event for PrettyLittleThing?

On the other hand to personal feuds which start in the public eye, there are some feuds which could be settled behind closed doors. The now infamous instagram post from Coleen Rooney exposing Rebekah Vardy could easily have been settled in a text message, however Coleen decided to expose the mole in Rebekahs staff to the whole of Instagram and Twitter. Neither Coleen or Rebekah are known for much more than being married to footballers, so this has massively boosted both parties images. Coleen has, of course, come out the better of the two in this case. 

The media coverage of celebrity feuds has become a focal point of our daily entertainment news feeds. It seems nowadays that celebs are not worried if the press they are getting is bad press as long as they are being considered a talking point in the daily trending pages of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. All of this press equates into searches, views and likes for the participants involved.

So, is involving yourself in a feud with someone more famous than you really worth the hassle for a little bit of press?

Niamh Magee is a second year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at Twitter: niamhmagee_ and Instagram: neevmagee