Celebrities in Crisis: Is all PR really good PR?

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘Crisis’ is composed of two characters: One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” John F. Kennedy.

This quote pokes the bear in the great debate about Celebrity PR scandals, and as we move away from the archaic belief that “All PR is good PR”, it’s clear to me that one critical element of Public Relations remains; Crisis Management.  Feel free to disagree, but from my experience the two go hand in hand and every PR campaign should have an element of crisis built in, just in case the “What if?” situation becomes the “What now?” situation.

What has really grabbed my attention over the past year is the amount of crises I have seen in the celebrity world amidst the huge Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Harvey Weinstein has really piqued my interest in this area over the past and I along with the rest of the developed world have watched as the dramatic, complex, and undignified scandal unraveled before our eyes.

In case you missed it (or have been in a coma for the last year) back in 2017, Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood mogul always pictured at glamorous Hollywood parties pictured with many famous A-List stars was slammed across all media channels after a number of different women came forward claiming they were sexually harassed by the now former film producer.

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In the early hours of the scandal, The Weinstein Company released a statement to the media saying that they were launching an inquiry into the allegations,  which translated in PR language means “give us some time to try and come up with a wordy statement that doesn’t answer any of your questions but makes it look like we know what to do in this situation and has been picked apart by our lawyers to ensure limited legal liability.”

After 13 more women spoke out, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney condemning him, his lawyer resigning, his wife leaving him and the inevitable dismissal from his own company there really was no scope for any kind of crisis management plan. Weinstein could only deny the allegations but the mass effect the media coverage had on this huge scandal meant his reputation had no hope of a recovery.

The Weinstein case seemed to cause a ripple effect in the celebrity world and soon enough many PR practitioners representing many different celebrities, business people and even government officials were facing this unprecedented crisis.

Another case that caught my eye was The Spacey Scandal…

Kevin Spacey was one of Hollywood’s most decorated actors and personally starred in one of my favourite Netflix tv series- House of Cards.

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So, naturally when this crisis came out I was stunned.

A grand total of 30 men claimed that Spacey, made a sexual advance upon them dating back to 1982.  Kevin Spacey’s response?

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Personally, I found his response quite interesting in terms of crisis management. He doesn’t try to deny the claims like Weinstein, he also doesn’t admit that he did it. But he tries to protect his image by apologizing and revealing something very personal about his life. In terms of PR one could raise the question… is Kevin Spacey revealing his sexuality as a PR spin? Is he trying to deflect from the situation? Who knows. But, a common tactic especially for PR Spin Doctors is to bury bad news in bad news, so it could be argued that this is a tactical move.

Anyway, it’s not all about sexual allegations when discussing PR scandals in the celebrity world. Comedian Kathy Griffin faced a huge media crisis when a picture was released of her holding a decapitated head of Donald Trump (look away if you are squeamish).

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Her management of this crisis was completely different to both Spacey and Weinstein. In fact, she admitted she was wrong and explicitly begged her fans for forgiveness claiming she “went too far”. Interesting, but her career and reputation were still damaged, and she was pulled from a huge TV ad as well as having to cancel several comedy shows.

All in all, crises in the celebrity world are usually unprecedented, erupt suddenly with little time to figure out how to recover. PR has an important role to play in the world of celebrity, there are many different ways to manage the type of crises I have mentioned but no matter what, when stories are leaked in the media they are everywhere. Forever. Try as they may, it can be difficult for celebrities and top figures to comeback from these types of catastrophes.

So, can celebrity PR scandals be managed?  In my opinion, it depends. It depends on the context, the scandal, the fan following, the time, the circumstances and sometimes, just sometimes, these factors can create the perfect storm. They can be managed to an extent but evidently, PR teams cannot prepare for the types of crises that can implode on them out of the blue on a Monday morning.  Hats off to them for the effort!

Orlaith Strong is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @orlaith_strong and LinkedIn @orlaithstrong

Shonda Rhimes, Thank You For Using Your Platform To Raise Feminist Issues

It is impossible in today’s society to not use TV as a form of escapism during this current political climate, where some argue that instead of taking steps forward for equality for all we are taking steps back. I believe therefore it is important that we are aware of social issues that are happening in the world around us and, instead of choosing to ignore them, that we should educate ourselves about them. One of the main problems we face at the moment is the inequality of how women are treated. Most recently we saw Brett Kavanaugh being appointed to The Supreme Court, even though he has multiple sexual assault allegations and, also, how Dr. Betsy Ford was treated in court when she testified against him.

Last year for placement year I studied abroad in America at East Stroudsberg University.  Living in America it was impossible to escape politics. After being able to ask many of my class mates and just listing to conversations, I found out that a lot of people felt that their voice was not heard. It became clear that women’s voices were not being heard. However, seeing the me-too movement taking off in America, with women coming forward with their stories of how they had been sexually assaulted, we saw women marching as a way to raise their voices to call out the inequality that they face.

What does this have to do with TV and even more Shonda Rhimes you might ask? Being away from home I had a lot more free time on my hands, so I found myself binge watching a lot of Netflix. One of the series I found myself totally addicted to was Greys Anatomy. Well luckily enough after a quick Google, I was able to find out that the creator of Greys Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes, also had an other amazing show called Scandal. I soon realised how Shonda Rhimes has used her platform as the creator of these shows to raise issues that are faced with women every day.

 

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Greys Anatomy

In Greys Anatomy a show about the daily lives of surgeons at Seattle Grace Hospital, you can easily see how Shonda Rhimes has used this series to give people a voice on social issues that women face. One of the main things is how it has helped raise awareness for these issues. This includes how they showed the pressure that was put on the women on the show to be great surgeons, but also the pressure they felt to be a mother. The main character Meredith Grey had to chose whether to perform surgery on a sick patient or sit with her daughter while she got stitches.MH2

In one of the most recent episodes where Arizona Robbins is fighting for custody of her daughter, it is brought up in court how she is unfit to have full custody of her daughter due to the fact she has a demanding job as a paediatric surgeon. It is soon pointed out by Arizona’s boss in the court room if you would be asking that same question if Arizona was a man.

We have Cristiana Yang who didn’t want kids and and even having an abortion throughout the series, showing women how it is okay to not want to have a family if you would rather focus on your career. We have women also being represented from the LBGTQ community such as the marriage between Callie and Arizona.

There is Miranda Baily who was nicknamed the “Nazi” due to how she bosses her team. We learn that at the start of her medical career she wasn’t taken seriously, so she had to become loud and bossy to be taken seriously. She isn’t afraid to use her voice to make seriously important medical decisions for the hospital leading to her to becoming chief of the whole hospital.

We see women not being taken seriously due to their gender being mistaken for a nurse instead of surgeon or being called “honey” – would you call a male doctor a pet name or mistake him for a

MH3nurse?  We see Meredith Grey becoming chief of general surgery but she soon finds she is getting paid less than other chiefs of surgery. Soon realizing the inequality demands to be paid the same.

 

 

Scandal

Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is a crisis manager who owns her own crisis management firm. Let’s look at how she is breaking barriers on TV when it comes to women as main characters. Shonda Rhimes made it clear that this part was to be played by an African American woman as that who she wrote the part and more so the character was based on Judy Smith who served as George W Bush’s deputy press secretary. Straight away with Scandal, Shonda Rhimes wanted the show to have a diverse cast and have a smart African American woman as the main character who is using her position of power and political connections to stand up for what she believes in. This I believe has lead to a change in how many TV shows have casted their characters – now we can see a rise in women from different ethnic backgrounds getting cast as the main part.

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Throughout Scandal there are many examples of how Shonda Rhimes used it as a voice for women. Vice President Susan Ross spots that a young female officer’s wrist has been bruised – we soon find out that this young woman has been sexually assaulted by a military Admiral. Olivia Pope soon takes on the case and makes sure that the admiral will be caught for his actions. Olivia was able to leak footage of the admiral dragging the young navy officer into his office, forcing the admiral to confess.

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Throughout Scandal we also see how women face many forms of assault, even in their own homes.  We learnt that one of Olivia Pope’s friends Abbey was a victim of domestic assault from her abusive husband.  Later on in the series we find that Abby’s ex husband could be running for senator of Virginia, leading Olivia Pope to convince Abby to come forward and share her story of domestic violence so this man wont be allowed to take up an important political position.

Another important story line in Scandal which is one of my favourites. Mellie Grant, the ex wife of the president, decides to run for office as she wanted to be so much more than just a first lady. We are surprised to see her and Olivia Pope becoming friends due to the fact that it was Olivia Pope who had an affair with Mellie’s ex-husband the President. Both women realised they had both one shared goal, in making sure that their political voices where heard. During the election race we hear one of the best feminist lines from Scandal that echoes into the environment today. When asked by her political opponent in a debate how Mellie will just be the same president as her husband, we see Mellie Grant turn round and say in the 21st century you can’t look at man and assume that his wife will share the same views – women are not their husband’s keepers and they are their own women, with their own beliefs.

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I hope you can see the importance of having Shonda Rhimes as a show runner  to help raise awareness for social issues that we are facing today. To show young girls that you can be in charge, not afraid to use your voice to stand up for something you believe in. Someone who knows even you could be president one day no matter what your race or gender is. She has been so successful in her portrayal of strong women that she, along with her three main characters, were used as a campaign ad for Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

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So thank you Shonda Rhimes.

Muriosa Houston is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @MuriosaHouston ; Linkedin – http://www.linkedin.com/in/muriosa-houston-32b41413b

 

Social media: Giving Women a Platform to be heard

Social media: Giving Women a Platform to be heard

Social media, some people love it and some people hate it. Personally I’m a big fan, most likely because I like expressing my opinion and I enjoy laughing at those Scottish tweets far too much. Another reason I like social media is because I feel like it has given people the opportunity to have their voices heard no matter who they are and where they are from. Recently social media has played a large part in promoting feminism and giving women in particular a voice. But is social media really empowering women, or is it causing as much damage as it is good?

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Twitter recently extended their number of characters to 280 meaning more interesting tweets to read generally, and longer ridiculous Donald Trump tweets. However one hashtag which captured the word’s attention was the #MeToo campaign, where people shared their experiences sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood including Harvey Weinstein victims Rose McGowan, Asia Argento and Cara Delevingne. This hashtag helped to unify both men and women who had experience sexual assault and/or harassment, essentially empowering them. Being able to share their experiences on social media and seeing the support others have received from the #MeToo campaign may have given these people more confidence.

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The #EverydaySexism project on Twitter which was started in 2012 on Twitter allowing women to share their experiences of sexism from the workplace to a nightclub. The project is an ongoing one with a hugely successful book sharing these women’s sexism experiences, helping to show others they are not alone and that they should not have to put up with this behaviour.

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As well as unifying women, social media is show us to how men are also promoting feminism and equality. Interviews with celebrities including John Legend, Prince Harry, Ryan Gosling and Will Smith have been shared thousands of times online expressing how they are supportive of the women using their voices via social media and how they believe in equality. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also highly featured on social media promoting equality, recently stating in his speech in New York ““Being a feminist for me means recognising that men and women should be, can be, must be equal and secondly, that we still have an awful lot of work to do”.

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Although there are many upsides to social media, there are also a number of negative experiences as sometimes people use the power they are given on social media to criticise. In October Noble Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai faced criticism on social media for attending her university classes wearing western styled clothing and for not being accompanied by her father. Instead of simply letting the young woman be free to dress as she pleased, some users chose to focus on no male being present.

Dating Apps are becoming the norm, most single people use Tinder or Bumble which can quite easily affect a person’s self-esteem. A woman recently shared her Bumble experience where a man told her if she made some effort at the gym, he would consider dating her (his mum did an interview saying he’s only had 2 girlfriends before, no surprise why with charming texts like that). There is no doubt there are a number of men and women who have similarly had negative experiences with social media, showing it is not always used in a way which empowers.

Like most things in life, there are positives and negatives. The good of social media does not justify the bad, however I believe that social media is having a positive impact and allowing women to be heard.

Many people even now see feminism as a dirty word, a word that means women think they are better than men when in fact a feminist is simply a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes (shout out to Beyoncé for educating the world). Social media is one way in which people are able to learn more about feminism and giving women a voice.

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Kellina Loughran is a final year student studying Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellina-loughran-a382a9123/  and Twitter: @kellina_x

#MeToo what is it and why should I care?

It is no secret that in the news recently there has been a lot of allegations against stars in Hollywood and the emergence of the Me-Too hashtag has left a lot of people confused. Is it related? Why has my friend put it on Facebook / twitter / Instagram? Should I? I’m here to explain what it is and why it’s so important.

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GM5Unfortunately, sexual harassment and sexual assault is still seen as a ‘blurred line’ (don’t even get me started on that awful song) and far too many people have experienced it in their lives – the prevalence of this hashtag proves it. Facebook reported that over forty five percent of their United States users had a friend who posted the term.

This hashtag was created to encourage any women who have been affected by sexual harassment to come forward and speak up. It came into existence when the actress Alyssa Milano posted on twitter a call to arms from her friend that women who have been harassed or assaulted sexually should post ‘Me Too’ to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. It was, quickly, picked up by the public and took Twitter, then Facebook, then Instagram, by storm.

By this point the scandal involving Harvey Weinstein had spread to include most of Hollywood; actresses such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as many others, had made accusations against Weinstein for inappropriate conduct.
The most interesting part of this is that the allegations, at this point, were still just allegations but it didn’t matter – the idea that famous actors and actresses were speaking out about this problem was enough to inspire ordinary people to also speak out. These ‘silence breakers’ have since been named TIME’s person of the year for 2017; proving that the truth, especially in the huge numbers demonstrated, has power.

This is important because it shows the magnitude of the problem. Alyssa Milano woke up to thirty-two thousand replies in the twenty-four hours following her initial tweet, by October 16th 2017 it had been tweeted more than five hundred thousand times, and used more than four million times on Facebook.

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This is not a problem limited to women either – men have also been using it to speak out about their own experiences. Over 30% of the #MeToo posts were by men. This is a very underexposed area and something I will have to go into some other time!

Unlike many kinds of social-media activism, it isn’t a call to action or the beginning of a campaign, culminating in a series of protests and speeches and events. #metoo is simply an attempt to get people to understand even though it feels very far away, in the far reaches of Hollywood, sexual assault is much closer to home than we realise.

Georgia McCalmont is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on Twitter @04Georgia or Instagram @Georgiamac26.