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Tales of PR: Britney Spears as Poster Child for Professional PR June 24, 2006

Posted by The PR Cassandra in Posts.
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Pop princess, sultry teen idol and former Mouseketeer, Britney Spears, has been experiencing a wave of unfavorable coverage from the global media, including the venerated BBC, about her parenting skills, choice of husband (one of her former backup dancers and rap star, Kevin "K-Fed" Federline) and poor clothes sense.

To regain her public's support and sympathy, Britney held an intimate interview recently with Matt Lauer for "Dateline" in her Malibu home. Unfortunately, the result was not what was probably expected.

Awaiting the birth of her second child, Britney faced new criticism in the media and blogosphere for chewing gum with her mouth open as she apparently poured out her sorrows, wearing unflattering short, short cutoffs and a too low blouse, doing her own hair and too heavy makeup (one of her false eyelashes came down during the filming) and responding poorly to tabloid charges of freeloading husband, marital discord and poor parenting of her baby son.

According to news reports, Britney made a huge mistake in not having her new PR agents involved in pre-interview preparation and in-interview proceedings.  "Britney Spears Gives PR Team the Wrong Day Off" in the blog, Defamer, and "Why Britney Needs Handlers" in the NY Post's popular Page Six, pretty much said it all. 

Our celebrity, success-oriented and style-mad media don't like their fantasies destroyed (unless they do it themselves) – so it's pretty bad when media claim that had the PR agents been there it, the interview would have turned out quite differently.

Are there lessons here for those of us in the less glamourous field of corporate and non-profit PR?  Well, imagine that a company takes as its motto "Never hurt anyone," yet its actions include involvement with a repressive regime that may lead to someone's imprisonment.  Or, imagine that the head of a ministry is caught in some personal or financial scandal.  Or, imagine a company CEO going into an interview alone without taking the time to be properly prepared by a PR professional or including the PR agent; and the next day there are a flood of calls into Investor Relations by angry stockholders, because of a thoughtless remark by the executive on air or in print.

Perhaps it was a case of naivete in the case of Britney's fairly disasterous "Dateline" interview.  Whether it's a case of naivete or arrogance, any interaction with the media should never be taken lightly.  Don't make the same mistake as reportedly done here.  Giving your PR team a "day off" is the worst strategy when facing the press.

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