Yesterday, we were talking about the cardinal mistakes that A-list stars make while choosing their publicists. Though most stars end up blaming journalists or media houses for negative publicity, they tend to overlook the fact that their own PR strategy might be responsible for what is happening to them.
As promised yesterday, I will talk about the strategy that I feel A-list Bollywood stars should adopt while choosing their PR. I have been a journalist for 14 years and have seen top PRs operate from close quarters.
All my deductions here are based on my experiences. However, I don’t claim that I am going to give you a perfect PR hiring strategy but I think I can at least point out to the right direction. This is exactly what I intend to do here.
I know my suggestions are radically different from what stars do at present – just sign up with a reputed PR house and think that everything will be automatically taken care of. I don’t think that happens and in the end, nothing is taken care of.
The worst part is that you don’t even know how and where things are going wrong.
1. Getting media mileage is the easiest job: Don’t ever sign a PR because you need to get mileage in the press. That is the easiest part of the job if you are a Bollywood A-lister. Every journalist will give an arm or a leg to ‘cover’ you and every journalist would like to claim that he/she is close to you. So, don’t listen to those ‘plans’ that talks about media coverage. There is very little work that a PR does to organise your interviews. Usually a short text message to the journalist is more than enough.
2. Chuck out the aggressive PR: A PR who is too aggressive in his/her approach is not good for you. Being an A-lister, you are prone to intense media scrutiny and aggressive PRs are a bane for you. Any PR will have a set of cronies among journalists but somebody who doesn’t know how to behave with journalists will have a long list of ‘enemies’ in the media circle. Remember that when these ‘enemy’ journalists try to get even with the PR, they’ll not go for the PR’s jugular but yours. So, if the PR is too aggressive it means that he/she has a group of journos who are working against you. Just ask around a little to find out about the general attitude of the PR and the way the person deals with journalists. I have usually seen that aggressive PRs are too full of themselves. That’s the first sign of aggressiveness.
3. Find out how powerful the PR’s enemies are: This is a trick that you must learn. On the very first meeting, tell the PR (who’s pitching for you) to provide you with a list of journos he/she is close to. The PR will always have that list ready. Now, after you receive that list, seek out the names of prominent journos who are not included in the list. Usually those are the ones with which the PR is not really pally with.
Now, the PR too is reading this article and he/she might not cooperate with you when you ask for the list.
Alternatively, you can can check the net (usually Google searches will help) to figure out the coverage that their existing clients have got in prominent media houses. Check the bylines of the reporters (the author of those articles). There you will find a few names repeating too many times while some prominent ones might be missing. The ones repeating too many times are the cronies, the ones missing are the ones the PR is not really pally with. Also, find out if any media outlet is totally missing from the list. It might also happen that the media house has unofficially banned the PR for his/her bad behaviour or nepotism.
In short, don’t hire a PR with too many enemies and go any distance to find out who are the powerful journalists and media houses that your prospective PR has antagonised.
4. Keep your friends close: If you are an A-lister then there are certain journalists who have always been writing nice articles about you . They are your friends because they have always helped you with a positive report whenever you needed it. Don’t ever lose them. Hand out a list of those journos to the PR and ask them to give those journalists priority. Immediately, you will find a PR rattling off a few more names. The PR will try to tell you how he or she has got a better set of journalists and how they are better skilled in pushing their agenda. Give those ‘new’ journalists a chance too but ensure that people who have always considered you as a friend should not be left out in the cold simply because your PR manager doesn’t like them.
5. You need somebody who’s an expert at crisis management: A PR should be an expert at crisis management more than ensuring media coverage. The PR should know who to call when you feel that a scandal is about to break or a negative news is gaining ground. If you are an A-lister then this is the first thing that you should ensure. There are a lot of good PRs who throw their hands up during moments of crisis and say, ‘What can I do now? The press won’t listen to me!’
You don’t need them.
You need somebody who will immediately start calling people to scuttle the news. As you have seen with the Nira Radia tapes, the sign of a good PR is that he/she is pally with powerful journalists and more importantly, they pick up his/her calls. Remember that simply having the mobile numbers a few top journos in his/her phone-book doesn’t mean they are your PR’s buddies. More often than not, the case might be just be the opposite.
Before I end, here’s a word of caution. Most A-listers don’t interact with their PRs and let their managers do all the talking. You need to keep an eye on your PR and at the same time, spot even the slightest ‘diversions’ in the media.
Don’t ignore those small negative news snippets that keep coming about you in a certain media outlet. Usually it is a sure indication that your PR has rubbed somebody the wrong way. Those are sure indications that a bigger storm is brewing and might unleash upon you any day.
Always remember, you have got a PR to build bridges and not burn them.
Short-link of the post -> http://goo.gl/zotGaH
Earlier posts on the same subject:
(1) THE AGENDA August 6, 2013
(2) Why Bollywood journalism is endangered July 3, 2013
(3) The wheelers and the dealers of Bollywood July 2, 2013