Mindless Gossip or PR Magic?

August 12, 2008

Admittedly, a few of us here at BPR have a secret addiction to celebrity gossip —- specifically US Weekly Magazine. Though you’d never guess it from the stacks of publications at our front desk (the likes of Fortune, InformationWeek, Wall Street Journal, WIRED, BusinessWeek), we battle constantly over who will be the first to grab US when it arrives.

I’ve carried the burden of this gossip addiction with a fair amount of embarrassment and shame (when caught with a copy of US, I immediately feel the urge to tell the world I just finished reading the latest issue of The Economist). However, I have discovered an out from the guilt.

The allure of celebrity gossip has dawned on me: US Weekly (along with all the other gossip mags) is filled with PR genius, PR nightmares, and everything in between. When watching entertainment news unfold, it is easy to forget the PR flacks and mavens pulling the strings; but a closer look from the PR professional’s perspective can reveal a lot. For example, was the highly criticized Miley Cyrus Vanity Fair photo shoot really an artistic misunderstanding? Or, was it her publicist’s sneaky spin to help the teen break into a sexier, more mature persona (a la Britney Spears on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1999)? Did Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo really ‘take a break’, or was it all a ploy for more paparazzi photo-ops? Why are Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen still making headlines (and appearing on the Today Show) when the couple split over three years ago?

While we may never know the full story, whatever the headline, you can safely assume there’s a team of PR people hard at work behind all the magic. No matter what industry you’re in, there is something to learn from the PR hits and misses that grace the pages of US Weekly, People, Star, and the rest. So next time you catch a PR person huddled over a copy of the week’s latest gossip pages, don’t judge. It could be part of some important research for your next campaign.

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