Twitter Insurance: Analyzing The True Role Of Publicists

Dan YokeCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 14: Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles speaks at a press conference at the NovaCare Complex on August 14, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Vick signed a one-year contract, with a second year option, with the Eagles.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

The recent twitters of athletes have brought into question the ability of a person to intelligently and strategically think for his or her own best interest.  The results have made the importance of employing a publicist or press agent to speak for them to prevent these P.R. disasters very evident.

An up and coming athlete, actor, or musician needs a publicist to get the word out about their talents.  They need a figure that the public trusts to say that this person is worth investing time and money in.

But once an athlete or artist reaches the level of household star status, the role of publicists and press agents changes dramatically.

Once the public accepts a person as a celebrity the job of these agents is to keep their clients out of the press, unless it is a piece that will portray their clients in the best possible light.

Athletes, actors, and musicians have different skills, but all play by the same rules and look to the same public to earn their income.  Once the hard task of breaking these people to the public and gaining public approval is achieved the most important public relations strategy is to minimize the celebrities' chances of making an a$$ out of themselves.

Depending on the client this job can be very time consuming.

The Rolling Stones realized these things in the nick of time, and it probably saved their career.

In 1972 the Stones were given temporary Visas to tour the US.  Due to their lengthy drug history their status in the state department was always up in the air.

Instead of letting outside companies film their tour the Stones decided that it would be more intimate and cost effective to hire their own crew and make their own documentary.  Robert Frank was hired and the Stones started rolling.

Because there was no filter between the band and the filmmaker the results of the tour documentary were very unfiltered and revealing.  Graphic drug use was included as well as a scene with naked groupies and the road crew involved in compromising activities.

At the end of the tour the Stones sat down with their management and reviewed the results of the footage they had shot.  Seeing this in black and white convinced the Stones wisely to shelve the project and never release it to the public.

If twitter had been around in 1972 the Stones may have released it before they came to (or were talked back into) their senses.  Despite shelving the project word had reached the government and the Nixon administration became determined never to allow these youth corrupting foreign nationals back into the country.

This situation could have killed the Stones' career.  Fortunately cooler heads intervened.

The Stones immediately hired publicist Paul Wasserman and lawyer Bill Carter.  Wasserman was the top publicist to the stars.  His job was to filter the press until his clients were portrayed in the best possible light.  Carter was a former secret service agent with vast political connections who could pull the right governmental strings to give the Stones a second chance (or third, or fourth).

Mick Jagger's realization that he needed help to maintain the image of his band (combined with the inglorious end to the Nixon administration) saved the Stones from being banned from their biggest market and saved their careers.

When I look at the Michael Vick situation I can't help but be reminded of the controversies surrounding the Stones.  Both had run afoul of public sentiment and needed a press makeover.  The job that Vick's people have done is just as important as the job that the Rolling Stones' publicists did almost thirty years before.

First Vick aligned himself with an ally that is morally beyond reproach in Tony Dungy.  Then he made contact with the humane society and attended strategic events to build good publicity, like speaking to school children and attending fund raisers to stop animal abuse.

Then his P.R. firm arranged for a softball interview on 60 Minutes with James Brown (a man who has never before, or since, interviewed a person for 60 minutes).  Vick was given the questions, wrote out his answers with his publicists, and memorized the answers.

These actions softened the blow of his reinstatement and will allow him to resume his career.

I give you these two examples to show you the true nature of the press and show you that employing a filter between your true nature and your perceived image is always in your best professional interest.