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The Power of Celebrity

June 18th, 2007

Lately it seems whenever I sign into any online news resource, I’m slammed with huge, blinking headlines filled with updates on the tug-of-war over how Paris Hilton’s jail sentence should be served and other celebrity bad behavior. I’m left to wonder, why is this “Breaking News?”

The media has a responsibility to deliver up-to-the-minute headline news impacting the lives of people around the world. It is supposed to influence, inform and persuade. Why then do images and headlines of Paris Hilton’s prison diet and other celebrity faux pas dominate our mainstream news mediums? From MSNBC:

“Being in jail is by far the hardest thing I have ever done,” she said in a statement Saturday. “During the past several days, I have had a lot of time to think and I believe that I am learning and growing from this experience.”

She also said she was “shocked” by the attention her case has received and suggested the public and media focus on “more important things like the men and women serving our country in Iraq.”

Good point, Paris. In a world dominated by a four-year war in the Middle East and seemingly daily corporate scandal reports, it’s a wonder that celebrity news dominates media attention. But it also raises the question for us PR folks: what constitutes “good” news? For us, our work days are about creating the next big news story – something that will showcase our clients to select target audiences.

When planning a media event or developing a press release, we are always looking for the key elements that will guarantee cameras or a strategic front page placement. A few things to consider when determining what constitutes news:

  1. Is it timely?
  2. Does it have value? (for the viewers / readers)
  3. Does it have market impact? (from a business standpoint)
  4. Is there a strong visual element? (for broadcast)
  5. Is there celebrity involvement? (only for prison stories, of course)

This whole Paris Hilton ordeal sure was timely but the only cause all this publicity benefits is Paris herself. It just goes to show how strong the power of celebrity is in our society. Sometimes all you need is a famous face and you’re good to go. As a PR professional, I’m going to keep pushing for the great news stories that capture an audience’s attention and keep us focused…This just in: Paris is out of the jail’s medical ward?  …Wait, what were we just talking about? I just lost my train of thought…

Posted Under: Media & Journalism, Public Relations
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