Closing The Parisgates

July 5th, 2007

On July 3rd Paris Hilton added a post to her MySpace blog asking her fans to celebrate responsibly on the 4th. It got me thinking a little bit about responsibility.

I know, I know, no more Paris, enough is enough, etc. Well, I promise this won’t take long. And I’m sure you’ll allow a little more Paris jail talk now that we won’t be able to have any Scooter Libby  jail talk (thanks a lot, President Bush).

So what more can we squeeze out of the Paris situation? A classic life lesson with a PR twist. 

It’s often been said that Paris is a brand. It’s true: she’s a businesswoman and she knows that girls across the country are buying everything from Paris Perfume to Paris movies and even Paris CD’s. So when the heiress went to jail, it not only affected her personal public image (probably for the better) but also her brand. That’s where crisis management comes in.  

The effort here was no doubt for Paris and her publicists to spin the story in the best way possible to keep good things in the news, and not anger the wallets (AKA parents) behind the young girl consumer base. Hilton’s June 27th interview with Larry King was the chance to do this. In the interview, Paris calmly and confidently delivered the answers that she likely spent hours rehearsing. And for the most part, it worked. But I wasn’t buying it. Especially not after she asserted three times that she has never taken drugs. (I received an email from a friend with a link to a site, pointingpoints out several examples of Paris doing drugs.)

She also claimed to be very religious, and said she read the bible in jail. Sounds good. But it would look a lot better if, when King later asked her if she had a favorite bible passage, she didn’t stare blankly back at him like an heiress in headlights.

Did Paris’s PR people think that lying was the best option? Did nobody realize how ridiculous it sounded when the most famous party girl in the world said, “I’m not a big drinker. I’m not really into it.”?

If PR professionals who work with crisis communications think that telling the truth doesn’t work, I have but one word: Tylenol – in 1982 when seven people were killed by tainted Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson not only saved the brand by telling the truth and being bluntly honest, they strengthened it.

Regardless of what the Parisgate aftermath brings, it is at least clear that beyond simply being the right thing to do, telling the truth works. And truthfully, I’m ready now to lay the whole Paris thing to rest.

Anyone have a Tylenol?


Posted Under: Branding, Crisis Communications, Media & Journalism, Public Relations
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