If Hollywood Publicists Did Corporate PR, Would They All Be in Jail?

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It occurred to us as we were watching yet another Extra story on Jennifer Aniston the other night: Publicists for the Hollywood A-list have far more power than even the largest corporate PR firms when it comes to influencing the media.

So much power that publicists in many cases can dictate interview terms, off-limit questions, approval of photos, and on and on.

So much power — in fact — that it seems lying is accepted practice.

Truly. Members of the media don’t even complain much when Hollywood publicists lie to their faces. It’s considered part of the game — the price of admission for access to the Hollywood elite.

Take the case of Stephen Huvane, the publicist for Jennifer Aniston. Huvane, according to reports,

was said to be so angry over reports on the Today show that Vince Vaughn was engaged to his client, he has pulled all his clients from future appearances on the show … He … warned that he would be pulling some of his biggest clients, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore and Kirsten Dunst from any future appearances as a way of showing his displeasure.

It is thought that Huvane will instead secure interviews for his clients on Today’s biggest rival, Good Morning America.

We don’t know if Aniston and Vaughn are engaged — and we could care less. But, wow — to make those kinds of threats, Huvane must have built up an enormous reservoir of credibility over the years. Right?

Wrong. As Us Weekly has pointed out, Huvane has a history of telling “whoppers” on behalf of his clients. Among them, he categorically — and falsely — denied that:

1. Brad Pitt and Aniston were engaged, up until the day they were married.

2. Pitt and Aniston were having marital difficulties, two weeks before they announced their separation.

3. Aniston was moving back to a former home in 2005, even though she later did.

4. Aniston and Vaughn were dating, even though they were.

5. Gwyneth Paltrow suffered from depression after her father’s death, even though she later admitted it.

Granted, these are all personal matters. But that is what entertainment reporting is about — the personal lives of public people, good, bad and ugly.

When a public relations firm is representing a corporation, and a reporter asks a question that the corporation doesn’t want to answer, the PR firm never recommends lying. In fact, we’d estimate that 98 percent of firms will refuse to overtly lie on behalf of a client even if directed to do so. Often, the firm will drop the account on principle.

Of course, many PR firms are more than willing to present a lame defense for a client, or give an incomplete response, or refuse to comment at all.

But the corporate PR guy never says: “There is no cyanide in the Tylenol. That is a complete fabrication.” Or if he does, he doesn’t stay in that job for long.

Now, we obviously don’t live in “The Hills” — but in the Sarbanes-Oxley world of public companies, “whoppers” can get you put in jail. And whether or not you work for a public company, lying is the quickest way to burn your bridges with reporters. Forget things like ethics for a minute; at a basic level, lying in public is just bad for business.

Except — apparently — for the business of Hollywood.

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About the author

Scott Baradell
Scott, president of Idea Grove, oversees one of the fastest-growing and most forward-looking public relations and inbound marketing agencies in the southwestern United States. Idea Grove focuses on helping technology companies reach media and buyers; and its clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 200 companies. Scott launched Idea Grove in 2005 along with his groundbreaking blog, Media Orchard. He has been a consistent innovator in the public relations and marketing space. Scott was among the first to understand the role of blogging in audience building. He was quick to recognize the vital importance of content quality and the power of social sharing. Most significantly, he developed a system that integrates public relations, content creation, social and search marketing, and conversion rate optimization into a program that produces hard-dollar results for clients.

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6 thoughts on “If Hollywood Publicists Did Corporate PR, Would They All Be in Jail?

  1. Anonymous

    I have to disagree. Huvane is representing actors and he is lying about their personal lives. There is no cyanide in the tylenol to lie about. Not one person’s health, finances, or mental stability is going to be damaged because Huvane lied. It is a very different job than say, representing Pfizer. And US Weekly and In Touch have published some fabricated stories as well over the years, yet we continue to buy those magazines.

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  2. SB

    Celebrity divorces are not as important as cyanide poisoning — I agree.

    But to make it more apples-to-apples, if the CEO for Pfizer was getting divorced and a reporter asked about it, the PR person would still not say: “That is a complete fabrication!” The PR person would say, “We won’t comment on the CEO’s personal life.” If the PR person lies about the divorce, he/she won’t be trusted the next time there is a material issue at Pfizer.

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