News Coverage Interruptus!

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I’ve written about several public relations and/or publicity efforts that have come apart at the last minute, either fortuitously, by an act of God, or just plain by mistake.  Sometimes these things happen and you just have to make the best of them with what you’ve got, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do except just grin and bear it.  Here are a few more enticing tidbits of cringe-worthy moments that have happened over the years…

Many years ago I had a PR agency client who represented a nationally-recognized brand of hair color products (in this case, inexpensive, fast-working hair color for women).  The agency had secured a “celebrity” to act as spokesperson for the brand.  She was an actess who had been very popular a couple of decades prior, part of a trio of actresses who played sleuths on a cop show in the seventies.  We secured  about 25 interviews and were set to go on the morning of the tour with our clients happily conversing in the green room, excited about all the interviews that were about to take place.

Then there was “breaking news.”  Deadly words to hear when you are about to conduct 25 live shots with local morning shows who will now be pre-empted by the networks.  The breaking news story was the release of the Linda Tripp/Monica Lewinsky tapes (recorded phone conversations between Linda and Monica regarding her affair with then President, William Jefferson Clinton).  This is where things got ugly,.  Real fast.  It seems that no matter how much you prepare a client and the spokesperson for the possiblity of being pre-empted, they just don’t get it when it happens to them.  I mean, really, what’s not to get?  The networks have pre-empted local programming, you tell them.  There is no Good Morning Dallas, or Houston, or Atlanta, today… the networks are broadcasting on their stations.  Still, they don’t get it.

We explained this to them and suggested that we just wait it out and see what we can salvage if the networks stop pre-empting.  Worst case scenario, we can reapproach everyone we’ve booked interviews with and reschedule for another day.  Uh, uhnn.  Can’t do it.  Celeb will want more money and studio has to charge us for another day.  We’re all dead in the water.  So we sat for what felt like an eternity while the celeb(?) sat on the set, angrily reading The Wall Street Journal, practically tearing the pages out of the paper as she turned them.  Hopefully we’d have better luck at the event we were having at a New Jersey mall later in the week (cue the scary “Jaws” music).

Okay, so Part II of the story goes like this:  the celebrity will be appearing at a mall in New Jersey to encourage women to get their hair colored to help benefit a national charity that this celebrity was fond of.  For every head colored a pittance would be donated.  We arrived at the mall, got the celebrity seated in the mall meet-and-greet area (after much time spent on her hair and makeup) and were good to go.  (“Jaws music builds…..).

Women were lined up and our celeb was signing autographs and everything seemed fine, until it didn’t.  The spokesperson excused herself to go to the ladies room and promptly disappeared.  Our clients were frantic, and a search ensued to locate this purportedly nationally-recognizable celeb that no one recognized as leaving the mall.

We found out much later in the day that she had experienced a panic attack, and flagged down a mall security guy in the parking lot who was in one of those little SUVs with yellow lights on the roof and made him drive her all the way back to her hotel in Manhattan.  End of event, end of coverage, end of story.  And yes, I do mean “end of story.”  I’ve got nothing more to say about this as I’m still to this day, traumatized.

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