The BLACK paPR Report


PR from an African American Perspective

That Bad Eartha

Sexy she was and sexy she will forever be known …


On Christmas day, I was stunned to learn that the incomparable Eartha Kitt had passed away. Seconds before reading a status update on Facebook memorializing her, I’d just listened to Miss Kitt sing Santa Baby. Talk about ironies, not merely that I’d just heard the song she was probably most famous for, but that she’d die during a time when the song would be most played and heard. (Funny how we remember the people who die on Christmas like James Brown and Gerald Ford, as if we would ever forget them.)  

 Miss Kitt will never be forgotten. She not only represents the end of an era, where sexy was a good thing – part subtle and classy – but also for her image as an African American woman in the entertainment industry. Few people will not know her name; I think it’s safe to assume she was a “household” name, easily recognized across racial and socio-economic borders but also across national and international borders. Will Beyoncé ever achieve the same type of icon status of an Eartha Kitt?

 Would Beyoncé be willing to stand on a chair at a White House luncheon and loudly proclaim her dissatisfaction with presidential policy and the war in Iraq? Would she refuse to perform in places known to practice discrimination? Would she endure being blackballed and CIA-investigated for her views?

Probably not, but Beyoncé probably wouldn’t have need to or impetus. And she most likely wouldn’t have to fabricate a story of being born out of the rape of a black woman by a white man like Miss Kitt did.

Miss Eartha Kitt is the product of the Hollywood machine era, when lies and illusions helped build careers and make millions of dollars for entertainment moguls. Miss Kitt’s image was crafted by both illusion and lies and we bought that image. Eartha Kitt the sexy ingénue was every bit as sexy in her latter years. And every bit as memorable.

“I do not have an act. I just do Eartha Kitt.” ~ Eartha Kitt (1927- 2008)



Filed under: African Americans, Mass-Mediated Images, Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Colleague to Colleague

I’m feeling less than creative today, which could the result of clearing up all of my clutter. This week’s Colleague to Colleague is just a primer about the “father of PR” Edward Bernays. We need to be reminded of our history every now and then, huh?

Filed under: Colleague to Colleague, , ,

Box Them In

I love my mentor who also happens to be my godmother, Bernardine D. Douglas. Bernardine is a retired veteran radio station sales and general manager. One of the first people to support her during the start of her career was Joan Crawford, the legendary actress who had a seat on the board of directors of PepsiCo. The older tough cookie gave the younger, Negro (as we were called then) tough cookie a huge sales order and it was on and popping from that point forward. 

Over the years I have learned a lot sitting at the feet of this precious woman. She’s is in fact the first person to recognize my talent as a publicist and practitioner. She is the first person to recognize that I have this odd gift of connecting people with other people or to what they need. For all of the above, I’m extremely grateful.

Here is a partial list of the things she has taught me:

  • Never enter into agreements with people who complain about previous service. They will complain about you too.
  • Always ask potential clients or customers, What do you need? What are your goals? How can I assist?
  • Sidestep foolish people. Loosely translated: Don’t waste a time of your talents and time on someone who makes silly choices.
  • Be teachable. It’s okay to be a know-it-all but remain open to learning.
  • Don’t operate in false modesty. Accept compliments, simply say thank you. 
  • Don’t lie or embellish.
  • It’s okay to burn bridges. You really don’t want bad energy or people to follow you. And you don’t want to introduce them to the good people you know and will meet. (Future blog post.)
  • Always make fast talkers repeat themselves and then repeat back what they say to them. 

But this is by far the best advice she’s ever given me, “Box them in, baby. You can’t make them do right but you can make it hard as hell for them to do wrong.” It took me a few tries but I not only get this but use it, sadly, frequently. I’ve even passed this advice onto people who thought they got it and used it on me, the wrong person. (It’s really difficult to use the lesson on the teacher, especially if she didn’t pass on the intricacies of the lesson. The didn’t know the intricacies.) 

At any rate, boxing people in has come in handy for me in business. I don’t understand underhandedness and deceit to the extent that I can outthink it. I don’t understand the hustle, so I won’t always recognize it in its beginnings. And I don’t understand how or why people like to use other people. 

Boxing folks in helps in deterring crazy and helps me to discern when someone is just not right. 

For example, some years ago an evangelist asked me to ghostwrite a book for him. I sent a quote, which was half of what he should have been charged for the project. He told me that he had people to do it for free, and that I should do it as a gift to the man of God. After careful consideration of his offer, I declined. And that book has yet to be written. 

How did I box him in? I merely agreed that if he could get it done for free, then he should go for it. I wasn’t terse in my response to him at all. I just relied on a biblical principle: If you do something for nothing, you will get nothing. And my debtors wouldn’t be too happy with that decision. 

The other thing that made it necessary to box the evangelist in was the fact that I am a woman working for herself. Some form of compensation should have been offered in my best interest. Oh well…

I honestly wish Bernardine could teach a course in this, but it’s advice that is best explained on a as needed to know basis. 

Best, Robin

Filed under: Help for the Practitioner, PR Standards & Practices, The Business of PR & Publicity, Uncategorized, , , , ,


Last week, I blogged about status updates, posts and tweets showing up in a public timeline in the form of Google and other searches.  Some of those updates can come back to haunt you if they are not carefully censored. 

That’s a bad look.

However, I am a huge proponent of ‘playdates’ with clients or even by myself. Playdates is the intentional use of updates, posts and tweets to initiate a discussion, engage online followers/friends or even to track traffic to a site. Playdates when used intentionally is a great publicity, PR and marketing tool.  Playdates are anything but random though the results can be.

During the presidential campaign process had a lot of fun, sometimes too much, tweeting on Twitter. On some days I posted random updates but during pivotal campaign moments I was intentional for a variety of reasons. The chief reason was to articulate, without directly boasting,  my ability as a practitioner and publicist to predict outcomes. Perhaps, my most impressive playdate were the days leading to Mr. Obama’s selection for vice-president. As my choices narrowed I predicted it would be Joe Biden and many of the people who follow my tweets objected. That wasn’t a big deal. The big deal was when I projected to the minute when the Obama campaign would reveal via text message the selection. I tweeted it would be at 3 a.m. and while many of my followers disagreed,  the playdate presented me with an opportunity to explain in 140 characters why I thought it would be at that time. (Wisdom dictates you send out breaking news at the start of a print and broadcast shift change. It’s a courtesy extended, plus if you want the news to break big, you break it at dawn.) And because my updates were unlocked and unprotected (a part of the public timeline), I acquired a lot of new followers on Twitter. 

I also established myself as an expert in a way that was comfortable for me who doesn’t like to brag or boast. I just like to work and win. Go figure.

Practitioners and publicists can use playdates to post information on projects or just the normal tasks related to our work. And we can also have fun with clients.

I love scheduling in playdates with clients and even potential clients to demonstrate the viral nature of online exchanges. With all due respect to my clients and potential clients, I never worry if these playdates will cost me in income, because that’s the nature of social networking/media – sharing. Plus, it’s not all I know. is perhaps the best tool for playdates and intentional exchanges because updates and conversations can be seen on friends’ home pages. I’ve acquired new friends using this practice and even business inquiries. Clients and potential clients have received the same as well as a method of tracking people from to their sites. 

Have fun by posting links, videos, articles and anything you can think of to draw attention to the playdate. 

Best, Robin

Filed under: Client Relations, Help for the Practitioner, Social Media, , , , , ,