The BLACK paPR Report


PR from an African American Perspective



Patrice Hale's YouTube page

Social media PR is indeed hot, but it’s proving to be the wave of the future in PR and publicity practices. It’s as simple as connecting the dots between various computer technologies and social networking forums.

However, I won’t oversimplify it in this space, but I will share that I’m incredibly impressed with the way some celebrities and even businesses are using social media to build brand loyalty and followings.

One of the most impressive uses of social media use was during the presidential campaign process by Barack Obama’s campaign. Brilliantly, they engaged (a primary rule of social media) a legion of voters and supporters by sharing (a primary purpose of social media) information on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. Moreover, they utilized their own Web site in a manner that included live streaming video (Ustream), events pages and blogging space for supporters. And the most talked about use of social media was the 3 a.m. cell phone text message announcing Barack Obama’s choice for vice-president.  

Barack Obama Campaign Twitter Page (note the followers/following)

Barack Obama Campaign Twitter Page (note the followers/following)


Celebrities such as CSI: NY’s Hill Harper utilized social media to promote voter literacy and rights, as well as to record video messages urging people to vote.

I had an opportunity to talk to Jason McCall, a special director for the Obama campaign, whose job it was to recruit celebrities to not only support the now president-elect but to also use social media to promote voter registration and voting. Here is a sample of his projects for Vote for Change

Lately, I’ve seen some really interesting projects on Facebook using the virality of social networking while engaging “friends” in a meaningful dialogue. 


Terri Vaughn


Royale Watkins

Actress, producer Terri Vaughn’s use of vlogging or video blogging is absolutely brilliant. Terri is transparent and she actually engages by talking directly to her viewers about life as a black actress in Hollywood, motherhood and about future projects. You can find my favorite vlog by Terri here.  Actor-comedian Royale Watkins produces a vlog, My Life Online, which is also smart and incredibly funny. What I love about Royale’s vlog is that while he’s funny he taps into serious subjects and gives us another side of a comedian’s life.  It’s rare to see a comedian in a multidimensional way, My Life Online is indeed a multidimensional view of Royale. I love smart anything and these vlogs are truly smart in terms of engaging fans/supporters, attracting fans/supporters, and my favorite thing of all – bringing the publicity. Of course, they are also useful for career transitioning and image change. According to the hundreds of comments Terri and Royale receive, their vlogs also help them appear “real” to people. In later editions of my report I will discuss what happens when a vlog goes wrong, really wrong.  

Patrice Hale, a Facebook friend is also attracting a lot of hits to her page as well as friends and supporters. Miss Hale, a screenwriter, who possesses the charisma of a Sherri Shepard and the wit and intelligence of a scholar. Yes, she’s that smart but she’s incredibly funny tackling a serious topic (again one of my favorites) – the lack of black images on broadcast/cable prime-time shows. Here’s Patrice’s infamous and viral vlog:

If there’s anything to learn from these projects it’s imperative that the relationship between the user and the producer of vlogs and other forms of social media is a two-way relationship. The hotness factor in the above was the openness of all to receive and acknowledge feedback, which in turn engages an exchange. It just doesn’t work when you talk at a user. 

Best, Robin





Filed under: African Americans, Mass-Mediated Images, New Methods, Social Media, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Unglamorous Glamorous Red Carpet

Almost a year ago, this time, I was sitting on a sofa in a beautiful hotel suite in downtown Atlanta, wondering How did I get here? It was my first time in The ATL and I’d come to work … work the red carpet at the BET Hip Hop Awards. 

Let me back track to the night before my arrival in Atlanta. 

At 9:30, I prayed and told the Lord I would be fine if I didn’t go. My attendance was contingent on securing tickets for my client’s security men and on the Thursday before the event, it had not happened. If security couldn’t sit in the auditorium with her, then my client couldn’t attend. And honestly, given the client that was a risk that could not be taken.

By 9:39, an e-mail popped into my inbox stating the tickets had been secured. 

Robin was going to Atlanta.

No sooner than the airplane landed and I’d taken my phone off of the plane setting, the message alert starting talking to me, “You have new messages.” I had several new messages and I needed to listen to every last one as I walked the green mile known as Atlanta’s airport. Unfortunately, I became one of those people I cannot stand under most circumstances and walked and talked on my cell phone in public. The world became my phone booth.

Here is the priceless part of walking and talking: I had to do both while gawking at (1) the handsome brothers in the terminal also talking on their cell phones, (2) the celebrities I assumed were headed to the same event and (3) enormity of that airport. I probably looked country, mouth wide open and eyes roaming all over the place like I’d never been anywhere in my life. 

Once I got the Links shuttle to my hotel and walked to the front desk, I got to experience something more famous and celebrated entertainment industry people experience: The front desk clerk asked if I would listen to his demo. For about thirty seconds I felt important and powerful, well important and powerful in entertainment. 

This was the beginning of the glamorous life. Or so I thought.

After checking into my suite, I made a few more requisite phone calls and headed downstairs to eat something for lunch. Ten minutes into lunch, my phone rang and I had to ask for the check, return to my room to put up my laptop and grab my purse. It was off to the Atlanta Civic Center.

I’m a walker, something that stayed with me from my college days. I love a brisk, quick walk. And according to the concierge, I would have one to the Civic Center. “It’s just a couple blocks up the street to your right, you can’t miss it,” he said.

Stepping out to the driveway, I thought, Take a cab. But, of course, I fought against my better judgment and decided to walk. My friend Ilka told me later, “You should have asked, ‘city blocks or country blocks.'” She was right, because by the time I’d walked what I thought were two blocks, I was tired and kind of confused.

I stopped a couple on the street and asked, “Am I near Ralph McGill? Is the Civic Center somewhere around here?” They said “Oh yeah, up there at the next light is Ralph McGill and if you turn right you’ll see the Civic Center. You’re not far away at all.”

I believed them, liars. Trust, I had to ask four more people, “Am I there yet?” until I finally got there. And when I got there, I was pooped but suddenly exhilarated when I saw a security man who pointed me in the right direction.

Being polite, I waited for him to finish talking to the gentleman standing next to me, who seemed more engrossed with his cell phone gadget thingy. No sooner than he finished with him, the security man answered my question and I followed the man with the cell phone gadget thingy.

“No, ma’am, you go that way,” demanded the security guard.

I ain’t gonna lie, the whiny educated ghetto girl came out in me and I said, “You let him go that way, I wanna go that way too…”

The security guard looked at me and said, “That’s Kanye West, ma’am.” And he followed it with a look that said, He can walk any way he wants.

Well, alrighty! I obeyed. And I did what I do best: looked cool on the outside but was in awe on the inside; the inner Robin’s mouth was agape. Kanye West was standing right next to me playing with a thingy. Wow!

I will not bore you with the details but to say that was the beginning of a very busy, hectic and sometimes chaotic weekend. And the single most important lesson I learned was that there is an unglamorous side to glamour, especially if you’re working. 

Celebrities, their management and publicists (I’m a publicist), and the people attending the event to work, understand how unglamorous glamour truly is. It’s work. 

The red carpet.

First, you stand in a bullpen reserved for publicists who are escorting clients up the carpet. Since it was a hip hop event, I stood dressed in a conservative black suit in the boiling hot sun, not a good look. And I stood next to men who looked like they’d just rolled out of bed and decided to walk someone up the carpet, not a good look, but danged if they weren’t comfortable. 

At one point, an Atlanta police officer shared that she didn’t wear her bulletproof vest and without hesitation, I laid hands on her and prayed. She thanked me profusely and assured me that she wouldn’t do it again. 

The blessed red carpet captain and the overseer of the carpet and the line, brought out chairs for those of us who’d been standing for a long time. Like me. When two other women showed up, I stood and the three of us talked and networked. We talked about the boy publicists in hip hop who have little respect for the girl publicists (that’s another story). We talked about PMS and about where our clients were placed in the limo line (placement is everything). Before I knew it, my client arrived and it was on and popping.

We were assigned an escort and God assigned us yet another who helped me to navigate the process, which is extensive. Photographers first, then broadcast/video, then radio and finally, print journalists waiting to interview celebrities.

If you’ve yet to walk the carpet, then I will spare the details. I will say that it was one of the most exhilarating, fulfilling moments of my entire career. And trust, it is work. 

I can count the glamorous moments on my one hand. I can tell you that I delighted in meeting a few of my all-time favorite folks who ran the gamut from journalists to writers to scholars to hip hop artists to other publicists. Here are some of the notables: Mele Mel, KRS-One, Hill Harper (yes, he’s fine in person and kind), Toure (smart, handsome and nice), Dr. Cornel West (he’s so mellow and cool), Chingy, Busta (who looks better in person), Wayne (striking face) and Baby (I would have dated him back in the day – don’t ask), and one of my favorite moments was meeting Ne-Yo who was not only gracious and kind, but extraordinarily humble. And there were many others.

However, I think I was the blessed publicist because of my client, who shall remain nameless here. It was an honor to escort my client down the red carpet and when I was flying back home the magnitude of my red carpet assignment sunk in, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I thanked God. 

And then I asked Him for a few more red carpets not for the glamour but rather for the thrill of doing what I love to do most of all – connect people. 

Mad love to Jonnice Slaughter, Shae Smith, Lisa Purcell, LaDonna, and a crew of others who made my virginal red carpet experience a pleasure by laying the groundwork. And I guess I’ll see you again real soon.

Best, Robin

Filed under: African Americans, Public Relations, Red Carpet, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sold on Social Media: Lessons from Gustav

I followed reports on Hurricane Gustav and called my clients, Raney and Carla Antoine. Thankfully, they were preparing to evacuate and gave me a first-hand account of the chaos and madness in New Orleans and surrounding parishes. Carla shared as she picked her children up from school that she and Raney, a minister, took the time to visit members of their congregation who are elderly and sick and helped them prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually for the evacuation. On top of this, she told me that they had a host of relatives in the area to check on before leaving for her brother’s home in Atlanta.

During her drive back to her subdivision, Carla described the panic in the streets; gas stations running out of fuel and even noted when she saw a fuel truck unloading fuel at a gas station; she spoke to a neighbor about their evacuation plans and how they would pick up loose objects off of the ground before leaving so no one would be hurt by them in the storm. Carla told me that FEMA’s contraflow would begin on Sunday at noon, but that was when Gustav was at Category 2. I took note of everything she told me and then I …

Micro-blogged that information on so that people with New Orleans and Gustav-related concerns could receive it and know how to proceed. The responses I received were phenomenal and gratitude-filled.

Soon on Twitter folks stopped “tweeting” or micro-blogging about Sarah Palin and Barack Obama’s speech and began tweeting about Gustav. It was incredible.

Today, people like Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark, asked “tweeters” or micro-bloggers what should craigslist do to aid in any evacuation effort. He gave out his personal email addie.

Another tweeter, @urbanreporter (urban reporter) posted live video footage he’d taken during his assignment as a reporter for HDTV and he used another social media site to run it. By the way, Ustream is the official video streaming site of the Barack Obama campaign.

One of my favorite uses of social media is this: and it was tweeted several times by me and other tweeters, including CSI actor and social activist Hill Harper as well as social media consultant, James Andrews. This ning site is astounding and was developed to keep people abreast of Gustav activity but also give families a central online location to post their concerns and check for their loved ones whereabouts. Freakin’ genius created by A. Carvin.

There are other social mediums working away to report on this effort and to even give place for activism. What I’ve witnessed so far has been short of astounding and proof that gurus, experts, fanatics and even novices like me can do great things with information technology to make a really bad situation bearable. I’m officially sold on social media as a grassroots communication movement, and sadly I have Gustav to thank for that.

 Best, Robin Caldwell

Filed under: Crisis Management, Media Relations, Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,