The BLACK paPR Report

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PR from an African American Perspective

Color Vision

colorbars2My colleague, Jonnice Slaughter, principal of Chatterbox Publicity in Atlanta called me at 1 a.m. last Saturday morning. She took a big risk but a worthy one to wake me up more ways than one. Jonnice asked me if I’d seen the recent NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) report, OUT OF FOCUS-OUT OF SYNC TAKE 4 (December 2008). I hadn’t read it and within seconds I jumped out of bed to turn on my laptop and hunt the report down.

Jonnice knows a few things about me that prompted that telephone call. She knows I have an interest in mass-mediated images of African Americans, an interest that fuels my vision as a PR consultant and publicist. I taught the subject for a number of years and have synthesized information on stereotypes and the history of blacks in media in such a way that I have no choice but to pay attention to what we see and hear in American popular culture. She also knows that I have a favorite client, Hadjii, who recently had his sitcom, Somebodies, canceled on Black Entertainment Television (BET), which was hurtful to me because I believe in him and I believed in the images represented in that program. 

Now I am pretty smart, but Jonnice is smarter. She said, “This is your time to begin a movement.” At 1 a.m., I didn’t feel particularly revolutionary but I listened and one of the points she made is that this is not the first time in the 100 year history of the NAACP that it addressed what is still clearly a problem – images of African Americans. Wasn’t the movement essentially founded on our lack of representation? And the most compelling point she made was that it’s time to change our representation and images permanently.

That’s when I woke up.

The end result was the beginning of a movement: Color Vision. Jonnice is my co-creator of the Facebook group Color Vision and she is my co-conspirator in the movement. LOL So far, there are 40 members in the group and these members represent many facets of media from journalism to broadcast to publishing to music and acting. And these members are joined by media consumers, smart and savvy people, with a voice.

Color Vision will become a regular section in this blog. In the coming weeks guest contributors will share their thoughts on the many issues related to this topic and the report.

Watch these videos from 1981 that lend a historical perspective on the topic of mass-mediated images of African Americans and documents just how long this issue has been a problem.

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Filed under: African Americans, Color Vision, Mass-Mediated Images, Stereotypes, Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Colleague to Colleague

Bad stuff.

jonathan_hay_journalistYesterday, I found this article on AOL’s Black Voices (here) about a publicist, Jonathan Hay, who “punk’d” the press and made up the story about singer Rihanna’s alledged relationship with mega mogul Jay-Z. I don’t need to go into the lack of ethics or decorum involved in that act, because most PR practitioners and publicists know better. But, such is the world of entertainment publicity and PR. It’s very different and the rules are different. I’ve met some incredibly moral and highly ethical entertainment publicists who understand that if they do something off-kilter or flat out wrong it comes back to bite you in the butt.  And I’ve met ones like the publicist in question. I found this cute short film on YouTube.com that parodies the entertainment (film) publicity process. Talk about a strategy session.

Do you think stuff like this really happens? No…

Good stuff.

67341158binOne of my favorite colleagues, okay my favorite,  is Jonnice Slaughter of Chatterbox Publicity. She is a contributing writer/blogger for Flackme.com, a subsidiary of TalentZoo.com. Flackme.com is for, you guessed it, PR practitioners and publicists (flacks). Jonnice posted a series of blogs about mobilizing your office and PR services.  Do you know how many wonderful (and free) online services there are to help keep you organized? Well, I’ve provided links below to Jonnice’s three-part blog series on mobilization. You don’t have to be a flack to enjoy them or the services she writes about.

 

Mobilizing Your Office and PR Services, Part 1

Mobilizing Your Office and PR Services, Part 2

Mobilizing Your Office and PR Services, Part 3

And no, Jonnice, I didn’t get pre-approval on that photo of you! 

Serious stuff.

One of the things I preach constantly about is guarding one’s online identity and persona. I cannot preach it enough in regard to publicists and PR professionals who use Twitter.com, Facebook and other social media to post updates. If your updates are not locked, they become a part of a public timeline easily documented on Google. PR professionals and publicists are in the business of making others look good, not in the business of making ourselves look crazy. I have developed a few rules for my updates:

  • Be engaging but not confrontational or contentious. I never pose a question or make a comment that draws ire or anger. If someone responds to an update with anger, I don’t respond back.
  • If someone irritates me online, I don’t respond. I either avoid them at all costs or delete them from my friend/follower base.
  • I rarely if ever use profanity online. The one time I used profanity I was truly livid about something and then I instantly went back and deleted the comment. The reason I deleted it is simple: Everything I think and feel is not subject to or open to public display. 
  • I rarely if ever direct message or send private messages to people I don’t know unless it is totally business-oriented. And by the same token I use IM or chat applets in the same manner. 
  • I don’t participate in non-clinical sexual conversations online. 
  • I never lie.

Here is a really cute and cool Web article about “netiquette” or Internet etiquette. The irony of me disclosing my rules of engagement is that I’ve encountered almost all of my worst-case scenarios this morning and it’s barely after noon. (sigh)

Necessary stuff.

This week, Rene Syler created a wonderful social networking community, I’ve Been Laid Off, and it’s taking off like wildfire. If you know of anyone in need of that type of network, send them to I’ve Been Laid Off. And if you know of experts on rebounding from job loss, please send them to the site as well. This is obviously a tough time of year to be laid off or fired. In fact, Rene plans to have an online chat and video conferencing session with a psychiatrist on the issue of unemployment and grief. 

Best, Robin

robin@thejstandard.com

Filed under: Colleague to Colleague, Help for the Practitioner, PR Standards & Practices, , , , , , , , ,

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
robin@thejstandard.com

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

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