The BLACK paPR Report


PR from an African American Perspective

Colleague to Colleague

happy-new-yearI’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and just share a bit about what the Colleague to Colleague section of my blog is going to look like in the coming year. 

Next week, Jonnice Slaughter will bring in the new year with a blog about business strategies for PR consultants and publicists. Christal Jordan-Mims will contribute a blog post about media training and later in the month, Delores (DeeDee) Cocheta will blog about PR and publicity for non-profits using celebrity endorsements and appearances to fundraise and raise awareness. 

You will also meet Keisha McCotry of Prominence Marketing who is going to discuss swag or celebrity gift bags as a publicity and PR tool. 

This section will become more helpful and useful, that’s the goal. 

Best, Robin


Filed under: Colleague to Colleague, PR Standards & Practices, The Business of PR & Publicity, , , , ,

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.

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

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, , , , , ,

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, , , , ,