Two and Half Mentions: Charlie Sheen and Turning a Blind Eye

It is fascinating to watch Charlie Sheen’s rapid fall from grace as he battles his bosses at CBS. The media is giving him a big fake microphone and platform with which to spill his guts.  Can you blame the media? After all, it’s a hot story and if you’re looking for great sound bites look no further. Can you blame CBS? It is only after Sheen began his rants against Chuck Lorre that the network canceled the season and intimated that “Two and Half Men” may be dead in the water.  Despite the fact (and these are facts) that Sheen has been in domestic disputes with his former wives and girlfriends, threatening at least one at knife point, CBS kept its cool with Sheen over the years because he showed up for work on time. That’s right – he was showing up for work and playing his part. So, no matter that he has treated women like punching bags. The guy generates a lot of money for the network.

I am glad that CBS is finally putting Sheen in his place, but why didn’t it take a stand sooner? Surely they had a leg to stand on with Sheen’s arrests for domestic violence.  Other companies have immediately dismissed executives when sexual harassment charges are even brought but not proven.  No company – whether it’s in Hollywood, Houston or Helsinki – should tolerate such behavior.  What do you think Sheen’s publicists should do at this point? And does his publicity team even have Sheen’s ear? Hollywood Reporter asked some Hollywood publicists their opinion and I agree with the advice of  at least one: “I would worry about getting him a real rehab before a press rehab.”

- Diane Schwartz

SI—Time to Put the Swimsuits Back in the Drawer

Okay, I’ve had a few weeks to mull this thought over, and I’m ready to just come right out and say it. It’s time to close up the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition franchise. As a reader of the magazine since I was a kid, that’s a tough thing to say. But the bikinis and body painting have gotten old, repetitive and boring. I used to look forward to receiving the swimsuit issue, but this year I gave it one look—maybe two. Well, you might be saying that I feel this way because I’m old, repetitive and boring. But I don’t think so. The models look the same year after year. And they always get some respected SI writer to pen a totally useless article like “My Trip to the Bahamas With Brooklyn Decker.” Enough. There’s a lot of stuff happening now in the sports world, and SI would be smart to stick to it. Of course, the issue is the biggest moneymaker for SI in terms of advertising. It would be a big loss financially. So I say, just put the photos and content up on the Internet and let people access it digitally—that’s where we seem to be headed with much of our content anyway. Save the print space for what SI does best: profile interesting and inspiring athletes, write hard-hitting sports exposés and feature that great photography—of sporting events! What do you think? Agree or disagree?

–Scott Van Camp

BP Says Gulf Compensation is Too Much

Interesting story in The New York Times today about BP’s Gulf strategy. After essentially going along with the $20 billion victims compensation program, BP is now arguing that fund leader Kenneth Feinberg’s proposed settlements are too generous. It’s an interesting move for a company that has been raked over the coals by the press and the public for the damage—economic and ecological—done by the spill. Even more interesting is that BP’s 25-page document is posted on the fund’s Web site next to comments from Gulf residents, some who say they’re in danger of losing everything if they don’t get paid a fair amount. Does BP believe that sufficient time has passed since the accident and therefore it can now go on the offensive? I think it’s still too early. What do you think?

–Scott Van Camp

PR Pros and Prince Harry Weigh In On SEO

If you haven’t seen today’s story in The New York Times on SEO, make sure you read it. It covers the debate on whether writing for search engines ultimately does more harm to a brand than good, and uses the Huffington Post as an example of aggressive SEO tactics. The article is also good reference material for me, as I’m putting together the content for an SEO Webinar scheduled for March 23. If there’s something about SEO that vexes or interests you, I’d really like to know about it, so please comment. One thing is for sure, after reading the Times article I’ll be working “Prince Harry” into as many PR News headlines as possible.

–Scott Van Camp

The Sport of PR: Tackling the Commercial Impact (Caution: Story Contains Description of Harmed Doll)

By now you’ve seen many of commercials that ran during the Super Bowl and tracked the controversies stemming from a few of them.  While I followed with interest Groupon‘s decision to promote its daily deals by showcasing great food to be had (at a discount) at a Tibetan restaurant (with a side dish of  Tibet’s human rights challenges), I found the controversy surrounding HomeAway a bit more intriguing from a communications standpoint. Since dropping $3 mil on a commercial featuring a frazzled family squeezed into hotel room and resulting in a “test baby doll” being accidentally flung across the room and smashed against a window, the vacation-rental company was hit with accusations of insensitivity to the abuse of children nationwide, perhaps worlwide. I have two words for this: Come On! It is clear that the baby doll was not real, but the image of its smushed face kissing the window was enough to get the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation and other children advocacy groups demanding an apology. HomeAway’s CEO Brian Sharples did just that, and it is three pages long (for those who still print these statements). He said the company “made a mistake in judgment” and that the image of the “test baby doll is too hurtful for us not to take action.”

So millions of us will be relieved to know that it is re-shooting the ad so that the doll is being “safely caught and unharmed”. Since the “money shot” of the commercial is the image of a treasured doll gone awry in a non-vacation -home setting, HomeAway is sticking to the concept, albeit revised.  Let’s assume that the baby being thrown in the air is good enough for the advocacy groups to not cry foul. What is also interesting from a PR standpoint is the extra attention HomeAway is getting (check it out: there are more than 230,000 rentals worldwide to choose from! Oh, and it’s filing an IPO soon). The company is getting kudos for its quick and contrite response, and advocacy groups are capitalizing on the opportunity to spread their message. It’s a touchdown for all involved.  And there’s still an opportunity for HomeAway’s engaged audience to put their face on the baby in the commercial: On its site, it notes: “Now that you’ve seen the #testbaby ad, it’s time to star in it yourself. Put your face in the baby.”  Unfortunately you have to wait until the new version of the commercial is available and you won’t get to see the likeness of your face smushed, mangled and stuck to a window. Oh well.

- Diane Schwartz

Super Bowl Ad Sneaks Target Influencers

Surprising news in the advertising world this morning. After sticking with the strategy of keeping Super Bowl broadcast spots under wraps until the game, some marketers have posted sneak peaks or even full versions of those commercials online to build buzz leading up to Sunday, says a  New York Times article. I for one think it’s a great idea, giving influencers a chance to spread the word about the ads on Facebook and Twitter. Identifying the right  influencers is becoming a much talked about topic in PR. But people define influencers every which way, which muddles the process. PR News would like to get your definition leading up to our Measurement Conference March 1 in D.C. Answer the question here and you’ll get a complimentary guidebook from PR News Press. Enjoy the commercials—and the game!

–Scott Van Camp

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