A PR company must represent the interests of its client - but it’s not always possible to do this without alienating the media. A spat in Hollywood last week involving the prestigious publicity agency PMK illustrated this maxim perfectly.
A PR company must represent the interests of its client - but it’s
not always possible to do this without alienating the media. A spat in
Hollywood last week involving the prestigious publicity agency PMK
illustrated this maxim perfectly.
As reported here previously (PRWeek, July 12), PMK founder Pat Kingsley
gained an unprecedented say in the publicity campaign for the Stanley
Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut, due to her representation of both Tom
Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Nobody questions Kingsley’s intimate knowledge of how the US press and
television networks operate, nor her ability to assess when to give
journalists total access - and when to shut them out.
In the case of Eyes, the normally infallible Kingsley appears to have
made a misstep. According to the Los Angeles Times, PMK distributed a
waiver at the film’s press junket requiring TV shows to present the
agency with rough cuts of Cruise interviews prior to transmission of
The PR firm would then get the opportunity to veto segments that it
didn’t like. In addition, the waiver obliged shows to destroy interview
footage that they weren’t going to use.
It’s not unusual in showbiz for PMK - or other agencies, for that matter
- to attempt to control how their star clients are depicted. Strategies
vary from approving questions in advance to selecting the journalist to
conduct an interview. If media outlets don’t agree to the agency’s
demands, they can face retaliation - such as being excluded from the
next Tom Cruise film.
The PMK waiver on Eyes, which went out to top shows such as
Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood, was clearly considered a
step too far. Kingsley said that when it was called to her attention,
she got rid of it. This is either because journalists refused to sign
it, or because she realized on her own that it was a tactical error.
Nonetheless, everybody interviewing Cruise was asked to sign a new
waiver, the content of which was unclear.
Kingsley told the LA Times that her primary concern was that if news
organizations had unrestricted access to interview footage, they would
be able to exploit Cruise’s image long after the campaign for Eyes was
over. In that vein, PMK denied MSNBC permission to run a series of old
Of course, with Cruise - still in his prime - and many other major stars
on her roster, Kingsley obviously believes that she has the leverage to
make tough demands. And a lot of the time she does.
But the fact that even she can stumble serves as a warning to other
Too often, agencies are asking for the earth on behalf of clients with
less than half the stature of Cruise. And even he won’t be Tom Cruise