MEDIA ROUNDUP: Representing big celebrities - not as easy as itlooks? The battle over top celebrities is as fierce in the media as itis in production studios and talent agencies...

Placing celebrities in the media is one of the toughest and easiest

jobs in PR. One the one hand, everyone from The New York Times to The

National Enquirer wants your help; on the other, everyone wants

something new and original.

General-interest media outlets across the country have done everything

they can to work celebrities into their coverage, blurring the lines

between traditional media and the so-called "down-market" press.

"Since...1995, we've been arm wrestling with magazines like People,

Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and others for the same exclusive material," says

Tony Frost, editor of the Star tabloid.

A recent week found Julia Roberts not only on the cover of People and

Us, but also Time magazine, which ran a piece called "America's Best

Entertainers." Sharing newsstands was a Newsweek special edition: Issues


The cover? Movie stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 2.

Celebrity competition

In recent years, celebrity journalism has altered. "The thing that's

changed the most is how competitive it's become," notes Lewis Kay,

director of the entertainment division at Bragman Nyman Cafarelli (BNC).

"Everybody wants access, and everybody needs something original."

In some cases, a celebrity journalist doesn't even need an interview in

order to profile a star. "They have been more aggressive in writing

about them whether or not they get cooperation," says leading Hollywood

publicist Pat Kingsley, partner at PMK/HBH. "They do a lot of paste-up

pieces on people if the celebrity declines the interview. It's not that

they quote you, they just pick up other quotes that you've given in

other interviews and make a piece out of it."

While this unsolicited, often positive media coverage would be manna

from heaven in other PR fields, Kingsley says, "We don't like it because

if a magazine calls you and says, 'We'd like to do an interview with

your client,' you may have just done an interview with a competing

magazine for a particular cover. So the second magazine has the idea to

beat the first magazine, and they'll slap together a story that you

haven't cooperated on. That can kill the cover story for the magazine

you have cooperated with."

Of course, only a handful of celebrities are subject to that intense

competition. For most other celebrities and their publicists, it's a

strange and often fickle courtship with the press, as the stars,

editors, and producers continually looking to trade up or down, with the

stars look for the most prestigious cover and the journalists looking

for the most prestigious stars. "For every Julia Roberts there are 50

actresses fighting for the other 25 magazine covers," says BNC's


Occasionally, this can lead to hard feelings, but no one, especially

celebrity journalists, can afford to stay angry for long. "One of my

clients, Rebecca Romjin-Stamos, did a cover story for Glamour, and

another magazine, which shall remain nameless, was upset about it," Kay

says. "But when another of her movies was coming up they called and said

let's work together on this one."

Hollywood's editorial heavyweights

Publicists privately admit that there is a pecking order among

celebrity-centric media outlets, with magazines such as Vanity Fair,

Talk, Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Vogue, GQ, and Esquire, and TV

interviewers such as Barbara Walters and Today's Matt Lauer at the top

of the heap.

The field is also distinctive in that the editors often overshadow

individual journalists. Some publicists may insist on an interview by

Vanity Fair's Leslie Bennetts or pass information to syndicated

columnists such as Liz Smith or the New York Daily News column Rush &

Malloy. But in the end, it is editors such as Talk's Tina Brown, Terry

McDonell of Us, Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter, and Martha Nelson of

InStyle that ultimately determine not just where a story is placed, but

also its content and tone.

"One of the worst situations I've been involved in was with a writer who

did a piece on a client and an editor added a sentence just to spice it

up," says Kay. "So it's the editors you need to know as much, if not

more than the writers."

The mainstream media's current aggressive embrace of celebrity

journalism is viewed with a certain amount of irony by long-standing

celebrity-centered outlets like The National Enquirer and Star. But

while the subject matter may overlap, Frost says there's a huge

philosophical difference between the mainstream press and the so-called

"supermarket tabloids."

"Publications like the Enquirer and Star have massive reach, but we

don't wait to be told we can have access to a celebrity," he says. "Most

of the time, the mainstream media only gets access to a celebrity when

the subject has a movie, TV show, or autobiography coming out. And then

they do the rounds and it's all one-dimensional stuff. We're out there

breaking stories on our own agenda."

But Kingsley says it's a bit of a myth that top publicists and

celebrities have an iron grip on the entire celebrity journalism

process, dictating everything from photos to what can and can't be

asked. "We don't tell them that they can't ask something," she says.

"What we do tell them is if it's a subject that is sensitive to the

actor, you can ask the question, but if your story is dependent on it,

the client is not going to get into it. So if you know that going in,

you won't be surprised."

Star PR power

And while there are different levels of stardom which can impact media

interest, a celebrity hook will often attract more interest for a PR

pitch. Porter Novelli SVP Audrey Adlam says client Princess Cruise Lines

regularly uses, while not white-hot, still well-known celebrities to

lure media to themed ship launches. "One of the criteria is that the

celebrity not only be organic to the project that we're working on...but

they also have nostalgic, kitsch, or current appeal," she says. "Fabio

is a very good example. What's better than having the King of Romance

for the romance-themed launch of the Ocean Princess?"

The cruise company also used a 30th anniversary reunion of Love Story

stars Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw for the same launch, generating

coverage in USA Today and the Associated Press, as well as on Good

Morning America, Oprah, and Entertainment Tonight. Christine Cea, Porter

Novelli's director of the Princess Cruise account, adds that it's not

just celebrity writers who are interested in access to the stars. It

appears as though a famous name is a draw for writers of all hues.


Magazines: Vanity Fair; Talk; Premiere; Maxim; Details; Interview; Time;

Newsweek; Entertainment Weekly; People; Us; Star; The National Enquirer;

Rolling Stone; Spin; Vogue; Cosmopolitan

Trade publications: Hollywood Reporter; Variety; Billboard

Television: Good Morning America; Today; Oprah; Larry King Live; 20/20;

Entertainment Tonight; Access Hollywood; The Rosie O'Donnell Show; The

Tonight Show; The Late Show with David Letterman; E!; VH1; MTV

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