10th anniversary: entertainment roundtable

Kimberly Maul held a virtual roundtable in September where she spoke to entertainment experts about trends affecting the industry.

Participants:

Rachel McCallister, co-president and co-founder, mPRm Public Relations

Jim Kennedy, EVP for Global Communications, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Michelle Mikoljak Stevenson, vice president and global co-chair, FH Entertainment (Fleishman-Hillard)

Chris Robichaud, President and COO, BNC Marketing & PR

Paul McGuire, EVP of Network Communications, The CW

Rita Tateel, President, The Celebrity Source; also President of PRSA-LA

David Tinson, Sr. Director for Communications, EA Sports

Kimberly Maul (PRWeek): The Internet has been one major game-changer in PR in recent years. Looking forward, how do you think the Internet will continue to affect entertainment and entertainment PR?


Rita
Tateel (The Celebrity Source): Because news is now instant, within minutes of happening, entertainment publicists no longer have as much control over what is initially communicated about their celebrity clients. As a result, having good crisis communication skills is more important than ever before.


Jim Kennedy (Sony)
: Building relationships with key bloggers is as important as relationships with journalists.


Michelle Mikoljak
Stevenson (FH Entertainment): From a PR perspective, the Internet allows us to increase the number of communications vehicles from which to distribute a client's message, as well as to be more creative with format.


Kennedy (Sony)
: An "online" strategy has to be part of any roll-out plan, and sometimes it's front and center.


Paul McGuire (The CW)
: More jobs due to more outlets and diminishing importance of certain esteemed publications over time. Look at the fall from relevance of Time and Newsweek due to the Internet.


Rachel
McCallister (mPRm): The Internet has been a game changer in two respects. It has created a new platform for the delivery of content, resulting in the upheaval of the entertainment industry. And it has changed the way we communicate with the audience. The traditional gatekeepers are gone.


Stevenson (FH Entertainment)
: Instead of just entertaining audiences, it allows for engagement with a brand and its messages in a way not possible before.


Chris
Robichaud (BNC): Internet changes the process of distributing information. In essence the wall between the consumer and celebrity or entertainment product has come down. You need to understand and embrace this, rather than try to manage and always be in "crisis mode."


David
Tinson (EA Sports): In the videogame industry, with the massive migration to online, the Internet is our prime medium to promote and deliver the content that our fans most want to see. Gone are the days of our prime targets being enthusiast magazines, with static pages of screenshots. The Internet is the best and the most-timely vehicle to push content.


McCallister (mPRm)
: Bloggers are the new influencers. And the power of social networks on word of mouth are exponential, for better or for worse.


Tinson (EA Sports)
: Bloggers have certainly helped re-define the definition of "media" as well. Anyone who has a cell phone with a camera on it is media.


Robichaud (BNC)
: Ironically, the majority of gate keepers of information today are 30-plus years-old, and still think of traditional media. The next generation of consumers will only know the Internet, so we can't run from it.


Maul (PRWeek): Do you think consumers will go online more for entertainment, like to watch their favorite TV shows online?


Kennedy (Sony)
: Consumers, particularly younger ones, get entertainment everywhere/anywhere (and sometimes are creating it, too).


Stevenson (FH Entertainment)
: I think consumers increasingly expect to consume content on their own terms and even to be able to customize it.


Kennedy (Sony)
: The traditional theater-going experience won't go away, though, at least not soon, because no device can replicate the feel of being in a room with hundreds of people enjoying an experience together.


McCallister (mPRm)
: They are already going online for entertainment. The ability to watch when and where you want is superceding the size of the screen. And it's interesting that clips of Katie Couric's interview with Sarah Palin had more of a life online and on other news media than the CBS newscast.


Tinson (EA Sports)
: Our consumers certainly live online. And we need to deliver them content both in the form of promotional material, but also in rich, interactive chunkable content from our products that extends the experience into the online space.


McGuire (The CW)
: They already are but with TV eventually you'll see measurement on a three screen platform: TV/online/mobile.


Tateel (The Celebrity Source)
: While the 30-plus generation will probably still want good quality viewing through traditional forms, the next generation will want it when and where they want.


Stevenson (FH Entertainment)
: It's also impacting how you tell a story because attention spans to watch a clip on YouTube are much shorter.


Robichaud (BNC)
: It is funny how we talk about the Internet as this new medium. It was 1997 when the Blair Witch Project used the Internet and a blogger named Harry Knowles became famous. When you think about it…Is the Internet today, mainstream media, and traditional media now alternative?


McCallister (mPRm)
: With day and date releases not too far away, people will decide what type of experience they want. Is it an event movie theater type of movie or is it ok to watch on a smaller screen.


Kennedy (Sony)
: That's an interesting way of looking at it! The problem with the multiplicity of sources, however, is that content is still king, and not everyone is talented or wise.


Tinson (EA Sports)
: Chris, we often think of it exactly that way.


Maul (PRWeek): Along those lines, will the trend of bloggers as influencers only increase?


Stevenson (FH Entertainment)
: There is clearly a major shift going on in terms of how news is covered. The shrinking newsrooms and multiple beats covered by a single contact is impacting all of us. I don't think the contextualization and big picture perspective that the mainstream media can provide will be replaced, but there's no denying the influence of bloggers. They are able to present things in the framework of a personal recommendation and when you've build a relationship with someone, you trust what they have to say.


Kennedy (Sony)
: The more talented bloggers will rise to the top, just as the better writers became popular in traditional media. And the smarter traditional media writers are becoming famous online too.


McCallister (mPRm)
: Not only will bloggers increase as influencers, so will social networks. It's easier to trust your friends. And now that people have 200+ friends they communicate with regularly, anyone can be an influencer in the word of mouth game.


Robichaud (BNC)
: Yes, in today's world we have both "Eyewitness" News and "I" Witness News. And neither are going away.


McGuire (The CW)
: Many deposed critics on my screener list have been replaced by bloggers, and then some, if that's any indication.


Tinson (EA Sports)
: And as communications professionals, as with any members of the media, we know we can either be reactive or proactive with our messaging and as the influence of bloggers grows we don't want to be left only reacting, but in proactively working with them as we would any other form of media.


Tateel (The Celebrity Source)
: PRSA-LA had a program called "The Future of Social Media: Engage or Die." One outcome was the understanding that social media is about putting the "public" back in public relations and that this is a more dramatic change in how we communicate than the introduction of radio, TV, and films.


Maul (PRWeek): Do you think product placement will become more prominent in TV shows, movies, video games, etc? How can brands and entertainment properties work together in the future?


McGuire (The CW)
: It's already a key fabric of the TV business and will only continue to grow, but it must be done organically to a program so as not to alienate viewers or make a mockery of the production.


Kennedy (Sony)
: The virtual world is being populated with a lot of the same kind of advertising as the real world.

Stevenson (FH Entertainment): I don't know about more prominent, but more integrated. We all interact with brands throughout the day, the key is to make the placements organic to the storyline. Audiences are savvy enough to know when an actor is delivering a laundry list of brand attributes. The goal should be to position the product as closely as possible to how you would interact with it in real life. That's a win for the consumer, the brand, and the content creators.


McCallister (mPRm)
: Product placement is here to stay because it helps the bottom line of content creators as well as provides brand marketers an opportunity to get in front of hard-to-reach audiences no longer influenced by advertising.


Robichaud (BNC)
: It already is prominent in all forms of media. The only issue is how to monetize it and manage it in the creative process.


Kennedy (Sony)
: more and more celebrities are having to engage in their own kind of "product placement" - placing themselves in different venues. Gone are the days when they could just rely on the music or their play on the field.


Tateel (The Celebrity Source)
: Consumers are going to be more influenced by the products and services which are imbedded into their favorite films and TV programs. Celebrities are influencers so if a celebrity is the one using, holding, wearing, eating, or drinking the brand, so much the better.


McCallister (mPRm)
: The challenge is being creative about how product integration is done. Clumsy efforts will only turn off the audience, defeating the whole purpose.


Stevenson (FH Entertainment)
: And when it's done well, audiences respond to it.


Tinson (EA Sports)
: Totally agree with Rachel. So many opportunities for brands to be integrated, but it's not as easy as some people think. Done poorly consumers won't respond...or they will respond, but very poorly.


Robichaud (BNC)
: If you think about it, some reality shows have given product placement a bad name, because it is so overt. When done right it truly is part of the fabric of the show and actually can compel a consumer to purchase a product.

Maul (PRWeek): Let's look at celebrities as brands. Will this celebrity-obsessed culture continue? And how will increased celebrity interest affect PR?

Tateel (The Celebrity Source)
: As times get tough, people turn to diversions and like living vicariously through the lives of celebrities...and times are tough I'm afraid.

Tinson (EA Sports): In many of our products, product placemen,t and in-game advertising actually enhances the user experience significantly. Imagine playing NASCAR 09 without signage from sponsors. The experience completely loses its authenticity.


Tateel (The Celebrity Source)
: Celebrity obsession is here to stay. Consumers are obsessed with celebrities, celebrities are obsessed with celebrities, sports stars want to be movie stars, music stars want to be TV stars, and consumer product companies want to move their goods and services through the shows, concerts, films, and other experiences that bring their brands to life.


McCallister (mPRm)
: The public's fascination with celebrity is nothing new. It's the extent to which we know everything about them that has changed. It's the number of self-created celebrities developed via the Internet and reality TV that's new. The question is how much influence they will they continue to have in promoting products, ideas, and services.


Stevenson (FH Entertainment)
: Do you think that reality stars now becoming "celebrities" devalues celebrity?


McCallister (mPRm)
: Yes.


McGuire (The CW)
: Yes.


Stevenson (FH Entertainment)
: Me too.


Kennedy (Sony)
: The real celebrities to my mind are the ones who lay low.


Robichaud (BNC)
: Celebrity will continue, as it is really about people with a platform to deliver their message. As new media opens up more platforms and delivery mediums, more "celebrities" will be created every day, and some of these won't have SAG cards.


McCallister (mPRm)
: Totally agree with Jim.

McGuire (The CW): There aren't many Paul Newmans left around, sadly.


Tateel (The Celebrity Source)
: No. There's a true class distinction in Hollywood. Each "celebrity" is now challenged to create their own brand, distinctive from the rest of the wannabes.


Tinson (EA Sports)
: I agree, the ones who lay low are often the ones who actually "do" something, have some talent other than being famous for being on reality TV.


Kennedy (Sony)
: I have a hard time imagining any of this year's new musical artists being able to fill stadiums 40 years from now the way the Stones or Paul McCartney can still do. The shelf life of fame seems much shorter.


Maul (PRWeek): But the younger generation is accustomed to even want to be these reality stars. How can PR prepare for this generation? One that has a different definition of celebrity and entertainment?


Stevenson (FH Entertainment)
: In some ways it makes our jobs harder because, to Jim's point about shelf life, you may think someone is perfect as a campaign spokesperson now, but they won't resonate with your audience in six months.


McCallister (mPRm)
: The challenge is that so many people are baring their souls online they think it's natural for celebs. Facebook and Twitter allow people to keep their "friends" up to date on everything they do.


Kennedy (Sony)
: Imagine what the vetting process will be like for a Supreme Court Justice Nominee thirty years from now - how much personal info will be available!


McGuire (The CW)
: It will probably be a former reality star.


Kennedy (Sony)
: Ha! Now there's a TV show.


Maul (PRWeek): Looking toward the future of entertainment, with all the changes taking place, do you think Los Angeles and New York will continue to be the hubs of the industry?


Kennedy (Sony)
: To create great content, tell compelling stories, you pretty much still need real people to get together in person (at least for most movies and TV shows), so that's likely to keep LA and New York front and center (at least for US based content).


Tateel (The Celebrity Source)
: With continuing technological advancements and the incentive packages being offered by other states and countries, we will see more of a shift outside of LA and New York for production. Unless city and state leaders make filming more attractive in LA, there will be a serious erosion of the entertainment industry, with serious economic results.


McCallister (mPRm)
: As long as there are concentrations of talent, they will continue to be hubs. But new technology and tax incentives may change all of that. Fact is, content can be produced anywhere


Stevenson (FH Entertainment)
: Exactly. Might not migrate to another city - just more to the Web.


Maul (PRWeek): Does anyone have any more comments about the future of entertainment PR?


McCallister (mPRm)
: Just wish we had a crystal ball...


Tateel (The Celebrity Source)
: My crystal ball is at the shop but I'll let you know what it says after it's repaired.

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