Spinsie on: The Star Mag Divorce Rumour, the Pram Walk and Burberry so love, much one second smiley look media spin this week
Morning Ballsy! Spinsie here. As you know, I work as a spin doctor, so I see a lot of campaigns and a lot of PR and a lot of prepared statements. I’ve been watching the past week with an enormous amount of interest. Here is my opinion; I apologise in advance for the length. For the tl:dr crowd – I think we’re watching some very good issues management. It’s so good you can hardly see the seams.
Issues management (let’s call it IM) is polite talk for crisis control. A company or celeb will use issue management specialists when they have a really bad story that is out of control and needs to be put back on track so an organisation or brand can start enjoying largely positive media again.
One of the main objectives of IM is change the conversation and if that’s not possible, at least add some new topics to the mix or, if it’s really bad, offer an apology and promise to improve. Another important objective is to silence (or at least drown out) your sternest critics without ever acknowledging them or engaging with them.
So what has been the main flavour of comments on the Cumberstories in the last year? What do people say on the message boards? Pretty simple: she’s cold/she never smiles/ he doesn’t look happy/ this just like Tom Cruise/Or Ben and Jen/Wheres the baby/ I hate them both/he just married her for publicity/she’s a gold digger.
And what do his sternest critics say? Again, no surprises: This is a fake marriage/that is a fake belly/that is a fake baby/they hate each other/he looks like he’s been exhumed/she looks like she could tear out his living heart without a moment’s remorse/they don’t live together/he’s not coping/could this be anymore fake.
…and so on. Incidentally, there’s no judgement for those views. I am a card-carrying sceptic and have said many of those things.
There are a lot of problems with his image, and most of them are related to his marriage. So how do you clear this up without looking like you’re acknowledging or engaging with the views of the sternest critics, and generate more positive feedback, while at the same time pushing the negative websites down the search results, and replace the bad photos with shots that appear more loving?
First step: Create a fake enemy that your clients will fight as one. Oh look! There’s a nasty article in the Star.
That article raised topics (bickering, bad father) that have never been discussed amongst the sceptics. I’d argue the Cumbles don’t share a house or even a suburb so bickering would be impossible. But I digress. That article got a bit of traction and better still, it is pretty easy to contradict.
When a story like that appears in something like the Star, the subject’s agent will get a few/many/million calls. If they say no comment it fans the flames. A good PR agent will ignore the minor outlets and place their response with the biggest circulation: “Mate, you know and I know that article is garbage. If you can spike the bickering story and hang on a couple hours/days, I can give you some great shots, exclusive. No, honestly, you will LOVE these and so will your readers. Nah, can’t say too much now. Just trust me on this one!”
They can arrange a pap date, or provide some perfect shots they prepared earlier.
Who cares if it looks like a response to the Star article? It’s a scoop and oh look! There’s the bubby! Look at his little socks!
So your general public is all agog at the bubby and the coupledom. Your sternest critics have to take a while to assess and regroup. With a bit of luck, you might divide them. Meanwhile, the general conversation is getting louder. It will peak soon, and everyone will get bored.
So you need to add some new topics. You need something completely left of field, something that separates him from Tom and Ben A and anyone else with marital issues stuck all over their brand. Something that compliments (not blurs or detracts from) your first response. So…
Third Step: Could you imagine Tom or Ben A or anyone else carrying that brief case? It’s pretty unique. It was an unusual accessory. Everyone commented on it. Where did he get it? What’s in it? Why is he carrying it? He’s a bit eccentric, isn’t he?
And hey, look at her shoes! They’re in the front row! He said hello to Kate Moss and Sienna! Oh, and look now! Erdem! She’s got a pink dress. I love the dress. I don’t love the dress. It’s a pretty colour. She is very slim. Love the shoes. Hate the shoes. I want those shoes. She looks so pretty with some make up. OMG she’s actually smiling!
Now compare his image with this time last week. It looks better this week. He looks better. Read the boards. People still haven’t fallen in love with her, but they are more accepting of the marriage. That’s important - you can’t spin a divorce if people don’t believe the marriage. How long, I wonder, before we see some “accidental” photos if the interior of their house?
Which brings me to the last hidden gems of this whole production: finally, they’re playing this in unison. No more mixed messages or crossfire. They’re relaying one message in one voice. And if there really is trouble in paradise further down the track … well, that was already out there. Everyone can say that they saw this coming. Clever, huh!
And as for future projects, well, after Hamlet, he has Black Mass, Hollow Crown on BBC, the Dr Strange, then Sherlock. That’s quite enough to be getting on with this year, don’t you think?
Moreover, I bet he has quite a few more lined up. There’s no need to reveal them now – no point in having her image stain any future commitments or for her to be able to put a claim on possible future earnings. It’s far more beneficial to release some details about exciting new projects when you’re reinventing him as a divorced man.
And who is that mysterious bloke herding them around fashion week? Maybe he’s a London Fashion Week shepherd. Or maybe the IM mob have realised one of the huge flaws in the stories they spin is the ongoing presence of his PR agent. Karon is almost a permanent fixture and eminently recognisable to his fans. It’s a cardinal PR sin: you don’t want your PR handler as well known as you are – that dispels all the illusion you’re trying so hard to spin. You need someone anonymous who cannot be appropriated as part of the story.
You also need time and a strategy and risk assessment. No way was this production cooked up in ten minutes.
Anyway, that’s my take. For the record, I still think the marriage’s fake and I still think she holds him in contempt. Even if he turned up tomorrow with a bag of mandarins and “Sophie Is My God” tattooed on his forehead, I would assume he had a vitamin c deficiency and that she anesthetised him and tattooed him in his sleep. I wish her no ill will, and I have great admiration for his skills as an actor, but nothing would convince me of the authenticity of this yarn.
Oh, and one last thing – a lot of sceptics said last week that the Star article was the beginning of the end. Wouldn’t it be funny if we were right?
Ballsy: Thanks Spinsie! Hugs! :D
Oh, yes - we saw some spin this week. Tho they still didn’t really manage to 100% pull it off at the Fashion Show. That one pic of them actually looking smiley and at each other is the ONE doing the rounds. Please ignore that she looked at him for less than a second in actuality, all the tight-lipped looks and other awkwardness, and the little hissy fight they seemed to have after the photocall and on FROW. Their spinning wheel is on overdrive at the mo.
Hmmm, so the bag was a “look at this, over here, THIS” diversion/talking point? It worked.
Future work? All those you mentioned other than DS and Sherlock are in the can. And after our discussion the other day, oh look, that Edison TWC flick is being talked about again. Funny that.
Correction from Spinsie (I’ve fixed it above):
Ballsy, Spinsie here - huge typo in my post: in the second last part it should read “I wish her no ill will.” I really don’t. Repeat - I wish her no ill will. I guess it can’t be corrected, but I need to reitereate it - no hate, no ill will. Apologies for anyone who was offended by that mistake.