Some celebrities and public figures seem to have an almost invincible public image built up from their appearances in traditional press, as well as their (often extensive) use of social media platforms. For me there are four notable British examples, so what important lessons can we learn from their PR genius?
Boris Johnson – Mr Brightside
The Eddie Mair interview earlier in 2013 should have been an embarrassing blunder, as should his dangling exercise on a stuck zip wire, swearing live on the news, and referring to £250k as chicken feed. However, Johnson regularly gets away with it. The Mair incident was handled in classic BoJo style, which mainly involved paying little attention to the aftermath and brushing it off by complimenting Mair’s interview skills – what a good sport Boris is. So, rather than being profusely apologetic, Johnson tends to makes as little noise as possible about the negative and instead shouts loud about what he is doing right, helping to bury the bad news.
Stephen Fry – Tweet all about it
Stephen Fry’s particular brand of intellectualism could easily serve to alienate sections of the British public, and despite some questionable Tweeting and other remarks about Polish Catholics and women, he is still considered as a borderline national treasure – so why is this? His career began back in the 80s, but his popularity is a distinctly 21st phenomenon. Fry openly admits that Twitter is his favourite media – as it helps him to communicate directly with his fans – a commitment that has made him one of the most influential individuals on the social media site. So, perhaps the lesson here is that now public figures and celebrities have the ability to communicate directly with the public, it is in their best interests to do so.
David Beckham – All is never lost
Beckham’s hero status, not only as a footballer but as a family man and British ambassador, exists in stark contrast to his sporting peers – think Giggs, Rooney or Balotelli. If we review Beckham’s career, we see him sent off for kicking an Argentinian player in 1998 – something which provoked an extremely strong reaction from the press, with The Mirror publishing a David Beckham Dartboard – and subject to allegations of an extra-marital affair in 2004, so it could seem that he is no different from any other footballer. However, what is crucial about Beckham is that he has demonstrated the chameleon ability to change, and by sticking to some old fashioned family values he has almost removed himself entirely from the negative press he courted in his early years.
Richard Branson – Always have something to give
Richard Branson is the best know entrepreneur and businessman this country has ever produced. In a time of great austerity, where the concept of the rich getting richer is a bone of great contention, Branson remains supremely popular. He is a great philanthropist and benefactor, and though this certainly helps his public image, Branson’s giving notably goes beyond this. As a genuine self-starter he is committed to inspiring others and sharing his secrets. Books such as Screw Business as Usual and Like a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School keep him connected to the 16 year old dyslexic drop-out turned top entrepreneur – a story that can give us all hope.