Why Rebecca Black Could Use a Publicist

The saying goes, “Any publicity is good publicity,” but is that necessarily true?

Just ask 14-year-old YouTube sensation Rebecca Black. Black is the pop singer in the viral video, “Friday.” Spring 2011, the video had a crashing effect on the world of social media. Obtaining over 160 million views, the teen singer was instantly introduced to stardom. Sadly, it wasn’t the kind of notoriety most would prefer. Black and her infamous music video were labeled by most as… for lack of better words, terrible.

Publicity can be defined as public awareness. This includes taking the good with the bad.  Because of the immediacy of Web 2.0. and the engaging format of social media, Rebecca Black now is a household name. The impact of the video made its way to other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Black currently holds the top position as the most tweeted topic for the first half of this year. Unfortunately, the bulk of the young star’s success can be attributed to the influence of negative comments.

According to the study, “Following The Fashionable Friend,” the generation of publicity through blogs versus online magazines, researchers concluded that blogs (a representation of social media) have a greater effectiveness of gaining publicity versus the online magazines (a representation of traditional media). This conclusion was supported by the idea that blogs foster para-social interaction, the social media version of word of mouth. While we cannot completely compare this study to the Rebecca Black  (due to the difference of mediums), we can find similarities and relevant suggestions in the study’s findings.

Social media warrants a certain level of personal interaction. According to the “The Social Landscape,” an infographic by CMO.com, on the social landscape scale, YouTube is a great medium to facilitate a brand, next to Facebook. It is also a good platform for encouraging communication. ARK Music Factory was smart in considering YouTube as an effective venue, but unless used to its fullest potential, YouTube will act like a TV channel (one-way communication). Rebecca Black shouldn’t be blamed for the poor management of communication from her party. The finger should be pointed at whoever choose YouTube as the platform and at whoever failed to maintain the page.

YouTube is a great forum to generate communication, but in order for communication to transpire, both a sender and a receiver need to be present. While viewers bombarded Black’s video with negative and nasty comments, Black’s representation remained nearly invisible on the site. Black herself responded to tweets, but there was never a direct hit on the real source of negativity. It was up until mid June that the original video was taken down.

This video is not the original. It is the correct music video.

This is where a publicist would have come in handy. These conversations were happening and because nobody hit the direct source of negative publicity, the bad press became almost uncontrollable. While much of the bad publicity does come from para-social interaction, we mustn’t discredit the video. The song was poorly written and unfortunately, the real victim is Black who was only responsible for singing the track.

The study highlights that because blogs work best for gaining publicity, transparency is more important than ever in gaining credibility. Social media platforms, because they can be so personal, run higher risks in establishing credibility. As a result, the return of investment is more than likely always worth it. Maybe if Black had established herself as a credible online presence first, she would’ve had a strong foundation of followers to defend her on online forums. There would’ve been more to lose, but on the other hand, much more to gain.

Perez for President

Hard work pays off. Just look at celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton. Named by Forbes Magazine as the #1 Web Celeb for 2007, 2008 and 2009, Hilton is one of the most relevant examples of how social media, if used for what it’s worth, fosters effective personal branding. Hilton’s social media use has generated enough exposure for himself that he not only does he have a full time job, but he is also frequently presented with several other job opportunities as well.

Hilton’s claim to fame comes from his bold, scandalous Hollywood gossip blog. His vibrant personality paired with his outspoken nature has created a following, a community, around himself and his work. His apparent success has networks like Oxygen and E! calling to offer positions such as reality show host and fashion commentator. Perez is being paid to just be him, the goal of any self-brander.

Like any smart social media guru, Hilton recognizes the many communities in which he thrives. Last fall, devastating news rocked the gay community after the world learned of consecutive gay teen suicides that were prompted by peer bullying. Hilton, a homosexual himself, chose to stand at the forefront. The celeb blogger, emotionally moved by the tragic events, vowed to stop bullying himself. The vow was attention grabbing amongst the blogging community for Hilton’s trademark was his cutthroat analyzing. The change of attitude did not slow Hilton down in his devotion to the cause online.

Using his resources as a popular blogger, he has helped promote the campaign, “It Gets Better.” The campaign is a viral effort to help raise awareness and help stop suicide among homosexual teens. Hilton’s role in the campaign not only displays his values, but it also reveals a multidimensional layer to the blogger. This level of personality helps audiences emotionally connect better with the brand (in this case, the brand being Hilton). It is the idea of connectedness. It is through this connection that Hilton is able to engage his audience in order to distribute information and provoke organic arousal of the subject. More specifically, it could be in the form of a retweet on Twitter or a shared video on Facebook.

Video plays a huge role in the success of this campaign. The emotional appeal granted by the combined elements of sound and sight truly triggers a sense of obligation within the viewer. This ripple effect, facilitated by YouTube, had famous figures such as President Barack Obama, Anne Hathaway, Ellen DeGeneres and the staffs of Google and Facebook (just to name a few) making their own videos to support the cause. The response is extraordinary and the exposure of the cause is phenomenal. Before the birth of YouTube, would this even have been possible?

Hilton is the perfect example of a self-branded professional in the 21st century. It is undeniable to admit that Hilton could not have done what he has done without the capabilities of Web 2.0. Through his blog, YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook page, Hilton is able to leave an effective and frequent impression on his audience, something that was not guaranteed with traditional media. Thanks to two-way conversation and online interaction, Hilton is able to cause a stir and get people talking.

Trump Your Self-Brand

With power comes responsibility. Since the birth of Web 2.0, there has been a noticeable shift in the power of control. The tables have turned on the corporate world as consumers, through the venues of social media, are now the ones forming the message.  It is a scary thought for many managers as the only way to cope with it is to embrace it. As Web 2.0 continues to grow, the emphasis on consumer control and influence is becoming stronger.  No longer is the company the sole proprietor of the brand. The audience is. The same can be said of the self-brand.

According to the article “Be Who You Want To Be,” strong identities with loud voices are forming all over the web through social media platforms like blogs and social networks. Social network, Facebook, is a key variable in the creation of what the article calls “social identity.” Social identity can be defined as the life one lives online. Through the given categories, a person is able to define him or herself, and through online interaction, a person is able to distinguish himself or herself. Social identity functions much like a brand. In a sense, it is your brand. The only difference between social identity and the self-brand is the accounting for the perception of the audience. The self-brand as addressed in the article, “The Power of a Self Brand,” includes the perception of value as seen by an audience whereas social identity lies strictly in the hands of the individual.

Social identity, while in the hands of the individual, can be abused. It can serve as an online mask to the entire world. This can be particularly discrediting to any attempts of establishing and maintaining a self-brand. Consistency at all points of contact is vital for credibility and accountability. Some may see the maintenance of establishing a self-brand as unnecessary, but with the power of Web 2.0, you run the risk of allowing someone else to brand you. (Kaputa). The same can be applied to the corporate world.

The 2007 article, “Creating Brand You,” is wise beyond its years. It addresses the issue of the self-brand’s vulnerability before what most might consider the peak of social media. It claims we must take control of our own brands before our audience does. The article is more inspiring than it’s featured commentator, Donald Trump, who bluntly states that most people are incapable of branding themselves.

While we may not be able to compare ourselves to “The Donald,” we can most certainly use him as a point of reference. As a world-renowned businessman, television star and philanthropist, Donald Trump has leveraged his experience and connections to expand his brand into the real-estate industry, entertainment industry and hospitality industry. While much of his self-branding is a conscious effort, his success speaks for itself. Much of his image comes from the perceptions of his audience. For example, his audience has contributed to his brand with the repeat of his signature line, “You’re fired,” from the television show, The Apprentice.  This is a prime example of what makes a successful self-brand.

By manipulating his identity and by empowering his audience, Donald Trump has successfully branded himself into an American icon.

What Do You And Coca-Cola Have In Common? A perspective on self-branding

MTV. Coca-Cola. Apple.

Sound familiar? Upon reading the words listed above, I can almost bet your mind automatically thinks of music and reality shows for MTV, red and white colored cans for Coca-Cola and lastly, the trademark apple logo for Apple. Of course, the list is not limited to what I’ve suggested. The idea is that in your mind, you thought of something when reading those names. These companies have left a lasting impression in your mind, and because of that, they are considered corporate brands.

Branding- what is it?

A corporate brand is a mental correlation created through consistent messaging and promotion of a company within the minds of all constituents. It is a conscious effort that results in the association of the intangible identity with the tangible name. For example, MTV has branded themselves as the channel for the young and wild by featuring promiscuous reality shows and airing provocative music videos. MTV has become much more than a product or a service; in a sense, it has become an attitude and a lifestyle.

Who can do it?

With the birth of Web 2.0, the act of branding has become easier and more accessible not only for corporations, but now for individuals. Tom Peters, a management professional, is linked to the original definition of personal branding. His idea simply replaces “the company” as the subject with the “individual” as the new focus. (Elmore). It may seem a little far-fetched or even a little bit intimidating especially when you compare yourself to well-known brands like Coca-Cola or Apple. I suggest avoid comparing altogether. Instead, use these big names as a point of reference.

With the growth of social media upon us, the tools to self-brand are at our fingertips. From social networking sites like Facebook, microblogs like Twitter to blogging sites like Blogger, the Internet offers all the necessary platforms to not only create your brand, but to enhance and promote it. This mature trend has already spread like wildfire through the broad spectrum of industries. I choose to blog on the entertainment industry. I will illustrate how famous figures in society are using the best (and sometimes the worst) social media practices to alter their own brands.