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.