Cruise Control

People often ask me where PR is headed. (Now there’s a million dollar question.) In taking a page from the PR playbook, I try to keep the answer simple and stupid. After all, it’s not the number of syllables, but rather the quality of the connection that separates the good communicators from the not-so-good. The very best PR people resonate four bars all the time.

I digress. The PR professional today must consider a dual-track approach to managing a client’s reputation. In the first (vinyl-era) track, he or she continues to be charged with helping clients navigate the fickle filter of the mainstream media of which, in my opinion, many bloggers are today an entrenched part.

In the second burgeoning track, the PR pro is empowered to produce and syndicate content that offers greater (though not total) control of the reins that steer reputations or advance communications agendas. Oops. Too many syllables. I’m trying to say that PR types can (and must) also write their clients’ stories for direct and unfiltered online discovery by consumers, constituents and customers.

Today we learn of an example in which one MSM-beleaguered celebrity decided to exert creative control over his public image. No, not so much through (another) appearance on Oprah, but rather through the introduction of a rich, optimized digital extravaganza that resurrects this celeb’s greatest, A-list-making hits.

The L.A. Times yesterday blogged about Tom Cruise’s new website or, as I see it, his effort to use the second track (after falling way short on the first):

It’s beautifully designed with the latest, flashiest user interface and some of the highest-quality Web video I’ve ever seen.

It seems the YouTube Scientology video really struck a chord with the imbalanced Mr. Cruise — so much so that he hired some top gun digital producer to re-assert his legacy.

Will the site eliminate all the negativity that Mr. Cruise has so heroically earned these last few years? Unlikely. But it will present him just the way he likes. And with a little linkage, it could soon overtake some of the detractor sites in the organic rankings of a Google search. The LA Times was effusive in its praise, but certainly recognized the underlying motivation:

So kudos, Tom Cruise Incorporated, LLC International. This is a great website (promoted with Google Adwords, no less)….In some bizarro parallel universe where great actors are just actors and no one much cares what they do in their spare time, you wouldn’t have the kind of so-called image problems that this campaign’s shock and awe are so obviously meant to distract from. But we don’t live in that bizarro universe, we live in this one, where image problems themselves are a giant industry.

Even my buddy Bragman and other Hollywood PR pundits had good things to say about it. Now when is that Tom-as-Nazi movie coming out?