I have written about the ability of A-list newsmakers to command-and-control the media from Hollywood to Silicon Valley to the Beltway. Many Hollywood PR handlers have made an art of requiring journalists to sign agreements laying out ground rules in exchange for access to their clientele. The terms include everything from limiting questions to photo kill rights to choosing an acceptable reporter to monetary compensation.
What’s unfortunate is that many “journalists” actually acquiesce to these demeaning demands for fear of being left out of the loop.
A report today from the Great White Way has the publicist for the star of the Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” demanding that reporters agree in writing to interview terms with her decidedly B-list client, Amanda Peet. No, we’re not talking Angelina or Jennifer, but Amanda Peet, for goodness sake. Do you think Mr. Simon, a true A-lister, made such demands?
The agreement read:
“Journalist may not use text produced by Amanda Peet for any purposes other than what is originally intended without securing the prior permission of Amanda Peet,” commanded the release. It concluded: “Journalist agrees not to publish any quotes supplied by Amanda Peet in any manner without obtaining Amanda Peet’s prior written consent.”
I find abhorrent the PR practice of asking journalists to compromise their editorial integrity with written agreements. Some might argue that if Bode or Lindsay had such an agreement in hand, perhaps they wouldn’t be in such hot water. (Though “60 Minutes” would kill the segment before signing such a waiver.)
Whatever happened to media training? A well-trained interview subject can navigate even the stickiest of questions to emerge in a positive light. I’m not advocating dodging questions, and in fact, ideally, the journalist too should come away satisfied from the experience. But the best PR pros prove their mettle by anticipating and preparing their clients for the toughest of tough questions.
This is a tool Amanda’s PR person probably didn’t have in her tool chest or maybe her client’s ego is too big to accommodate such an exercise? What’s unfortunate is that many big name stars have come to believe that these written agreements represent good PR practice and they actually benefit from them. Trust me. They aren’t and they don’t.