When I first read the conversation between James Franco and Scottish Instagramer "begs31Mar14", I wasn't as surprised as I should have been. Celebrities do stupid things all the time. After more research, people started questioning if this was all an elaborate hoax for Franco's new film "Palo Alto." While it might be, there is one thing I can say with certainty...
Hoax, maybe. Public Relations Stunt? Not even close.
1) Targeting Audiences
The new film is directed by Gia Coppola, it is the centerpiece film of the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival. Is the target audience really Imgur users (where the Instagram pictures first appeared)? Doubt it.
Targeting incorrect, random, mass audiences is not PR.
2) Irrelevant, Confusing Messages
I’ll admit, the photos made me watch the film's trailer (which released on the same day as the conversations). From what I have gathered, it focuses on adolescent chaos. The relationship between teacher (Franco) and student (Roberts) seems to be a sub plot line anyways. So, aside from statutory rape, what is the common thread between a creepy older celebrity hitting on a 17 year-old Scottish girl on Instagram, sending awkward selfies as proof and asking if he can rent a room for her and the serious, deep, chilling character Franco seems to play in the film? Nothing.
Constructing confusing, irrelevant, messages is not PR.
What is the strategy here? This is definitely an “any publicity is good publicity” moment. How does this tell a story about the film? How does this build the credibility and reputation of the actor, or the movie? It doesn’t.
Public relations is about strategic messages and strategic relationships. Nothing is random.
Public Relations is about strategy, it isn’t about generating irrelevant coverage.
We don’t believe that “all press is good press”.
We are reputation builders, storytellers, truth seekers.
Calling Franco’s creepy stunt “public relations” is a disservice to all those great public relations campaigns out there.
In public relations, a white paper explains an organization's position on an issue. These are my opinions.
"Wanting to help is important. Being able to help is quite a different thing"
- Edward J. Downes, Boston University
We tweeted, we shared, we texted, we called and Bell donated an extra $0.05 to mental health initiatives. The fourth "Bell Let's Talk Day" is over, and with Bell's name inevitably trending worldwide, it had to be asked: how ethical is this?
Bell Let's Talk Day is a big push to open up the lines of communication about mental health. The Canadian Medical Association reports that only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness.
Though somewhat drowned out by positive tweets and reports, critics questioned Bell's motives for imposing their name in the Bell Let's Talk hashtag and other marketing strategies during the branded day. The thing is, these aren't profound remarks. As if we didn't already know that Bell Let's Talk Day benefits Bell immensely, with advertising and marketing strategies that money can't buy. Does that make the donation any less valuable?
Bell is a business. The only reason a lot companies participate in CSR at all is to benefit their reputation. Companies just cannot survive without it anymore. We volunteer or donate to a worthy cause to help, I'm sure. However, we do it to feel good about ourselves as well. It's a Win-Win, why can't a business do the same?
Mary Deacon spoke to The Globe and Mail's Steve Ladurantaye about Bell Let's Talk Day critics. One of the most notable parts:
You worked raising money for CAMH for 10 years – was there much corporate support behind the scenes
Without lying, I had to work extremely hard to persuade donors to let me use names and not be anonymous, whether it was naming a building or funding a professorship. We’d go down that road with major corporations, and for whatever reason they would always decline. So there’s no doubt in mind there’s an issue of stigma.
Bell already has a five year, $50 million dollar initiative to assist mental health initiatives in Canada. Proceeds from Bell Let's Talk Day are in addition to that. In my opinion, this is good from all angles.
More importantly, was Bell Let's Talk Day really only about the money? Bell created a worldwide trending discussion about mental health. People were telling their stories. People were listening. I blame us, as a whole, for not being this open all year round.
As an endnote: Kudos to Rogers, The Buffalo Sabres and other organizations helping spread the Bell Let's Talk Day, this year and throughout the previous 3 years as well!
Edit: I had last year's Roger's tweets posted. They've since been updated!
In public relations, a white paper explains an organization's position on an issue
A Boston girl via Toronto. University of Toronto, Sheridan College, and Boston University alumna. Passionate about ending domestic violence. Hoping to never go a day without carbs or chocolate.