Message for @Gilbert Gottfried and @50 Cent: You are what you Tweet. And, especially in Gottfried’s case, that could lead to trouble. Earlier this week, both the funnyman and the rapper used Twitter to become the center of news – though it’s likely they didn’t make the headlines they were hoping for. After some not-so-sensitive Tweets regarding the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (“I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, ‘They’ll be another one floating by any minute now’”), Gottfried lost his job as the Aflac duck and 50 Cent (“Its all good Till b—-es see there christian louboutins floating down da street sh– gone get crazy”) became the target of online ire. In fact, both celebrities’ Tweets were so insensitive, it’s impossible not to wonder, What were they thinking? But we imagine no one is pondering this thought more than the person responsible for the stars’ images: Their publicists.
Indeed, Twitter has introduced an interesting double-edged sword for publicists since its 2007 creation.
The social networking site allows celebrities to connect to their audiences and push their projects (making their reps’ jobs that much easier), but it also gives vocal, opinionated celebrities the opportunity to embarrass themselves publicly (making their reps’ jobs that much more difficult). For every Jimmy Fallon and Mindy Kaling – stars known for using their Twitter accounts wisely – there’s a Kim Kardashian (who posted an ill-advised Tweet about breastfeeding), Kanye West (who courted controversy after Tweeting about abortion), and Courtney Love (whose Tweets led to a defamation lawsuit filed by a fashion designer).
Even considering these latter cases, however, publicists generally aren’t sweating the social networking site. “For the most part, our stars and producers know when to use the edit button on what they Tweet, and I think it’s great that they have a direct rapport with fans,” one publicist, who wished to remain anonymous, tells EW. “They are more responsible for their words and yes, it adds another layer, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. As PR executives, Twitter and other direct forms of social media now need to be part of our plan, and we even sometimes utilize their relationships and reach with the fans to get a message out. It’s a new day and you need to embrace it, because with the digital age, nothing stays a secret anymore and you don’t have the same control.”
And with the constant threat of paparazzi blasting uncompromising photos of stars online, Twitter – a site that gives famous folks some control over what is published about them on the Internet – seems the least of celebrities’ problems. “We have many clients with Twitter accounts and they get their message out there,” says Stan Rosenfield, who reps such high-profile actors as George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Geoffrey Rush, and Helen Mirren. “Everybody is doing it. [But] there are so many ways to get into trouble. People can get themselves into trouble for going into a bar and forgetting to put on their pants. Twitter doesn’t add to or take away from that.”
And it’s precisely that kind of trouble that gives publicists confidence about their future in the industry. Celebrities might take care of their own PR via Twitter, but it seems unlikely that the social networking site will ever replace the role of publicists. As Rosenfield says, “Somebody still has to drive you to the train. Somebody has to schedule the train. Facebook and Twitter cannot reason, they cannot plan, they cannot suggest. They are just vehicles.”
After all, a publicist is going to be necessary to help craft carefully worded apologies for folks like Gottfried, a comedian who has made a career out of delivering crass one-liners who nonetheless expressed remorse for his earthquake Tweets in a statement today. (50 Cent has apologized on Twitter for his statements, saying he Tweeted his comments “for shock value.”) Still, it’s refreshing for stars to have an outlet available where they can express what they want – whether we like it or not. As one publicist for A-list actors, who also wished to remain anonymous, says: “It’s certainly become a unique way for people to get their message out in an unfiltered way that excises – sometimes good, sometimes bad – whatever they’re trying to say.” That is, just so long as what you’re trying to say doesn’t poke fun at the victims of a catastrophic earthquake.
(Reporting by Lynette Rice.)
Image Credit: Chris Hatcher/PR Photos; Allen Berezovsky/PR Photos