Friday, September 30, 2011

The Couple Who Cries Media Wolf

I purposely waited a while before writing this post. It's been knocking around in my head for a few weeks now. But, I needed to see how this was really going to end.

When I first heard the husband of Real Housewives of D.C. Michaele Salahi's tearful cries for help in finding his "kidnapped" wife, I was immediately worried. How could this happen I thought? Did someone make good on the death threats? Worse, could this happen to me one day? Could I leave home for the hairdresser, and well, never come back?

Then, I paused and thought for a minute. Is this another "publicity stunt" from the Salahis? Is Tareq, the husband, in on it? Or, this is a horrible crime in the making? I was reminded of the many stories of the two alleged "White House party crashers." Their appearance at the State Dinner rocketed the “The Real Housewives of D.C” reality series into the forefront of many of our minds and television schedules, and it made them the newest pseudo reality star celebrities. The massive amounts of news coverage that followed was staggering, and as is the case in any crises, the blame game started and people fell like dominos, most notably Social Secretary Desiree Rogers. Although a horrible situation and one that could have spelled disaster (i.e., uninvited guests close to our beloved President), it became a platform for the Salahis to make the rounds on most major news shows, including the daily morning shows. And, it was also fodder for the late night talk shows and birthed the Saturday Night Live skit below.

But, was this different? Suddenly, I was reminded of Michaele Salahi's short stint in Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. She allegeedly came to rehab, ah, without an addiction. Strange, right? Clearly, this should have been discussed with producers prior to signing the contract, or getting on the plane, or checking into the center, or, well, you get the point. Controversy brewed following this situation, too. Her mother came to her defense and noted her appearance wasn't about an addiction, but her need to cope with the aftermath of the above mentioned fiasco. Hmmm.

So, here I was listening to Tareq and wondering what to think. Was he crying wolf? I wasn't alone in this thought. Again, the media questioned whether it was a hoax. It turns out Tareq was wrong. His wife wasn't kidnapped. She is/was with her new alleged lover and had simply left her husband and possessions to do it.

I teach my students about the need for PR professionals not to bombard news outlets with pseudo events. They must work to create meaningful news and only present newsworthy topics, people or events to the media. Why? Our lives are filled with media "noise." We consume information virtually every waking moment of the day from our radios, televisions, iPads, smart phones, billboards and other sources. As PR professionals, we must strive to release information worthy of consumption, because so much of our precious news time is fractured with salacious, tabloid-worthy news, instead of those things relevant to the health, wealth and safety of Americans.

Hopefully, the next time Tareq or Michaele decide to contact the media they won't get past the gatekeepers, what few are actually left. Hopefully, there will be something more substantive on the media agenda that day. Hopefully. In the meantime, it should be a lessen to PR professionals not to have your organization crying wolf in every press release or media pitch. Be cautious about contacting a journalists or blogger for coverage. You don't want to be the Salahis of PR.

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