Monday, 25 April 2011

S&H's Kick-Off Campaign

          S&H Public Relations recently launched their first campaign to find the next best female MC. S&H is a new, Los Angeles – based public relations firm that aims to promote culture and new artists in Hip Hop. Their goal is to discover and provide affordable public relations to unknown artists around the globe in an attempt to give them greater exposure and subsequently improve the Hip Hop industry. The PR firm is disappointed with the lack of female stars in Hip Hop today and is looking to balance the male-dominated music scene. The organisation’s co-founder, Sebastien Elkouby, said, “No disrespect to Nicki Minaj but she shouldn’t be the only one to come up in most mainstream conversations about women in Hip Hop.” The company decided to launch a two-month campaign, from March to May, searching throughout the USA to find the next best female rapper. “We decided to launch S&H in March to coincide with Women’s History Month to send a message about the need for balance in Hip Hop,” said Elkouby. The campaign encouraged female artists with an online presence to send the company their music, which they would then listen to before making a judgement about  which is the best. The music was to have been sent in by the deadline of April 15, but this has been pushed back to May 15 to give artists more time to submit their best material. 
          In my opinion, this is a fantastic way for S&H to attract attention whilst kicking off their first campaign and it also brings them a step closer to accomplishing their ultimate goal. I think it was a great idea to launch the campaign during Women’s History Month, as people are focused on all things female. I admire the cause of the PR firm, and agree with the concept that there are not enough women rappers in the industry. I am glad to see that the company has kept the campaign classy, deciding not to hold auditions throughout the USA in the same vein as X Factor and American Idol. I am looking forward to seeing the results of the competition and hope S&H’s premier campaign will be a successful one. 

Friday, 22 April 2011

Straining The Sponsor's Tolerance Levels

          It seems to me that rappers are given a very long leash and permitted many indiscretions, even extending to felonies in some cases, before commercial companies lose the desire to be affiliated with them entirely. At least this is the case with T.I. and the Remy Martin cognac company. 
          Despite his having served time on weapons charges, Remy Martin had named rapper T.I. as their Global Creative Consultant. This deal would have seen the rapper become a spokesperson for the cognac maker in addition to being involved in the creation of new marketing schemes. This will not now be the case, following charges of possession of illegal narcotics in Los Angeles. Remy Martin decided that enough was enough and that they did not want their company to be associated with T.I.’s flailing image. The organisation released a statement saying, “Sometimes the ‘road to redemption’ is a difficult path. Regrettably, we will not be able to continue collaborating with T.I. at this time. We wish T.I. well and hope he will devote his time and energy to staying the course.” In addition to this blow, T.I. was also dropped from the latest Axe promotional campaign. 
          It appears that T.I. had eventually gone so far in compromising his public image that his suitability for roles with Remy Martin and Axe had become severely diminished. Partnership deals can really only thrive when the agreements are advantageous to all the parties involved. 
          It’s tempting to feel a slight sense of sympathy for T.I. if one reflects on his difficult upbringing and the adulation he received at a relatively early age. On the other hand, a man in his position with experience in the entertainment business, and with access to agents and advisors, should understand the potential consequences of his actions and accept the turn of events as nobody’s fault but his own. This deal could have been a great step forward for his career, but the opportunity was ruined by carelessness and perhaps even conceit – the belief that he was too important to be dropped. 
          On reflection, I also believe that companies should think more carefully than Remy Martin did in this situation about choosing who they want to represent them. There is an obvious appeal to a particular marketplace in selecting a rapper to be a company representative, especially one with a following as great as T.I.’s. It is vital, however, to be meticulous in the selection process and understand that many rappers are not the most stable of personalities and may go off the rails from time to time. Do companies do a good enough job of scenario analysis – thinking through the pros and cons of their investments in stars to represent their brands before signing deals? In the case of Remy Martin and T.I., I would argue not.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Chris Brown's Crisis Management

          Last month Chris Brown dispensed with the services of his publicist, Tammy Brook, a few days after his outlandish behaviour at the Good Morning America show. The singer smashed a window, trashed his GMA dressing room and left the show shirtless after being questioned about his disastrous relationship with his former girlfriend, Rihanna. I am sure many readers are familiar with that particular Brown PR debacle - beating Rihanna and consequently being subjected to court-ordered community service. Brown’s split with his publicist following the calamitous GMA appearance highlights the need for good crisis management in the rap industry and suggests that Tammy Brook was not quite up to par in this regard. 
          As a publicist, it is important to prepare both the interviewer and your client in the build up to an interview. The fact that GMA host, Robin Roberts, repeatedly asked Brown about his relationship with Rihanna indicates that Tammy Brooks had failed to rule that subject out of bounds for the interview. I think it is critical to have a firm grasp of the different channels of communication when working within the field of public relations, with crisis management near the top of the list. Chris Brown went into the interview believing it would focus on his new album, F.A.M.E. Instead, because he was poorly prepared for the questions that arose concerning his personal life, the interview resulted in the star leaving the show ill-tempered and highly frustrated. Perhaps GMA was told not to address the Rihanna issue, but did so anyway. Is it wrong for them to ask topical questions that would undoubtedly have been on the viewers’ minds? 
          In the wake of the show, an ABC spokesperson said “As always, we ask questions that are relevant and newsworthy, and that’s what we did in this interview with Mr. Brown.” Chris Brown was clearly not prepared for these hard-hitting questions and as a result further damaged his reputation by getting upset and venting his anger on his surroundings. Regardless of the ground rules for the interview, I believe that Brown should have been prepared, if only on a contingency basis, to expect at least a question or two about the Rihanna incident. It may have been wrong for GMA to ask such frustrating questions but, in my opinion, if Brown’s publicist had anticipated and prepared more thoroughly for this situation, this particular crisis need never have arisen. Do you think Tammy Brook could have done better on her client’s behalf in preventing, or at least managing, this crisis?

Friday, 8 April 2011

Wacka Flocka's Visit

          In the current world of Hip Hop, fans are fundamental to one’s success. They can make or break a career based on their reactions to the different things artists choose to do. It is for this reason that good public relations can make the difference between a horrific spell, or a bountiful career, in the music industry. I believe that one of the best ways to win the adoration of the fans is simply to acknowledge them and try to interact with them whenever possible.
          An example of good public relations through fan interaction can be illustrated by Wacka Flocka Flame’s visit to a fan’s hotel room on April 2, 2011. Sixteen-year-old Kiyana Lyles had just suffered kidney failure and as part of the Make A Wish Foundation, she had requested a meeting with Wacka Flocka. Wacka is one of Kiyana’s favourite rappers and he took the opportunity to make her wish a reality, not only by meeting her, but also by surprising her with VIP tickets to his show. 
          Although it may not have been Wacka Flocka’s ideal outing, I think it was a good act of kindness and it certainly boosted his reputation in my books. A positive rapport with one’s fan base is key in the rap game and it was good to see Wacka doing the right thing. He made a suffering fan extremely happy and more likely than not won the hearts of many more fans in the process. Great PR!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Kanye West's Banned Cover Art

          Many rappers have used controversy in recent decades to attempt to promote themselves as artists. There is a wide variety of controversial rappers such as Ice Cube, Young Buck, Eminem, and, in particular, Kanye West.

          Kanye has headlined various papers, magazines and blogs with his audacious behavior, questionable tweets and topical lyrics.  Some of his well-known outbursts have come from the Hurricane Katrina relief concert, covering Rolling Stone as the Black Jesus, and cutting off Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV VMA’s. This past year West has continued in his controversial ways by incorporating profound cover art into his 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (MBDTF). The cover art was banned by several major outlets, including Wal-Mart. According to an interview conducted by The New Yorker  in early January 2011, George Condo, the cover artist, was consciously and deliberately asked by Kanye to paint something that would get banned. Condo had painted eight or nine different covers for West, including two “portraits of West himself, one in extreme close-up, with mismatched eyes and four sets of teeth. Another showed his head, crowned and decapitated, placed sideways on a white slab, impaled by a sword. There was also a painting of a dyspeptic ballerina in a black tutu, a painting of the crown and the sword by themselves in a grassy landscape, and a lurid scene of a naked black man on a bed, straddled by a naked white female creature with fearsome features, wings, no arms, and a long, spotted tail. West chose that one,” (The New Yorker). Out of all the options created by Condo, it seems evident to me Kanye did not hesitate to choose the most bizarre and controversial. After selecting the art piece and finishing up the final draft of the CD, major outlets refused to put it in their stores.  Although he knew this would most likely be the case, West took to Twitter and wrote “Yooooo they banned my album cover,” adding “In all honesty … I really don’t be thinking about Wal-Mart when I make my music or album covers.”

          Although it might be considered wrong to deceive the public, the banned cover art has proven beneficial for Kanye’s album promotion. MBDTF debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart and in the first week sold 496,000 copies in the USA. The banned cover attracted a lot of attention as people, including myself, wondered ‘what has kanye done now?’ and wanted to have a look at it.
          This is not the first time, however, that this controversial PR technique has been employed. A recent example of the same tactic can be found in the field of basketball, where APL had their shoes banned by the NBA because they claimed they would make customers jump higher. Although this claim is highly debatable, many purchasers came to believe that the shoes would increase their vertical leap simply because the NBA had banned them.
          I think the use of this PR strategy, and the controversy that ensued, was very clever on Kanye West’s part as it caused a lot of hype to revolve around the album. The stunt did not detract from West’s image; it actually heightened the sense of drama surrounding the album and got people talking excitedly about his work. Kanye was clearly successful in promoting MBDTF and, in my opinion, his PR acumen was a big part of the success story.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Lil' Kim vs. Nicki Minaj

          I believe Lil’ Kim’s exploitation of her feud with rapper Nicki Minaj was an ill advised publicity stunt. It is an example of how poorly managed public relations can have an adverse effect on a person’s image.

          The beef began with Lil’ Kim’s need for Minaj to “pay homage” to her as an artist and show her respect. Kim believed that a significant part of Minaj’s appeal as an artist was copied from her. Of course everyone can see the comparison, but the extent to which the respective artists’ demeanors match is largely up for debate. The drama escalated to a point where the two would exchange insults about each other in their songs, leading to Lil’ Kim releasing a mixtape entitled ‘Black Friday’, clearly a reference to Minaj’s most recent album, ‘Pink Friday’. Kim tweeted that she “sold 113,000 copies in 28 hours which made [her] the #1 seller on paypal ever.” This is a figure which many find hard to believe.  Not only was her site suffering technical difficulties on the day the mixtape dropped, but people were also upset that Kim was selling her mixtape for $10 when mixtapes are usually free for the public to download.
          To add insult to injury, some think that Kim is using her feud to promote her new mixtape. In an interview conducted by, rapper Foxy Brown commented that “When you’re using [a feud] as a platform to bring your new album out…I don’t condone it at all… It’s not cute.” Lil’ Kim recently put out a 15-minute-long video on Youtube entitled 'Carbon Copy'. In it she highlights examples of Nicki stealing her style, includes animations of her supposedly killing Minaj and in the process promotes a few of her new songs. Kim’s efforts to prove that she is still the Queen Bee of hip hop are becoming an exercise in futility.

          Although I do not highly rate either artist from a lyrical standpoint, I do believe that Nicki Minaj is the more popular of the two in the current hip hop climate. Nicki is still growing as a relatively new mainstream artist and, as a result, has a lot of buzz and excitement about her. On the other hand, Lil’ Kim’s peak came in the early 2000’s, after seeing much success with Junior Mafia in the mid-late 90’s. In my opinion, Kim should stop attacking Minaj and accept the fact that her glory days are behind her. Rather than promoting herself positively, Kim is coming across as petty and jealous, damaging her reputation in the process. I would agree that the feud served its purpose in putting Kim back in the public eye; however, I think it back-fired on her. Would it not have been better for the public to remember her the way she was in the 90’s? Kim’s inability to accept defeat and move on is an example of how a rap artist can promote herself in a negative manner.