PR Master's Class
There's a great line in the movie Tin Cup where Kevin Costner tries to explain to Rene Russo that her hot shot boyfriend Don Johnson is really an asshole behind closed doors. "You should know that he hates old people, children, and dogs," Costner tells her, using the three parties as a litmus test for what constitutes a decent person's behavior. I remember laughing out loud the first time I saw that scene because it's the damn truth. When someone is mean to grandmothers, little kids, or animals, it's a red flag. On the other hand, when I see two incredibly famous celebrities embrace their fans of all ages, take selfies, make Facetime calls to their relatives live in person, laugh with them, cry with them, and do everything within their power to connect with them on a one-to-one human level, it's incredibly heartening. Never in my life have I seen a tour de force duo meet their adoring public with such down-to-earth humility and charm. We had Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy in the Hollywood store last night signing autographs and taking selfies with more than 100 awaiting devotees and I was absolutely mesmerized by how they handled that endless line of people.
I was controlling the line for most of the evening, letting the folks into the space in small groups to get their autographs. Donnie, as a teen idol, is such a pro handling kids that I wish I had actual video footage to show you. While Jenny was signing Blondies bottles, Donnie would come over to the line and start talking to the families, bringing them in for photos, laughing with them, and putting them at ease. Jenny would then come over after she was done and instantly start up a conversation, asking them about their life with genuine intent and interest. There was not one customer at K&L last night who didn't feel like the most important person in the world when they passed through that line. A girl came back later and gave me a huge hug, saying: "This was the best night of my life. Thank you so much for doing this." I was speechless at that point.
And that line about old people, children, and dogs? We had all three in the house last night and these two couldn't have been more engaged with every living creature there. If you ever want to learn more about how to deal with the public, how to make friends, or how to treat people decently, this was a master's class on display. Since I first met her months ago, Jenny has been the most humble and kind person, legitimately interested in drinking and starting a real business, and looking for help from people in the industry. We communicate regularly and I'm always taken aback by how much she's learned since our last contact. Most celebrity brands fail because the person behind the booze is ultimately the selling point. In my experience, they go under when the celebrity involved realizes how much work it is to sustain a market with appearances, signings, and various other PR events. They think they'll just put their name on a bottle and it will sell, but that's rarely the case. Jenny and Donnie, however, are boots on the ground all the way. At this point in my career, I don't ever judge a project by the base spirit, the market segment, or the historical authenticity of the brand. I decide how to spend my time based on the personality of the people involved, their willingness to work, and their dedication to doing the little things that make or break a brand.
And, of course, how they treat old people, children, and animals.