Is the Kim Kardashian Brand in Trouble?

Kim Kardashian, Public relations, Kardashian brand, Kardashian paris robbery, Kanye West

What does it mean when a popular brand is in distress and a considerable percentage of public response ranges from “It’s probably a publicity stunt” to “That’s what you get for showing off?”

As we all know now, Kim Kardashian, at whose PR savvy we have previously marveled, was recently the victim of an armed robbery while in Paris for Fashion Week.

Kardashian, with 48.3 million followers on Twitter and 84.2 million on Instagram, is the antithesis of shy. She generously shares every moment of her life with her fans and they with her. You may well wonder why she has fans, but that would just reveal your card-carrying membership in the Society of Crankypants.

While her reported ordeal at the hands of masked gunmen who tied her up and helped themselves to $9 million of her well publicized jewelry did elicit an outpouring of sympathy for the mother of two small children, it also unleashed a storm of scolding and outright skepticism. Everything from “Who travels with $9 million worth of jewelry?” to “Well, you know, Kanye West is $53 million in debt…”

Despite the tens of millions of fans, Kim Kardashian’s is a love/hate brand. Her fans love her. And, as they say, the haters gonna hate. In this era of living out loud and bilious anonymity, where everyone’s a pundit (yes, the irony of writing this in a blog abounds), love is all around, until it isn’t.

Is the Kim Kardashian brand in trouble? Does her crisis communications team need to swing into high gear? (The Paris Tourism bureau’s certainly does.) Will her new status as crime victim eclipse her image as CEO in charge of her fame and growing fortune?

Probably not.

With a net worth pegged at $51million derived from reality TV, and a mobile app, her savvy goes beyond being a PR machine. Her brand will withstand the raised eyebrows and the doubters, and likely will emerge stronger than ever—especially if the culprits are found and brought to justice.

One piece of advice for Kim: Get a new security firm. The one you have now has a real PR problem.

How SeaWorld Lost the PR War and Did the Right Thing

SeaWorld, public relations, political campaigns, crisis management, Orcas, Free Willy, Keiko, animal captivity, Shamu, Joel Manby

The golden rule of public relations, political campaigns, and crisis management is “control the narrative.” It’s hard enough to create and maintain an image, but once the competition or the opposition has defined who you are and hammered that message home, it’s doubly hard to bounce back.

Just ask the folks at SeaWorld. For years, SeaWorld had done an excellent job of defining itself as synonymous with Orcas. Sure, SeaWorld had sharks and dolphins, concerts and roller coasters, but Orcas are what paid the bills. SeaWorld defined these oceanic giants not as menacing apex predators, but as kissing, cooing, dancing, huggable friends of humans. Pandas with fins.

For decades any enterprise that put animals on display for human enjoyment was the target of some degree of protest. From Ringling Brothers to the Bronx Zoo, there’s always been a chorus of disapproval regarding animal captivity. And for decades, those enterprises were able to confine those critics to a corner of the public relations landscape reserved for well-meaning “do gooders” or even “extremists.”

Then, in 1993 Hollywood demanded we Free Willy. Audiences fell in love with Willy, and with that love came the desire to free the actor playing Willy, a captive Orca named Keiko. All of this publicity began to legitimize those who had been making the case for years that perhaps we could do better by the whales.

SeaWorld was ground zero for captive Orcas and steadfastly stuck to its narrative of being a crucial breeding and scientific center for the betterment of Orcas everywhere. Didn’t the Orcas in the wild benefit from the public love affair with the captive Shamu? Even when the killer whales actually killed humans, SeaWorld persisted. Nothing to see here. Move along. Next show starting in half an hour.

The 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish sealed the fate of SeaWorld. It just didn’t know it yet. SeaWorld worked furiously to refute inaccuracies or to discredit interviewees as disgruntled former employees but the bad publicity coupled with an awakening in the general public was crippling. SeaWorld spent millions of dollars trying to regain the narrative, when what it should have been doing was rewriting its business model.

Finally someone did: new SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby. In an excellent article in New York Magazine, writer Benjamin Wallace details Manby’s journey to announcing that SeaWorld will no longer breed captive Orcas. Nor would it present the Orcas it already had in unnatural circumstances such as jumping through hoops or being ridden by humans.

According to Wallace, SeaWorld calculated that by changing its entire model—in effect acceding to its critics—it would “spend $15 million less over the next three to five years on defending its reputation, while attendance numbers were likely to increase by at least 380,000 and as much as 940,000 with commensurate gains in revenues and profits.”

It’s almost always true that doing what’s right is also what’s best for business.

TITANIC: The Artifact Exhibition

Dramatic story of “unsinkable” TITANIC unfolds this summer at 

Portland Science Center 

APRIL 14, 2016 | PORTLAND, ME – One hundred four years ago today, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Within three hours, the largest ship in the world, touted as “unsinkable,” was gone. For more than seven   decades, pieces of history lay undisturbed, 2.5 miles beneath the surface of the ocean. The wreckage of Titanic was discovered in 1985, and in 1987, recovery of historic artifacts began.

On June 18, 2016, the world-renowned Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition will open at the Portland Science Center.

The exhibition tells the dramatic and poignant story of the Ship, crew, and passengers who embarked on the voyage of a lifetime, only to be part of one of the greatest maritime disasters in history.

“The exhibition uses artifacts recovered from Titanic to tell the compelling human stories of those who were traveling from Southampton, England; Cherbourg, France; and Queenstown, Ireland to the United States,” said Joe Gold, President of The Gold Group, which owns and operates The Portland Science Center. “Some were First-class travelers, making the trip solely for pleasure, some were Third-class passengers hoping for a better life in America. The world changed—and certainly maritime travel changed—forever with the sinking of Titanic.”

Titanic, Titanic: The Exhibition, Portland Science Center

Upon entrance, visitors to Titanic: The Artifacts Exhibition will be drawn back in time to 1912, as each will receive a replica boarding pass, that of an actual passenger aboard Titanic. They’ll then begin their chronological journey through the life of the Ship, moving through its construction, to life on board, to its ill-fated strike of an iceberg, and amazing artifact rescue efforts. Visitors will be able to press their palms against an “iceberg” while learning of countless stories of heroism and humanity. In the “Memorial Gallery” guests will take their boarding pass to the memorial wall and discover the actual fate of their passenger and traveling companions.

Titanic: The Artifacts Exhibition immerses visitors in the history of both the Ship and the Edwardian era, including the then-acceptable enforced separation of social classes.

“Passengers” will see full recreations of First- and Third-Class staterooms, containing authentic artifacts from Titanic.

Titanic, Titanic: The Exhibition, Portland Science Center

The Ship carried 2,228 passengers but enough lifeboats for only 1,178. Following Titanic’s sinking, nations

came together in 1914 to establish the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. In addition, numerous new regulations and communications protocols were put in place to improve maritime safety and prevent another such human tragedy.

“There’s so much history in this exhibit,” added Gold. “There’s also a look at the science and engineering that went into building Titanic. In this day and age, it’s important to understand what a marvel of engineering this was for its time. Aside from the declaration that it was unsinkable, Titanic was an amazing construction.”

Titanic statistics

  • 882 feet, 9 inches long
  • 92 feet, 6 inches wide
  • 175 feet high, from keel to the top of the funnels
  • 78 feet, 8 inches – the height of the rudder
  • 46,328 tons
  • 15 tons – the weight of each anchor (2)
  • 840 staterooms

Over the past 25 years, more than 40 million people have seen this powerful exhibition in major museums worldwide – from Chicago to Los Angeles and Paris to London.

RMS Titanic, Inc. is the only company permitted, by law, to recover objects from the resting site of Titanic. The Company was granted Salvor-in-Possession rights to the site of Titanic by a United States federal court in 1994 and has conducted nine research and recovery expeditions to the Titanic recovering more than 5,500 artifacts.

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is a presentation of Premier Exhibitions, of Atlanta, Georgia


Tickets for the general public will go on sale May 16th at

For discounted Group Sales rates, please contact our sales team at: 207-812-3848 or email

About the Portland Science Center

About The Gold Group (Portland Exhibitions, LLC)


Media Contact: Jill Valley-Orlando 808.271.3624

Portland Science Center

68 Commercial Street – Maine Wharf – Portland, ME





Can Chris Rock Save the Academy Awards?

Chris Rock, Academy Awards, Oscars, Oscars So White, VistaVision

We’re not the first to note the irony of Sunday’s 88th Academy Awards©, being hosted by comedian Chris Rock.

Dubbed by many as #OscarsSoWhite, this year’s awards have been dwelling in PR hell from the moment the nominees were announced in January.

That hashtag is not new. Nor are the complaints that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is run like an antiquated club of predominantly white members, some of whom haven’t been active in the industry since the debut of VistaVision. The argument is that these older, voting members of the Academy don’t see many of the films they’re voting on and aren’t familiar with a newer crop of talented minority actors and directors.

In full crisis management mode, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is black, announced efforts to increase membership of women and minorities and to address member voting status.

Television ratings for the Academy Awards ceremony has been in steady decline in recent years. Last year, under the stewardship of Neil Patrick Harris, the telecast drew its lowest ratings in six years.

Months before the all-white line-up of nominees was revealed, Chris Rock was selected as host of the 2016 Oscars. By choosing Rock, the Academy was hoping to inject the ceremony with some comedic edge that would draw a younger and more diverse audience. (Which sounds disturbingly like your parents saying they want to “chill a while with your groovy friends.”) Once the nominees were announced, however, the Academy had yet another PR crisis on its hands: demands from many in Hollywood that Rock boycott the Oscars. (He declined.)

Chris Rock, Academy Awards, Oscars, Oscars So White, VistaVision
The Oscars are hoping Chris Rock can save them.

Even before the #OscarsSoWhite controversy erupted (this time), we have to wonder why Rock agreed to host in the first place. He hosted once before in 2005, to an audience that was three percent lower than the previous year. And his reviews were mixed at best. But he gave the Academy what it wanted—piercing humor with a bite that spared no one. While people may tune in just to see if there’s a re-match with Jude Law, attracting a larger audience is an unrealistic lift to place in one person’s hands.

The Academy’s many structural and PR failures are not the only reason ratings are down. (How many people actually saw Room?)

We’ve discussed managing expectations before. Ratings for the telecast have been in decline for nearly a decade. Add to that the media drumbeat that the Motion Picture Academy is living in the last century. And add to that the numerous calls for a nationwide boycott of this year’s ceremony.

Chris Rock is a consistently funny, intelligent, boundary-pushing comedian/actor/director/producer/author. He is not, however, The Miracle Worker*.

*Winner 1962 Academy Awards for Best Actress & Best Supporting Actress






Television: Still a Big PR Bang for the Buck

For your PR, advertising, or corporate image campaign, don’t discount 90-year-old technology: Television.

This week, we (and Google by way of a doodle) take note of the 90th anniversary of the first demonstration of television. Granted, it was a primitive mechanical television, but it was the precursor to the electronic tube TVs that dominated the childhoods of baby boomers everywhere.

That first image, demonstrated by Scottish engineer, John Logie Baird, was roughly 3 inches by 2 inches—a far larger screen than that of the Apple Watch, but not nearly as large as your neighbor’s 75-inch flat screen, where you’re hoping to be invited for Super Bowl 50.

The science and engineering of television have evolved in ways Mr. Baird could never have imagined. And so have its uses.

In the span of one decade (the 1960s), television was both the great uniter and divider. The nation came together in its grief over the assassination of President Kennedy and television news (in the United States) came of age.

As the 60s churned, television was the meeting place of the generational divide. The same medium that brought us tuxedo-clad crooners on The Dean Martin Show, also delivered the political punch of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in. Both shows had scantily clad dancing girls, but on one show they sold sex, on the other they sold satire.

The Viet Nam War was as regular a feature in everyone’s living room as The Lawrence Welk Show. Television learned to inform as much as entertain, and a new generation took that information and created a counter- culture and its own identity.

As television evolved from miracle technology to miracle money-maker, all networks or affiliates had to do was turn on the transmitter and watch the money roll in. Television is where advertisers went—and still go—for the most efficient corporate image building. Coca-Cola could tame Mean Joe Green.  Chrysler—and Detroit—could come back from the dead. Television is still a major part of any advertising or public relations campaign or crisis management.

Cable, satellite, and Internet distribution may have “disrupted” broadcasting, but all platforms have cashed in on the irresistible, ongoing attraction people have to a glowing screen. (Hunter S. Thompson famously referred to the TV business as a “cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs,” not in the context of compromising journalistic integrity, but because once he had installed a satellite dish at his remote mountain home, he was outraged to learn he’d have to pay to decode the individual signals of channels he wanted to watch.)

As public relations specialists, we know that your television screen is no longer the only one you watch and that audiences are now fragmented among hundreds of channels and platforms. We know that different demographic cohorts go to different places for their content. An analysis of Neilsen trends from 2011 through most of 2015, shows that while younger viewers are dropping away, “traditional TV remains the primary mechanism for adults across age groups.”

TV, especially the major networks and their affiliates, is still a very big PR bang for the buck.