Howard Bragman Video Interview On Monica Lewinksy, Paula Abdul, Controling Your Image
He's the PR guru who everyone from Monica Lewinsky to Paula Abdul have turned to. Now, Howard Bragman takes your questions about what you can learn from the Hollywood stars in his new book Where's My 15 Minutes?
You know, we all start out with our own DNA in the media. What I urge people to do is just like when you first see a doctor–he’s going to draw blood and check your vital statistics–he’s going to create a baseline. You need to build a baseline. Oprah did a wonderful job of building a brand that’s built on caring and compassion. Martha Stewart built a brand that revolved around money and power. During the down time when she was sued, all of her loyal fans were very empathetic toward her, and when Martha Stewart got into legal troubles, people weren’t nearly so sympathetic to her. So it’s really important to build a base based on caring and empathy out there if you want to be a public figure.
When people like Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell fight, I think that there are no losers here. It's what I call a non-controversial controversy. They both get their faces in the news, they're both happy about it, and really nobody gets hurt. One's a big boy, one's a big girl. They both know what they're dealing with and they realize that there's a faux part of it which is just sort of faux fighting, but at the same time they both have political positions and points of view. I do think there's some genuine frustration and tension that they both want to get out. But in the end nobody's hurt. It's not a real controversy.
What I tell Monica Lewinsky today is as bad as the media scrutiny was, and I think she was the most famous person in the world at that point, she should be so grateful it didn't happen today with the TMZs and the Perez Hiltons out there. She would have gotten not a moment of privacy out there in the world. What I ultimately say is Monica made a lot of choices but the choices she made were based on her dignity and a decade later, I'm proud of her. I'm proud that she chose dignity over dollars, that she didn't become that person who cashed in on a bad situation but she really tried to raise it to a higher level. I think there's a lesson for a lot of things because you can take a lot of things from people but in the end if you have your family that loves you, your friends that care about you and you have your dignity, that's a good basis for starting again.
There was a recent study by the McCarther Foundation about teenagers and Internet usage and one of the things they said are that teenagers are learning a lot of good things on the internet and one of the things is how to manage their public identity. Anybody, whether you're a business person, an environmental activist, a special skill, anybody that wants to go to the next level, needs to think about managing their public identity. It's not optional in this world we live in anymore. We think about it in terms of politicians. If you don't define yourself, somebody else is going to define you and you're not going to be happy about the way they define you. It's really imperative that you set a vision for yourself and you define yourself. You define yourself on your website, you define yourself on Facebook, you define yourself every day when you run a business, when you answer the phone. I don't think it's optional anymore in business in our lifetime and those that do are going to find it that much harder to compete out there in the world and as we all know, it's tough out there in the world. What I've done in this book is, I believe Hollywood is the Super Bowl of image management. So I have taken all the lessons that we've learned in the highest levels of image management and I've tried to take them and make them accessible for the average business person and the average person on the street to know how they can take some of these lessons and apply them to their own lives.
I've faced a lot of PR crises in my lifetime and the hardest one for me is when people are in pain and when people are really hurting. I talk in the book about Elizabeth Montgomery's death which wasn't really a crisis but just a terribly sad moment for me. The Isaiah Washington situation with Grey's Anatomy was just so volatile, it was a very tough thing. And I'm very fond of Isaiah Washington and I'm very empathetic with my clients so that was a bit of a challenge. And really the granddaddy of all crises that i've worked on was the Monica Lewinsky situation. Here was a young girl who made a mistake, but I think the president made a bigger mistake. She was being called to take total responsibility and I saw what it did to her and her family and it really broke my heart.
We're all different people. We all have what works for us and what doesn't work for us. It's like trying on an item of clothing that doesn't fit you. If a middle-aged woman who's a size 16 puts on the same dress that a runway model or a superstar is wearing on the red carpet it's not going to work for her, it's not authentic to her. What I think people need to be when I say authentic is true to themselves. Recognize what they are, what their place in the world is and I'll give you a perfect example. One of my clients - a producer named Cathy Schulman - won an Oscar for producing the movie Crash and I helped her prepare for Oscar speech and we went and chose a dress and I said, 'What's really important to remember is you're a beautiful woman, you're great looking, we're going to have a great outfit for you, but you shouldn't out-superstar the superstars. You're a producer and not an actress and we should wear something that's appropriate and reflect that.' That's what authenticity is about- being true to yourself, being appropriate, being age-appropriate, and really having a good sense of self. It's funny, a lot of us are really good at judging other people and sometimes we miss the boat on ourselves. I really advise you surround yourself with loyal, smart people who help you get at your own truth.