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2 PR Approaches: Organic vs. Manufactured

I was reading the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times at my parents’ house on Easter Sunday and was struck by two articles on two different approaches to PR. That of Lauren Conrad, the 15 second scrabbler attempting to manufacture fame, and Eckhart Tolle, who embodies the dignified organic approach. Conrad is the MTV reality star of “The Hills” who is scuttling to build a brand around her image. So far, not many people are buying her credibility or her products.

Build a Loyal Following

Best-selling author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, Tolle, on the other hand, built his following slowly and naturally when people began asking how they could find the same kind of peace he appeared to have. Oprah and Tolle are teaching a webinar together on the principles of A New Earth, and over 2 million people have attended these weekly workshops—attesting to the power of now vs. grasping at the illusion of the glitzy future.

The New York Times calls Tolle “the most popular spiritual author in the nation.” His book holds the #1 position on Oprah’s Book Club selection, as well as the #1 and #2 spots on the New York Times bestseller list for paperback advice. According the New World Library, Tolle’s first publisher, The Power of Now has sold over 5 million copies.

Famous for Divulging Their Private Lives

Conversely, Conrad, whose fame is based on cameras trolling with her to nightclubs and interning at a fashion magazine, has a handbag line with Linea Pelle that’s sold a few hundred bags. Pretty paltry. She and other celebrity hopefuls are attempting to follow in the footsteps of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen who managed to parlay their TV sitcom roles into a multimillion-dollar empire that includes books, videos, films and frocks. They are chasing fame as fast as their designer clad feet will let them.

These glam chasers are leading the way into what I call “peep show fame.” Those “stars” have gained fame by allowing cameras into their private lives and most intimate moments. Instead of eschewing the paparazzi like true Hollywood celebs, they court the cameras and even help them to get the best possible pictures, all in the name of fame.

15 Seconds of Fame

The perplexing thing about all this hubbub is that there is no there there. The same old thing “happens” in the Conrads of the world’s lives. They shop, they date, they drink, they chat on their cell phones, and they forget to wear underwear. This is an exemplary life? Why does the American public waste it’s time reading/watching this drivel? Have we become a nation that worships insta-celebs? See some more commentary here on what has become quick-fix celebrityism—15 seconds of fame: Rise of the Insta-Celeb so you’ll know how to avoid it.

A Life Worth Following

Tolle is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Attempts by reporters to pump his people about his personal life turn up zilch. He circulates one sole story about his past that is relentlessly repeated on his audio recordings, in his books and in the media.

It’s simply this: He was depressed and suicidal, and one day, at age 29, awoke hearing the words “resist nothing” and saw the world as if for the first time. He wandered about homeless for a few years in London, living in parks blissed out, until people began to take notice and ask him to teach them whatever he learned that afforded him such deep peace and joy.

In the years that followed, he did so to larger and larger crowds. Then the Oprah Effect hit. But before Oprah, Tolle had already been discovered by a loyal following who could easily understand his message, and felt his sincerity and lack of ego.

Keep Your Privacy and Your Dignity

Imagine this, Tolle declined to be interviewed by the New York Times. Not since J.D. Salinger have we seen such secrecy. And is this selectivity hurting him? Quite the opposite. He has cache. There is an aura of respectability around this man who refuses to fuel any gossip or speculation about his life. You can get a sense of Tolle here: Eckhart Tolle

My Life is My Message

I have always advised my clients not to bare their breasts, buttocks or private lives. In this era of tell all-show all, I’m more adamant than ever that this is the path to powerful long lasting PR. Keep some mystery, offer something that people deeply need, and heed Gandhi’s words, “My life is my message.” And while it may take you longer than 15 seconds to gain fame, it will be well worth the time.


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