There is a good reason why certain people get invites by the van-load to events from awards to book launches. Any enterprise that needs a bit of publicity to work will chase the participation of a small number of people who will guarantee column inches, and an even smaller group of individuals who don’t so much read their press as weigh it. Now who could that shadowy figure be buying a new pair of ultra-robust scales? Why, it’s Russell Brand.
You may know the latest story: Russell was asked to leave the GQ Men of the Year Awards for making remarks about the sponsor Hugo Boss. His ire was slightly undermined when he appeared on the front page of a national newspaper this morning in a Hugo Boss overcoat (‘Man Wears Coat’ being headline news indicates just how valuable he is to the PR industry). I happen not to own any Hugo Boss, but I know someone who actively refuses to buy from them, much to the amusement of his wife who told me of a list of other companies they could boycott for similar reasons, but as they don’t want to live in a mud hut on Orkney, it’s not a practical stance to take.
Let’s take a step back from who we should be buying our socks from and look at the facts:
Questionable taste was clearly the order of the day: others present included Boris Johnson (who made a joke about Syria), Rob Brydon (who joked about Stephen Fry) and Noel Gallagher (who made a barbed comment about William Hague). Any of which would’ve made a fine story in the absence of Mr Brand.
Hugo Boss weren’t the hosts, they were the headline sponsors. If Russell Brand really didn’t approve of them, he shouldn’t have turned up. Whether he was paid to be there or not, most of us would’ve stayed away if we shared his objections as strongly as he expressed them. The public loves to see someone bite the hand that feeds them, but there are only so many times anyone can get away with that. Sponsorship is the life-blood of big events like these and while it’s very difficult for GQ to show too much hostility towards someone they feature frequently in their pages, it’s very easy for Hugo Boss to quietly but firmly close their chequebook.
All we can conclude is that if you want a quiet life, pause before you invite someone like Russell Brand to your event. You want him because he creates interest – unfortunately he may well create interest at the expense of your business. Throw him out afterwards, apologise to the sponsors, but don’t be too surprised when it unravels before your eyes.
Russell Brand’s job, and he does it well, is to generate publicity, and you’re reading some of it right now. He doesn’t make news so much because of his looks or his talent, unless you consider his talent for creating controversy more significant than his talent for comedy. The trouble is that here he has accused GQ of hypocrisy while displaying it himself. I expect his name is top of the list for invites to the GQ Awards 2014.
PS Programmes deliver presentation skills, TV and radio media training and crisis media management, tailored to the needs of our clients. This article also appears on http://www.presentationskillsprogrammes.co.uk