September 03, 2006

Pointless Press Meeting

Eric's note: The event detailed below followed the rigging of TV game show "Twenty-One" where a prototypical WASP contestant was fed answers so he could defeat a successful Jewish contestant. The story is well-told in the movie Quiz Show.

QUIZZING VAN DOREN...We'll not discuss "tv rigging" nor the public relations errors made in handling that situation. One small incident, however, does belong in every publicist's notebook. When Mr. Van Doren appeared (after his retreat to the wilds) to accept a subpoena, he issued a prepared statement to the press. The statement, we feel, was vacuous and evasive...but again, it is not our intent to comment on the full situation.

THE PUBLICITY ERROR...lay in the press conference he (or his attorney -- or a misguided behind-the-scenes p.r. man) arranged at the time. There was no problem getting the press -- how could you keep them away? Yet, all the star of the performance would say was that he couldn't say anything other than to stand upon the prepared statement. After about ten minutes of variations on this "no comment" theme, he and his entourage again retreated. A parting cry, from one reporter, was: "Why did you hold a press conference, Charlie?"

A POINTLESS PRESS harmful. Alas, too many manufacturers, ad agencies, and p.r. men are ready to hold a press party without reason. These are "impress conferences" serving no purpose other than to impress the client. Pointless, meaningless meetings do not produce good stories -- and can be harmful to future relationships.

November 1959

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