Publicists Try In Vain To Prevent Celebrities From Acting Like Fools Online

Today the New York Times reports that celebrities don't just hire publicists to issue denials that no one believes. They also lecture the stars on how maintain their privacy online and not make asinine comments on social media sites, though it seems they rarely listen.

Recently Gilbert Gottfried, Charlie Sheen, and Chris Brown's reps quit, and since those stories all have some tenuous connection to the internet, a Times trend piece was born. Gottfried was dropped after joking about the Japanese tsunami on Twitter, and Sheen's meltdown was a "multiplatform" experience. Chris Brown's violent outburst in a Good Morning America dressing room doesn't really fit, but the paper notes that photos of the broken window were "quickly posted online."

While celebrities say they like that Twitter and Facebook let them interact with fans directly, that's also made the sites the bane of the publicist's existence. "This new dynamic gives our clients many new opportunities to screw up," said Allan Mayer, a crisis management and corporate public relations adviser at L.A.'s 42West.

Publicists may tell their clients to run their Tweets by them first, and to keep nude photos to themselves (during the Disney Channel's talent orientation, young stars get a lesson on internet privacy), but clearly many don't listen. In addition to it being easier than ever for celebrities to share their moronic political ideas, one off-the-cuff Blackberry remark can spread across the web in a matter of minutes.

Reprimanding stars for errant Tweets is part of a publicist's job now. That may make it sound like they're just high-priced babysitters — but they also provide romantic advice! Well-known "suppress agent" Kelly Bush tells the paper:

One celebrity recently sought advice about whether she should propose to Stephen Colbert on Twitter. "She said, ‘I love him so much.' " Ms. Bush said. The publicist issued a warning: Mr. Colbert is married. "Compliment him in some other way," she told the client. "She wrote back, ‘Boo,' with a sad face."

It sounds like Bush may have been a little too overprotective in this case. A Twitter wedding proposal will get you mentioned in at least two segments on The Colbert Report. Sad face, indeed.

When Publicists Say ‘Shh!' [NYT]