The continually wonderful LA Observed has an excellent brake down of Los Angeles Magazine‘s much talked-about but not online Steve Owney piece on the Dark Prince of Crisis PR, Mike Sitrick. A PR legend who counts among his yay-though-I-walk-through-the-valley-of death clients as Tommy Lee and Mike Ovitz, Sitrick was the maestro, it turns out, of Page Sixer Jared Paul Stern’s pantsing in the New York Daily News.
In one of those classic bit of hubris that might result in Sitrick having to hire himself to help make right, Sitrick’s reveals some of his most diabolical tricks of the trade, and in the process points to the heads of the journalists he has mounted and hung in his den. Take for example ‘the flood’.
A standard Sitrick maneuver is to envelop writers in a fog of meaningless details. When journalist Mim Udovitch was assigned by Radar to investigate whether the Kabbalah Center was a cult organization, Sitrick and Company inundated her with material. Indeed, the publicist contends that his staff kept her occupied so long that the firm can take credit for the article’s appearance in the relative oblivion of the magazine’s online edition instead of in print as originally planned. “We just kept feeding her facts and facts and facts,” says Tammy Taylor, who handled the case for Sitrick, “until basically she had so much information she couldn’t get the piece done on time.” Udovitch denies Taylor’s claim.
Of course she does. She wanted on the website the whole time, for sure.
Then there is ‘the lead steer’:
He frequently uses it when clients are besieged by negative pack coverage. His thinking is that if he can turn a single respected writer around, he can reverse the trend and maybe even start a stampede in the other direction. “There’s an impression among a lot of publicists,” says Sitrick, “that you want to deal with lightweight journalists. That’s okay on a one-off story, but on a big piece you want a Mike Wallace.” When the publicist was representing the actress Kim Basinger during her 1993 bankruptcy case, he says he used Judy Brennan, of the Los Angeles Times, as his lead steer. “She did a sympathetic article, and her piece reversed the way people thought of Kim.”
Is this something that you should be telling people, Mike? It is nice to reveal how the sausage is made, but not if you expect us journalists to keep shoveling it in so we can shovel it back out.