Not News: Miley Cyrus’ latest PR stunt

I’ve worked in media relations. Like many hacks I crossed the journalistic river and sold out to the bigger rewards available in PR. But a couple of years ago I did a U-turn and crossed the river again to work once more as a journalist.

I understand the need for brands, products, events, whatever, to think up creative PR stunts to attract media attention. But mostly, I yawn: if the brand or initiative is newsy, then it is newsy. A clever PR stunt may make it interesting but it doesn’t make it news. That’s the approach I take and I wish more of my colleagues did the same.

Miley Cyrus (yawn) is attracting lots of media attention today after she appeared to smoke a cannabis joint at a music award ceremony. She was on stage at the MTV EMA awards in Amsterdam to receive a Best Video award for Wrecking Ball.

Sky News debates Myley Cyrus' appearance at the MTV EMA awards
Sky News debates Myley Cyrus’ appearance at the MTV EMA awards

That video was controversial enough: a naked Miley Cyrus cavorting on a wrecking ball. I have to question how much creativity is involved when a male video producer films a video of a young woman and the first thing he does is tell her to get her clothes off. I’m not going to rehearse the criticism of the video and its effects on young people – it’s been talked about to death. But how did it win Best Video? I think it says more about the quality of the MTV EMA awards than it does about the video.

But here’s the thing: With Miley Cyrus the attention is on the controversy: The twerking, the naked video, the cannabis smoking. Why isn’t anybody talking about the music?

Perhaps, just perhaps, it is because the music isn’t actually very good and the only way the star can push sales is through maximising media coverage. And, not being a very good singer, the only way that she can do that is through being increasingly controversial.

Part of the job of a journalist is to look through the hype and dig about the facts. So, please, here’s some advice to my journalist colleagues: a personal plea, if you like: At some point in the not-too-distant future, Miley Cyrus and her management team will decide that the controversy over the cannabis joint has died down, just like the twerking and naked video before it. They will then come up with a new PR stunt to get people talking about her. When they do, just ignore her.

And maybe, just maybe, she and her fans will be able to concentrate on her music; and wannabe music stars of the future won’t be conditioned to believe that the only way a female musician can make it in the music biz is by becoming a drug-taking pseudo-porn star.


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