It was the crotch shot heard around the world.
At the New York premiere of the film “Les Miserables” on Monday, photographers caught actress Anne Hathaway stepping out of a car, sans undergarments.
Not a great moment for any starlet.
What happened days later exemplified the shifting media landscape, underscoring an important lesson for PR professionals of all stripes.
The unfortunate wardrobe malfunction led to one of the lowest points in Matt Lauer’s journalism career. In an interview with Hathaway on Thursday that was ostensibly about “Les Miserables,” the “Today” show host opened with the remark: “Seen a lot of you lately.” You just know it’s going downhill from here.
As a PR pro, this is when you hope Hathaway has been appropriately prepped and maybe even rehearsed to tackle the answer to the inevitable next question. And she did not disappoint. Here’s part of the transcript:
Lauer: Let’s just get it out of the way. You had a little wardrobe malfunction the other night. What’s the lesson learned from something like that? Other than that you keep smiling, which you always do?
Hathaway: Well, it was obviously an unfortunate incident. Um, I think—it kinda made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and, rather than delete it and do the decent thing, sells it.
And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to ‘Les Mis,’ because that’s what my character is—she is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child, because she has nothing and there’s no social safety net. And I— Yeah, so, um, so let’s get back to ‘Les Mis.’”
for the full video.
Hathaway did everything a media trainer could hope for: show empathy, block, and bridge back to the original subject. Also, her body language made it all the more convincing by the actress, who has often described herself as “adorkable.”
The more serious issue is the current state of journalism, or in this case, the lack thereof. Matt Lauer has certainly set the bar as low as it can go
, and he’s drawing flak because of it.
For PR pros this means media training has never been more important. Whether it’s the local paper, “60 Minutes,” or TMZ, the need to attract eyeballs behind pay walls means nothing is off the table.
So, do we need to change our approach?
“I don’t think the basic approach has changed over time; the same tenets still hold,” says Barbara Laidlaw, senior vice president and partner at Fleishman-Hillard New York. “What has changed is how we approach interviews and the ample preparation necessary, as there are often many different subjects in one short interview.
“As media changes, so do the issues they cover. If we compare interviews from 20 years ago to today, we’ll clearly see changes in style, tactics, and response on both sides.”
What do you think? Have you altered your approach to media training?
Elissa Freeman is a PR veteran with more than 20 years of experience. You can follow her on Twitter at elissaPR.