Did Justin Bieber just declare war on the press?
In a note posted to Instagram, the 19-year-old pop star—angry over nasty headlines—lashed out at the media, saying he doesn’t deserve the negative press.
“Everyone in my team has been telling me, 'keep the press happy' but I'm tired of all the countless lies in the press right now,” Bieber wrote in a 300-word rant
that aims to debunk rumors, including one that says he’s heading for rehab.
[Editor's note: Quotes from Bieber's Instagram post appear word for word. We didn't edit them.
“If Anyone believes i need rehab thats their own stupidity lol,” he added.
The kind of media attention Bieber's getting (“He's melting down!”), as well as this defiant response, may have driven past pop stars to rehab, relative obscurity, and a comeback reality show appearance, but Bieber has something that other stars didn’t—social media.
social media. He has more Twitter followers—nearly 36 million—than anyone else on earth, including President Obama, the pope, Lady Gaga. His fans are rabid “Beliebers,” attacking anyone who dares to slight the singer. On Facebook, he has nearly 52 million “likes”; his YouTube videos are beyond viral.
So does Bieber even need the media? Can he circumvent the press?
“Bieber can go around the media and effectively deliver his message to his fans,” said Gini Dietrich, CEO of PR firm Arment Dietrich
. “We used to have to rely on journalists to tell our story for us, but in the past few years, owned media … allows us to tell our stories by building legions of fans who love working with us, love our products or services, and want to see us succeed.”
Other PR practitioners contacted by PR Daily
agreed—Bieber can take his message directly to his fans (and the people who buy records, T-shirts, and concert tickets).
“Keeping in mind that his fan base is very young and forgets things quickly, I think he can quite easily bypass the national media,” said PR executive Abbi Whitaker.
Bieber, she said, is “a social media machine.” By being upfront and honest with his fans, he can use Twitter and other social media tools to boost public opinion, according to Whitaker, owner of The Abbi Agency
It’s something to which Bieber hinted in his Instagram post. “Letting u know first hand how I feel rather than have these story linger,” he wrote.
Just because Bieber can circumvent the press, doesn’t mean he should, say other PR professionals.
“It's generally a bad idea to make the media your enemy even if you're Justin Bieber,” said Glenn Selig, president and CEO of Selig Multimedia
. “At some point, Justin will need the media. And [do] you really want them on your bad side?”
In fact, a couple of media interviews might serve him well.
“He would probably earn some much-needed credibility with fans and others who are shaping opinions about him right now by sitting down with a few key mainstream media outlets,” said Arik Hanson, principal of ACH Communications
. “After all, those same fans (and non-fans) are getting information from various sources—not just from Bieber's Twitter account.”
Hanson, who acknowledged that Bieber could do an “end around” on the press, thinks the pop star has relied too heavily on his social media profiles of late.
“He'd probably be wise to consider the larger media universe that surrounds him involves much more than just Twitter and Instagram,” Hanson said.
After the Instagram post, Bieber issued statements to a couple of media outlets, among them People
and MTV. His manager also spoke with E! News, insisting
“there’s nothing wrong … He’s in a great place.”
That might indicate the teen idol is laying the groundwork for a bigger PR push—maybe interviews with Oprah or Ellen are in the cards. Either way, Bieber and his advisors had better sniff out sympathizers in the press.
“Some journalists will lie about him just to sell papers,” said Gini Dietrich. “They are not the good guys. Don't waste your time or energy on them. Focus on the good guys, give them exclusive stories, be helpful when they ask. Ignore the bad guys.”
Media trainer Brad Phillips offered an even simpler prescription for Bieber: Smile for the cameras (instead of berating the men behind them). That way he’ll avoid “lousy optics,” according to Phillips, author of “The Media Training Bible
He’s still young
Bieber is only 19, something he pointed out in his Instagram post:
“I'm 19 with 5 number one albums, 19 and I've seen the whole world. 19 and I've accomplished more than I could've ever dreamed of, i'm 19 and it must be scary to some people to think that this is just the beginning. I know my talent level and i know i got my head on straight. i know who i am and i know who i'm not My messege is to to believe.”
People his age with far fewer pressures are known to act irrationally, although that doesn’t mean Bieber can afford to act childishly.
“My advice to [Bieber]: “Man up and be professional,” said Glenn Selig said. “So many celebrities before him did it and he can, too.”
Regardless, the Biebs insists he doesn’t care what you think.
“I honestly don't care if you don't believe in me because I believe in me, my friends believe, my family believe, my fans believe, and look where that's gotten me so far,” he wrote on Instagram. “I'm writing this with a smile on my face and love in my heart.”
Do you believe that?