Years ago, celebrity PR was limited to tabloid photos and articles and the occasional televised interview for when things got really bad. Recently, social media changed the game.

PR is something we know well, and sometimes we can spot it a mile away. Celebrities can join the conversation or make a statement within the comfort of their own home. We watch these videos or read the statements on Instagram stories, analysing every word.

The whole world became PR experts thanks to TikTok creators, such as Molly McPherson, who help us analyse the big celeb PR moves. Have you ever thought that you could learn from these PR professionals?

That's where we come in!

Don't move! Alrika Möller from media update is looking back at some of the biggest celebrity PR moments of 2023 so that you can learn from them.

Lizzo and the lawsuits

Back in July and August — which feels like ages ago now — the famous pop singer Lizzo was heavily featured in the news for something every PR professional dreads.

A few of her backup dancers, as well as one of the wardrobe personnel on her tour, filed lawsuits against her for a wide range and long list of things. Naturally, this caused a lot of online scrutiny and conversation.

What is a PR to do? Well, her PR team jumped into action to try and minimise the situation. In true celebrity fashion, Lizzo released a statement on Instagram on a Friday afternoon.

Why Friday? Releasing a statement on a Friday afternoon is a PR strategy called Friday News Dump.

Why does the Friday News Dump work? The basis of this strategy is to release your statement on a Friday afternoon so that it will hopefully not get a lot of traction from journalists until Monday rolls around.

A lot of things can happen over the weekend, so your PR team wants your statement to get buried underneath a pile of weekend events before the new week kicks off.

The lesson? Use the busyness of media and social to your advantage. Fridays are press days!

Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner's divorce

Celebrity divorces are big news. Everyone loves reading about celebrity drama and knows how it goes, so when the statement calls a split "amicable", people will start speculating. With Joe and Sophie, the situation was no different.

After the divorce announcements, a lot of online news came out painting Sophie in a bad light. The common denominator of these articles was people calling it a smear campaign orchestrated by Joe's PR team.

Regardless of who was behind the numerous pieces about Sophie, she stayed quiet. She did not respond or say anything in her defence. Doing nothing was her big PR move!

Using silence as a PR strategy has a few great benefits. If you say nothing, nothing you say can be misinterpreted or misconstrued. You also have the added bonus of not adding fuel to the fire.

In a situation like this with two parties that are being pitted against each other, silence means that you are not making things worse and adding to the idea of a feud or getting angry fans coming after you.

Your side stays clean, and you come out looking like the bigger person. So consider this as a potential approach for your next PR strategy, should the situation call for some quiet.

Justin Timberlake and the Brittany Spears book

When Brittany Spears released her long-awaited book The Woman in Me, she made some pretty interesting claims regarding her boyfriend of the early 2000s, Justin Timberlake.

Everyone and their mother picked up a copy of the book and ran straight to the Internet to discuss the Timberlake revelations.

This was not exactly ideal for Justin Timberlake and his PR team. Lucky for him, a PR save was already in his back pocket, ready to use. The save in question is, of course, NSYNC!

After an almost 20-year break, the infamous boy band reunited with a new song. The timing could not be more perfect — it created a distraction that Justin could hide behind.

This PR strategy is called Smoke and Mirrors or deflection. It works quite well in a world where news moves fast.

Unfortunately, the Internet is forever. In this case, people were quick to remind everyone else about the book backlash — causing them to see past the NSYNC reunion rumours.

So, give the ol’ distraction a go! Just be aware that it might not always work over long periods of time.

Dwayne Johnson and the Maui fundraiser

Earlier in 2023, wildfires devastated the island of Maui. The destruction that followed shocked a lot of people, and everyone asked themselves what they could do to help.

Actor Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, along with the queen of giveaways herself Oprah Winfrey, created a fund for Maui relief.

In a video that they made to announce the fund, they mentioned the great amount of donations they pledged to help the people in Maui. They also asked the public to join them.

This sparked great controversy. Most people don't have as much money as Johnson and Winfrey. It ended up looking as though people with a lot of money were asking people with less money to pledge money with them. People got upset.

The Rock made an apology video that he posted on his social media accounts. His apology was a masterclass on how to apologise during a PR crisis.

His apology consisted of the following five parts:

1. He acknowledged the situation and owned up to the fact that he did something wrong.
2. He explained why he did what he did, how the mistake was made, as well as why it was wrong to expect people to pledge.
3. He apologised for what he did.
4. He promised to learn from the situation and do better in the future, calling himself a quick study.
5. Lastly, he thanked his followers for keeping him accountable and for pointing the situation out to him.

PRs can definitely use this tried-and-tested template for public apologies going forward.

Let's hope the rest of 2023 is quiet for celebrity PRs everywhere!

If the plethora of celebrity PR situations of 2023 has taught us anything, it is that the way you handle them can — and will — make all the difference.

In your opinion, which celebrity handled their PR situation the best in 2023? Let us know in the comments section below.

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If you are looking for more information on the handling of crisis situations, have a look at Crisis communication — in 200 words or less.
*Image courtesy of Canva