Kim Kardashian’s nude photos on Paper mag made as big a splash on the Internet as the sexually suggestive spewing bottle of Champagne did in a foamy arc around her.
The reaction in social media was immediate, prolific and a pure joy to watch. BuzzFeed shows a series of tweets that include hilarious comments and memes, as did New York Magazine’s “ass-tastic” ass-essment of the pics.
Other reactions were far less indulgent toward’s KK’s latest attempt to “break the Internet.” Comedian Chelsea Handler posted a shot of her own bare butt on Instagram with the challenge to compare hers to Kardashian’s and decide which one is real (presumably she meant not Photoshopped).
No matter what your opinion of Kardashian and the photos may be, you have to give her props for the effectiveness of her latest PR stunt, because that’s what it is – a PR stunt.
There are many subtleties to what Kardashian (and her handlers – a loaded term when talking about Ms. Kardashian) was able to accomplish with these photos. But it’s pretty damn brilliant stuff.
Here is a quick run-down on why this latest round of lewd behavior from Kim is actually pretty shrewd PR strategy:
BUZZ: One of the main goals of PR is to get people talking about your brand. The buzz is designed to attract attention to your various brand assets that, in the case of Kardashian, include her official website; her mobile app, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood; her family’s reality TV show, Keeping up with the Kardashians; her perfume line; and on and on.
What’s more, Kardashian got a lot of celebrities talking about her photos, and all of the celebrities have thousands (sometimes millions) of followers, which increased the buzz exponentially.
PR Stunt: Yea, I’m pretty sure oiling yourself up and posing naked for a photo shoot with the sole intent of bringing down the Internet is a PR stunt! And it worked, at least the PR stunt part of it did. As far as I know, the Internet did not break.
Authentic messaging: Work with me on this one. What is Kim Kardashian known for? Her body, right? Her body got her to where she is today, along with a lot of lucky breaks, living in L.A., etc. Her brand is all about her image, which is infused with sexuality, generous curves and the Hollywood celebrity scene. These nude pictures give what her massive fanbase wants, and her detractors loathe – more uncensored, unapologetic and uncorked Kim. The messaging of any PR campaign should always derive organically from what the brand stands for, its body of work and positions on issues (puns intended). Well, it’s pretty hard to argue that Kim isn’t doing exactly that in her latest nude photo shoot.
Visual: Relax CEOs, you don’t have to bare it all for the camera. By visual, I mean that most successful PR campaigns appeal to the senses in some form or another. Taylor Swift releases a new song, and the music media talks about the song, the lyrics, her transition away from Country toward more Pop sensibilities, etc. A product release is accompanied by videos and photos of how the product looks and works.
The same applies to Kardashian. Sure, she can go on record in an interview that she’s all for being comfortable with her public displays of nudity, even as a mother of a one-year-old. But choosing to do it in the way she did in Paper mag elevated the message’s impact by being a carefully orchestrated visual production as opposed to a random shot of Kim going topless at Cannes.
Strategic: Another successful ingredient in PR is to execute a consistent brand media strategy. The most memorable brands invest in their PR strategy and incorporate it into the broader marketing strategy as a way to keep the message consistent across all communication channels and keep it in front of the media in hopes of getting more publicity. Kim’s team does a fabulous job of blending her PR and marketing along a dizzying array of brand assets, product endorsements and acting roles.
Social media: To be successful, a PR campaign must play to both traditional media outlets and social media. Think of social media as a kind of echo chamber where a message from a PR campaign can take on a life of its own but can, and should, be abetted through actions on the part of the company’s PR and marketing team. Kim has no problem in that department with 25m Twitter followers and gobs of fans eating up her pictorial posts in Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
Risk: I always say you have to take a pretty big risk to be considered worthy of media coverage. Whether that’s holding a Thanksgiving Fun Run benefitting homeless in your community or airlifting snow shovels to a snow-stricken town in Alaska, you have to take some risk. Often there’s a commensurate investment involved, either in the form of donated time, cash or inventory. Sometimes risk comes in the form of taking a controversial position or doing something unexpected.
I once worked with a real estate agent who donates 25% of every commission to a charity of her customers’ choosing – when she passed $250,000 in total donations in less than 5 years that became BIG news. But it started with a risk – always giving away one quarter of her earned income to charity no matter how well (or poorly) she was doing in any given month.
Kardashian is no different. To get where she is today she made decisions and took risks that put her on that path. Now whether you think that path is one that is even worth being on is another discussion altogether. The fact is she us hugely successful with her media outreach in large part because she’s doing some pretty outrageous things like popping Champagne over herself and oiling her body up for a series of risqué photos.
Nobody is saying that what Kim Kardashian has done is going to have any lasting impact on the world. It’s possible she gave us a series of photos as iconic as some of those of Marylyn Monroe, although I doubt it. She may have made it easier for celebrity (and non-celebrity) moms to show off their assets and feel good about it (albeit with a little help from every models friend, senor Photoshop). Or she may have ushered in a greater acceptance of what’s hard to deny is a new era of booty-flashing, sex-driven social media.
What’s hard not to deny is that Kim Kardashian is among a very elite group of celebrities who use PR and marketing in ways many companies could learn from, especially if they want to interest the media and grow the reach of their brand into every corner of the Internet.
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR and marketing firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.