Speak Up or Shut Up

The Entertainment Public Relations class met for the second time this week with our professor, Dr. Brad Lemack. I personally have really enjoyed this class so far. Dr. Lemack is quirky, animated, and genuinely excited about being part of the Elon in Los Angeles program. With his help, our class is learning about the entertainment business from an industry expert in the world’s heart of entertainment. It is such a valuable experience.

In our second class, we talked a lot about a celebrity’s choice to either speak up or shut up. To help illustrate this point, we watched the documentary Shut Up & Sing about the Dixie Chicks’ journey after group member Natalie Maines made a controversial comment about President George W. Bush. While watching the 2006 documentary, I was most interested in Maines’ decision to speak her mind instead of holding her tongue for the sake of her career. You have to give Maines credit for voicing her opinion and sticking by it, but I was constantly turned off by her attitude following the incident. In her mind, since she had already “screwed over” the group, the best decision would be to keep screwing them over by causing more controversy. While she was confident in this decision, the other group members often seemed hesitant. This brings me back to the question that public relations students consider again and again: Is all publicity considered good publicity? Sure, the Dixie Chicks received more media attention than they may ever have by starting the controversy, but is it a positive thing that all that attention stemmed from a negative comment? This is an issue we discussed in class for quite awhile. Pictured below is the Entertainment Weekly cover the group shot soon after Maines’ comment was made. Was it appropriate? Did it clarify the Dixie Chicks’ attitude toward the situation or simply confuse the public? When it comes to public relations, our class is learning that there are few clear answers. Everything is situational and often considered a gamble.

The Dixie Chicks on the cover of Entertainment Weekly.


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