The PR of Beating Addiction
Public life can come with all sorts of pressures and pitfalls. You need a team helping you maintain a positive public face while you struggle with some of the same issues all humans deal with. Certain struggles are more difficult than others.
Addicts face an uphill battle in winning against the substance keeping them enthralled. But, in cultures where substance abuse is seen as a personal or character failing – or a legal issue – that pressure can seem insurmountable. Sure, rock stars and movie stars can seem to go in and out of rehab on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean it’s a license to abuse … and try that trick in another industry and expect to be quickly and unceremoniously unemployed.
Double standard? Sure. Unfair? Very likely. A reality that must be accepted at this time? Yes. Pretending or complaining won’t change the way things are right now.
I’m not going to get into the medical and psychological aspects of this issue. Not my expertise. But I can speak to the public relations scenarios involved. Not relevant? Just ask a prominent star who’s battled addiction, or one who has lost that battle because he or she felt the desperate need to keep it private from anyone and everyone.
From a PR perspective, you need to make sure your “public face” is not defined by your addiction. We all know stars whose public reputations have become less about their talent and production and more about their struggles and addictions. We don’t need to get into that because you’ve already thought of someone.
Whoever you thought of, that person likely lost a key public relations battle. They or their representation allowed the issue to get so bad and so public it began to steal headlines. Even Elvis and Michael Jackson were not immune to this circumstance. If the King of Rock and the King of Pop could be remembered for their addictions, your reputation is in jeopardy – don’t pretend otherwise.
Next, you need to take whatever steps you can – publicly or privately – to put messaging out there that you are working on something other than battling addiction. It’s one thing to say you’re working on a problem, but don’t let the sentence end there. Give your fans something to hope for and hold on to. Working on a problem … AND … “working on” or “getting back to” thus and so. It’s perfectly alright to set priorities while also reminding people why they love you and why you’re valuable in the first place.
Finally, be sure to surround yourself with good, professional people who can help guide you before you get so deep into a problem you start making terrible decisions – like hiring representation that takes bad and makes it worse.