Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Death: The Ultimate PR?

The news of Michael Jackson’s death three weeks ago was met with disbelief and shock the world over. Fans mourned, other artists paid tribute and the story dominated the front pages for days. And yet, as our own Kate pointed out on this blog, it could be argued that it was the very same media and fickle fans that caused MJ (as he seems to have become known post-mortem) so much grief over the last ten years.

MJ had been hounded by the media for most of his life. Reports of his bizarre and eccentric lifestyle together with allegations and court cases had distanced once-adoring fans. Indeed, it was widely rumoured amongst a cynical public that his upcoming 50-date tour was very little to do with having a final send-off for a musical genius, and much more to do with the fact that MJ was, allegedly, millions of pounds in debt.

The painful irony is that, now that MJ is no longer with us, his star is on the rise like never before. Even in the Thriller days, MJ wasn’t this big. This week, he has no less than eleven of the top 40 singles in the UK. He has six of the top ten selling albums over the last seven days. And his official Facebook page has stormed to the being the biggest on the planet, with over 9 million registered fans to date.

From a media perspective, the newspapers went ballistic when MJ died on 26th June and didn’t let up until after the memorial on 8th July. Everyone from The Daily Mail to The Guardian wanted a piece of the action and competed to come up with new angles on the story. There were picture articles about MJ’s life, his childhood within The Jackson Five, his music, his troubled personal life, his children and even his death certificate. The story overshadowed anything and everything else in the media. If anyone had bad news, now was the time to announce it as it was inevitably buried deep inside the press.

In short, MJ’s death has shown two things. First, just how good and how bad the press can be. Some parts have published superb coverage of a major story, others have resorted to puerile and sensationalist headlines. And second, it’s shown us just how fickle the public is. With even a quarter of the supposed ‘dedication’ we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, MJ may never have sunk so deep. Just like Elvis before him, MJ's death has probably been the best PR his career ever had.

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