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How to Use Celebrity to Attract the New Media

The Dallas Morning News recently offered two stories that demonstrate the power of celebrity to attract the news media's attention to an otherwise mundane situation.

The first is on the front page of the May 12 sports section. It deals with a Dallas-area golf instructor. Why the fuss? Because this golf instructor, Hank Haney, joined Tiger Woods for a practice round this week before the Byron Nelson. Tiger brought in Haney to help him out of his slump. And that got the media's attention. No Tiger, no story.

The second is on the front page of the May 12 business section. It discusses the launch of yet another new magazine aimed at young adult men. The magazine, called Giant, will compete directly with the established Maxim.

Why does the News care?

Because the publisher is the son-in-law of Morton H. Meyerson.

Now if you live outside of Dallas, you may not recognize that name. But Meyerson is famous in North Texas as an inventor, a business executive and a pal of Ross Perot. The Dallas symphonic center is named for Meyerson, who rarely gives news interviews. Meyerson is providing the lion's share of the $10 million in seed money for the project.

Giant's publisher played it smart. He didn't just talk about Meyerson's involvement; he put Meyerson front and center for news interviews. And that rated front-page section play.

This reminds me of a lesson I learned two years ago while eating lunch at the Plaza of the Americas in downtown Dallas. A crowd of several hundred folks had gathered at one end of the indoor plaza. There also were cameras from four Dallas-area TV stations. At the center was a hot dog wagon, the sort that vendor push around state fairs and amusement parks. (As I recall, the wagon belonged to Oscar Meyer Wieners.)

After about a half-hour, the PR team arrived with Alex Rodriguez, then the shortstop for the Texas Rangers, in tow. A-Rod spent an hour making hot dogs and handing them out to the crowd. He wasn't particularly thrilled about the situation, but the crowd and the cameras didn't mind.

The crowd got to get up-close with an emerging baseball legend; the cameras got an easy news item with strong visuals and audience appeal. It wasn't news in any traditional sense, but it got the media's attention anyway.

But there is a secondary lesson to be learned from the fact that I can't remember which brand of hot dog A-Rod was touting. If you're not careful, the celebrity can overshadow any message you want your audience to remember.

By Rusty Cawley

A 20-year veteran of journalism, Rusty Cawley is the author of the paperback "PR Rainmaker: Three Simple Rules for Using the News Media to Attract Customers and Clients." To learn more, visit

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