How To Orchestrate a Celebrity Come-Back

Some pals recently asked me how can celebrities resurrect a damaged image. There are a number of ways to do it-depending on the transgression(s) that caused their star to fall.

If you’ve fostered a reputation for being a selfish, self-destructive actor who fights with everyone he works with and expects to earn far more than he’s worth – then bide your time, do excellent work in a low-budget indie, talk a lot (I mean A LOT) about how your dogs kept you going amidst horrible loneliness, be self-deprecating about your former arrogance, and express how grateful you are for a second chance. Extra points if the indie role embodies the whole idea of a humble come back just to further blur those lines.

Sometimes, showing a sense of humor about yourself can do the trick. And, that’s where FunnyOrDie comes into play. What began as a truly funny site where celebs could make and release their own vids has now become the land of desperate pleas to regain that lost, faint glimmer of celebrity. Okay, so, that’s a little harsh but truly…some of these vids just ooze D-list desperation all over my mac – and that’s no fun for anyone.

Take Denise Richards for example. On her “reality” show, she often whined that no one takes her seriously and only sees her as a stupid sex object. So, what did she do to counter this? Did she ugly herself up for a low-budget indie? Did she engage in serious charity work? Did she research and write thoughtful op-ed pieces for the Huffington Post? Nope. She released a vid on FunnyOrDie that attempts to make fun of that stupid sex object image. But, in reality, all it does is demonstrate what a horrible actress she is as the subtext screams, “notice me! Look at me! Remember me?”

Compare that to the Lindsay Lohan FunnyorDie video where in an “eHarmony-style” video, she makes fun of herself quite well. First time I saw this, I thought – good for you. This is just what you needed.

The problem is that Lindsay didn’t stop at just this video. Instead, she’s launched a whirlwhind talk show tour where she simply will not shut up about herself — which let’s face it — is her whole problem.

If she really wants to make a come back, she needs to stop whining about getting her heart broken and how the media exploits her. Given the current economy, moaning about these minor inconveniences does nothing to endear her to Average Joe and Jane. She also has got to stop talking about how nobody will hire her right now. Perception is reality. If you tell people no one will hire you…no one will hire you.

“The first thing Lindsay Lohan should do is stop talking about how desperate she is for work,” says Gene Grabowski, Senior Vice President of Levick Strategic Communications. “She must look, act and sound like a winner, not a loser.”

Sometimes turning to charity can work. After all, just as the media hit a frenzy with the whole Angelina Jolie is cuckoo for Coco Puffs bit, she became a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. and most people forgave her for making out with Billy Bob Thorton in front of us. (Yes, I do realize she still gets the husband-stealer routine, but even that has been spun into the Mother Earth image, so it doesn’t carry much weight anymore).

Should Lohan follow suit? Some say yes. “She has to appear at a worthwhile fund-raiser or do some morning news shows, where she is dressed conservatively, acting polished and centered,” crisis PR expert Cherie Kerr said. “All in all, she has to demonstrate that she is turning her life around.”

Of course, sometimes a star falls so far, there is no coming back. Winonna Ryder comes to mind. People will forgive and forget a lot of things. Drugs. Alcohol. Gigli. But, a rich, pampered princess who gets clothing for free stealing a few thousand dollars worth of clothes? All you can do at that point is go underground and quietly cash your royalty checks.

So, there you have it. Much like in the corporate world – all a celeb need do to recover from bad press is demonstrate that they don’t take themselves too seriously, show some humility, and be grateful that people are even interested at all.

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