Howard Bragman on Success Stories

Question: Which celebrities have managed their image the best? Bragman: I think George Clooney is like the gold standard for class and dignity and he gets it. He once said, “My fame is my currency,” and he uses that for causes that are important to him. I think Brad and Angelina are pretty remarkable in the way they’ve managed their family, their public image. To me, Madonna is just amazing in her ability to remain relevant for a very long time. You know, I look at celebrities, having been in Hollywood more than 20 years and following it, a lot of people are famous for their moment, but people who are still relevant 20 years later, to me, that’s pretty darn impressive. Question: And corporate types? Bragman: I think a lot of these corporate CEOs live in a different world. They live in a world of multimillion dollar bonuses. They live in a world of private jets and that’s the milieu they live in. And I think the auto companies got it. They had a misstep. They got it. They drove back to Washington the second time, and look at what happened? They got a deal out of it. So I think there’s a lot of… they require people and people like me, just because somebody’s the CEO of a company, I need to tell him the truth. I need to say, “You’re not playing this right,” or, “This isn’t going to work right now for these reasons.” And whether they choose to listen or not, I look at it as a responsibility of mine to deal in reality, because if I don’t tell them and they go out, they’re going to say, “Why didn’t you tell me?” If I do tell them and they still choose to do it, maybe they’ll listen next time. There are people who don’t care about the rules. I used the example of former Vice President Dick Cheney. He knows people don’t really like him out there, his poll numbers are down, but he figures, “Screw you. I was the Vice-President of the United States. I had all the power I wanted and I’m beyond caring about what my public image is,” and he’s somebody who transcended that. We look at somebody like Ann Coulter, the political pundit, and she likes to be intentionally provocative. She likes to say words that will upset and shock people, the N word and the F word, and get the press and then doesn’t care because she believes that all press is good press, which is not something I necessarily believe. In fact, that’s one of my core beliefs, that no, not all press is good press. But most people who are in the public eye, they have earned it. Maybe Yoko Ono’s tired of it after all these years, but, again, unless she does something pretty significant or makes an appearance, you’re not going to see about her, so people have to do a little something to keep their interest going in their image.

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