I have had the chance to work a few red carpets over the course of my career. I’ve even been able to walk a few of them as a guest. For all the reasons that millions of people flock to them, I love it. They’re fun, they’re glamorous, and they’re full of excitement. People look good and there is a rush of adrenaline knowing that everyone is watching that little strip of the Earth for a few seconds. And when used for good, they can help build support for some causes and issues that will have real impact around the world. I’ve seen different versions – with different paces, feeling and management. Whether in the U.S. or Europe or Latin America, the red carpets that I have been a part of pushing or planning (or partying!), they all prove one universal truth: common courtesy makes for the best media relations.
Stakes are high and egos are are big any time you combine paparazzi, stars, agents, and intense PR people. So it’s easy during a red carpet event to find people who are acting like what they are doing is more important than open-heart surgery, a refugee rescue or nuclear crisis. You hear lots of “I needed this 5 minutes ago!” or “Do you understand whom I work for?!” or “She’s coming in 2 minutes – clear this area!” The drama is part of the mystique and energy, of course. But it also brings out the diva in a lot of people. And, let’s be honest, there’s a lot of diva to come out in each of us.
Last month I was helping arrange part of a red carpet event and something went very wrong. My friend (and host, in fact) had invited some VIP guests to the event, and their names weren’t on the list. There was a moment of panic and he motioned to me to see if I could help. Even though he was handling it with signature style, I could tell it was a stressful situation. Together we tried to figure out a solution, but one of the staff members was being less than helpful. In her defense, she was new, nervous, and clearly overwhelmed by the flashbulbs, hub-ub, and all the energy swarming around the celebrities. We tried to calm the situation and found a colleague who worked with her, starting with a “Hi! Congrats on a great event. I know you’re busy, but we have a problem we’d appreciate your help on….”
Amazingly, this incredibly simple tactic worked. My friend gave me a friendly nudge and said “Isn’t it amazing how common courtesy still rules, even on the red carpet?” He was so right. Even though it is the most basic of truths, when situations get stressful we let go of the basic principles we learned from our parents, our teachers, and our church leaders. It’s just easier, and nicer, when people are nice. It’s true in politics, in PR, and even amid the paparazzi.
So from now on, red carpets for me will remind me of glitz and excitement, but will also remind me that the same basic rules about courtesy that govern us in the office, on the phone, and in our living rooms, reign supreme even in VIP-land.