How to Get Famous Fast
Walter Winchell was the most influential newspaper columnist of the 1930s and 1940s, a time when newspapers were the most powerful media in the world.
He rose from obscurity as a third-rate vaudeville performer to become feared, hated and widely imitated.
His formula for success?
“The fastest way to become famous,” he said, “is to throw a brick at someone famous.”
Winchell fought publicly with entertainment’s biggest names, from Al Jolson to Josephine Baker to Lucille Ball. Later in his career, he swung toward political reporting. Winchell championed an unprecedented third term for President Franklin Roosevelt as well as the Red Scare for Joe McCarthy.
He threw bricks in every direction. And this made him among the most famous men in the nation.
Winchell’s tactics have been adopted and adapted by scores of ambitious individuals and organizations.
How did Ralph Nader become famous? By attacking General Motors.
How did Jesse Jackson become famous? By claiming that racism is systemic at virtually every major U.S. corporation, then attacking those corporations one by one: Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Viacom, Verizon, Ford and on and on. Not only has this made him famous, it has made him wealthy, with an annual income estimated to exceed $300,000.
How did style guru Mr. Blackwell become famous? By issuing an annual list of the Worst Dressed Women in the World, and thus attacking some of the most famous females on the planet.
After more than four decades, Mr. Blackwell’s list remains among the most anticipated – and dreaded – bricks in all of entertainment and fashion.
Among his recent victims: Princess Stephanie, pop singer Britney Spears, game show host Anne Robinson, royal companion Camilla Parker Bowles, film star Kate Hudson and TV actress Gillian Anderson.
Check out the sudden ascent that comedian/actress Janeane Garofalo’s career has taken since she took the lead in attacks on President Bush’s policy in Iraq. Agree or disagree with her, there’s no doubt that throwing bricks at the White House has benefited her.
“Before this I was a moderately well-known character actress,” Garofalo recently told the Washington Post. “Now, I’m almost famous.”
Famous enough to warrant an ABC sitcom, as well as more than 53,000 Google hits using her name alone.
Throw the right brick at the right person, and you gain fame.
Obviously, throwing a brick isn’t for everyone. It takes a strong stomach, a steady nerve and the willingness to dodge a few bricks thrown in your direction.
But it works.
The keys to creating a Targeted Newsworthy Appeal with this tactic are to find the right brick and the right target.
The right brick is a criticism or a charge that:
1. Your target cannot easily deny or dismiss with a few well-chosen words.
2. Arouses your target audience – your potential customers or clients – to take action against the target.
3. Brings your issue into stark clarity for the public to see, to study and to digest.
The right target is:
1. An industry leader with a well-known brand name.
2. A famous person who practices or champions what you oppose.
The PR Rainmaker knows: Walter Winchell was right. If you want to become famous fast, throw a brick.
Rusty Cawley is a 20-year veteran journalist who now coaches executives, professionals and entrepreneurs on news strategy. He is the author of PR Rainmaker: Three Simple Rules for Using the News Media to Attract New Customers and Clients, available at amazon.com. To learn more about PR Rainmaking, visit http://www.prrainmaker.com/dailyblog.html.