|WWE and PR Hack Get Into Twitter Fight Over Bullying
By: Shawn Paul Wood
(Full Disclosure: Since I was kid, my father and I would go to professional wrestling matches. Today, I share the same experience with my son. There I said it. This story is really about PR and Twitter. Moving on...)
In 2011, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) created its anti-bullying campaign Be A Star. An admirable move by the WWE, whose core demographic are kids of all ages. Anywhoo, it's been quite successful. It has grown past the WWE umbrella to where the wrestlers are being asked on talk shows to discuss the campaign and not the job. Mazel Tov.
That said, the WWE has a beleagured entertainer named Ryback. Short dossier here: He is chisled out of granite, has the mind of a scholar and whose efforts as an "entertainer" have fallen way short. To wit, his character has been relegated to playing the part of...wait for it...a bully. Ironic? Moreover, the company COO, Triple H (Paul Levesque, to those not in the know) is now bullying an extremely popular fan favorite, Daniel Bryan. Well, a "publicist" thought this was fishy and couldn't help himself to thrust himself in the middle of a Twitter discussion.
Mark Kruskol of MJK PR thought the irony was a skosh too much for him to handle, according to Bleacher Report. Some fan beat Mark to the punch by tweeting about the irony, it got answers and the publicist pounced. Never mind he probably thought going after WWE's namesake and chief creative officer Stephanie McMahon (Daddy Vince owns the company) was a strategic move for his template-based, "I made this on WebTV," really poor website, but hey...nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Official 'Statement' by Mark Kruskol in retort:
Daniel J (fan): What do u say to those @WWE fans who is going against their own Anti-Bullying campaign w/showing HHH & Ryback bullying?
Stephanie McMahon: @DJstweetarazzi: WWE going against @beaSTARalliance? No diff than bullying in a movie. WWE is entertainment. @beaSTARalliance is real.
Funny. Slightly effective (except for the Star Wars clutching their Vader woobies). However, Kruskol makes a point the WWE brass didn't want to broach. Adults know the difference. Ryback and Triple H are playing the part. Kids, on the other hand, do not know the difference. My son has asked me, "Daddy, if John Cena (WWE hero) is against bullying, why does he work for a company that has a bully working for it?" As a good parent, I explained professional wrestling and used the word most fans hate, "Scripted." Other parents, not so much. They don't explain it. They don't discuss it. And the irony lives on in the minds of young fans, which does counteract the message of Be A Star. And that is where the WWE creative team missed the mark.
Kids play cops and robbers because they see it on TV and movies. They also try performing wrestling moves and sometimes people get hurt. Again, it's not the wrestling company's responsibility to be a parent, but it is the company's responsibility not to be hypocritical.
And then, Triple H (an abbrieviated persona name for his full "name" Hunter Hearst Helmsley...and oh yeah, Stephanie McMahon's real-life husband) responds to Kruskol with his own tweet "OMG, someone just told me Darth Vader is a character in a movie!!! Silly me, all this time I thought he was just a big bully. #BAStar.
WWE is entertainment. WWE, as a show, is not the parental source. They have a business to run, and often when a highly-paid superstar blows, they have to find a new angle to get fans interested again. Kids don't know that and some parents don't get that, which is why the original fan asked McMahon that question, and the opportunistic Kruskol blasted a statement across all the free wires in hopes of getting a viral note of free publicity. It worked so hats off to him.
However, WWE may be playing on real life for Ryback and Triple H - bullies exist, they suck and need to be stopped. Eventually, Ryback and Triple H will get squashed and the underdog will be victorious. Until then, the aforemention creative team needs to write a few lines of said underdog calling the "heels" what they are to educate its younger demographic. Why? MEMO to WWE: Because sometimes, unfortunately, the TV is the parent in the absence of a real one. That's not PR...that's real life too. Sad but true.
Shawn Paul Wood
is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here
or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood