Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The US News ratings came out a while back and, like Jan Brady, Swarthmore has once again been rated lucky number 3 (Williams, Williams, Williams!). But with a pretty prime spot, wouldn’t you think that people outside of Delaware County would have heard of us? Sure, it could be bad luck, or that we’re too “indie” for public recognition or something (also our extremely limited contribution to society probably doesn’t help matters). But I think the real problem facing the school is that we are absolutely miserable at publicity.
Think about all failed opportunities for publicity. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are all like, hey dudes, can we come over? And we’re all like, meh, we’re good. Obama even came out and said that he was rejected by Swarthmore. What does a person do if their ex or someone they’ve wronged becomes successful? They dig their claws into them in any way they can! Do we capitalize on the finding by giving Obama some sort of honorary diploma? Nope. I mean sure, to be fair, he hasn’t done all that much yet, but that’s not stopping the Nobel committee.
Another missed opportunity: eliminating football. Disbanding the team after a winning streak led only to publicity about how we’re such bookish wusses that we were ashamed about not sucking at football, and we didn’t generate any spin to have them think any differently. Compare that to “Miley’s publicity rap video”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tSOTQPUQoUÂ about quitting Twitter after achieving more than 2 million followers. She doesn’t come off as fearing success. She is, like, totally over Twitter, and instead of coming off as less cool because of it, she becomes the badass who brings Twitter down a notch or two. A bit more spin, and maybe it could’ve been football that comes off looking uncool, instead of us.Â
Sure, Bloomie’s gotten to be a bit more of a publicity darling now, as he traipses off to exotic countries and starts a budding showmance with John Sexton, but it’s too little, too late. Why no badass music video, Al Bloom?Â â€¨Here, try this one:
Lyrics and video by Peter Liebenson; vocals by Glenn Stott; song title by Xiaoxia Zhuang.
And did you notice that Haverford’s student council “totally neglected”:http://daily.swarthmore.edu/2009/10/2/tyra-banks/Â to tell their raided students that they could get a chance to be all fierce-like on The Tyra Banks Show? The other Tri-Co schools are just as bad at PR.
â€¨â€¨I’ll mainly address Swarthmore here because I actually know a little bit about it, but honestly, who would turn down TYRA? Maybe these schools think that Tyra would exploit her subjects and end up giving the school bad publicity. Of course she would! That’s not the point. What these schools don’t seem to realize is that even bad publicity is good publicity. Do you think the sales for Kanye’s next album are going to be hurting at all after he publicly humiliated America’s Aryan Princess for no apparent reason? Billboard senior editor Jonathan Cohen said,Â “These tantrums he goes on, these outlandish comments he makes, they don’t really hurt him. If anything, they’ve got more people interested in what he’s all about.” This quote is from 2007. Kanye’s antics are nothing new and, with the results they’ve been getting, they’re not likely to stop anytime soon.
â€¨â€¨Another publicity genius is hardcore porn star Sasha Grey, who distinguishes herself by crafting her image as an enterprising, sex-positive post-feminist, who just happens to get gang-banged once in a while. What did Grey do that was so smart? She went on Tyra. Sure, Tyra cramped her style, dressing her up to look helpless and naive, criticizing her choices, and exploiting her far more than any movie she’s been in. But it’s still publicity, which has given her an opportunity to tell her own story through new media and, as she herself points out, reach a broader audience. Sasha Grey is now the star of a Stephen Soderberg movie, and she is going on to direct her own adult films. What are the Haverford kiddies up to these days, again?
Miley Cyrus, Kanye West and Sasha Grey are the role models for our generation.
What can we do to emulate their behavior? Rebecca Chopp, our new college president, should take lessons from these exemplars. We’ve already addressed the Miley side: more rap videos!
â€¨â€¨Now Kanye. Let’s take a look at the type of publicity efforts that President Chopp has led. During Welcome Weekend, she hosted a Parlor Party in which she showed off her favorite types of candy. Then, “later in the night, she’ll reveal her absolute favorites. We bet you can’t guess!”
â€¨Cute, but not going to generate any kanye-troversy. Let’s just tweak it a little:
Come to Rebecca Chopp’s parlor party, in which she reveals her favorite and least favorite freshmen! We bet you can’t guess which race is her favorite! â€¨
As for how Rebecca Chopp should emulate the teachings of Sasha Grey, I’ll leave that to your (and especially my) imagination.
â€¨â€¨(Additional evidence that bad publicity is a boon: I’ve posted nothing but incendiary comments on this column, and you are still reading it right now. So, there’s always that.)