Rob Cooper: Twitter is dangerous but celebs and those in the public eye need it

Rob Cooper speaking onstage at CommsCon

Rob Cooper speaking onstage at CommsCon

Publicist Rob Cooper, the man behind the “most hated woman in Britain” Josie Cunningham, has said that anyone in the public eye who does not use Twitter properly is “a fool”.

Speaking at the CommsCon conference in Sydney today, the club promoter turned publicist, said social media gives Cunningham a platform and a voice which allows the pair to keep the “momentum going” in terms of her coverage by traditional and non-traditional press.

“Anyone in the public eye who aren’t using Twitter properly – they’re fools,” he said. “The more things are moving more online we need something to keep the momentum moving. With Twitter it gives us a real platform.”

When quizzed on how controlled Cunningham’s Twitter is, Cooper said it “depends on what stories are out there”.

Earlier this year, Cooper and Cunningham featured in a TV documentary – Josie: The Most Hated Woman In Britain? – exploring how they manipulated the media to turn her into a celebrity.

Citing a story last year around her comments to have an abortion to go on celebrity Big Brother in the UK, Cooper said he took full control of her account as the backlash was too “violent towards her”.

“Twitter is one of those things that are really dangerous, celebrities need it but they need to learn to filter themselves and that’s where they are going wrong and they devalue themselves,” he said.

But on the general-day-to-day Tweets it’s a combined effort with the duo deciding what should be put out on social media.

“We intentionally put spelling mistakes in the Tweets because Brand Josie is uneducated, trashy and tabloidy,” Cooper said.

“Twitter Trolls are the first people to respond to anything and the more you can get them to respond the more the retweet and favourite.”

On the strategy behind the tweets Cunningham said the timing of sending out social media messages is key.

“Never do a tweet at 10 past 9,” he said, adding around 2pm is the perfect time as that gives enough time to meet print deadlines for the next time.

On how he handles the print media, and sells Cunningham to the press, he said: “She wanted something from the media but she wasn’t going the right way about it,” he said explaining why he works with her.

Cooper also talked about developing a story saying it all begins with a conversation.

“We have a conversation, there’s always gold in a conversation with Josie,” Cooper said. “There’s always something like ‘she didn’t just say that?!’

“We have a set of stories there to sell and get the timing right then we have a set of disposable stories that don’t have a value but they’re press worthy, especially for online.

“Probably 1 in 10 stories make it to press,” he added.

The stories that go online are valuable for adding to her power on social media.

“The more she gets shared on social media, the bigger her Twitter following becomes, the more powerful she becomes,” Cooper said.

On handling the various publications that want a piece of Cunningham, Cooper said it is important to give titles good content.

“The one important part of keeping her out there and giving her longevity is giving every publication good value for money. We had done a interview with Closer magazine, which is part of Bauer, and I just wasn’t happy with it, I thought it wasn’t powerful enough.”

To solve that Cunningham gave the title the story on selling tickets to the birth of Cunningham’s child for free.

“We gave them that as a freebie, it went big. The magazine syndicated it, the tickets sold out within 14 minutes,” he explained.

“By giving away enough free stories people are more prone to work with you, you make connections.”

When quizzed by audience members on the issue of a duty of care both to Cunningham and her two children, Cooper admitted it was something he was cautious about when initially working with her, explaining he even spoke to her mother about the risks she was undertaking by taking this particular route to fame.

“I made it so clear to her that it was a big risk, I even spoke to her mum. I didn’t want her to think I hadn’t pre-warned her on this.”

On the duty of care to her children he said: “Her children weren’t in the media for the first 18 months. We went out of her way to keep them out of newspapers. We don’t want her children to be bullied at school.

On the risk to Cunningham’s children being bullied he compared it to the risk of the children of same-sex parents being bullied at school.

“If there’s a couple in a same-sex relationship and they’re going to have children knowing their children are going to get bullied would you turn around and say to them you shouldn’t have children because there’s a chance they’ll get bullied because of who you are as a parent?

“I dread the day her children get bullied because Josie is a good mum.”

When pushed on the issue of transforming Cunningham and “cleaning her up” and changing her life around, Cooper said media were not interested in the story.

“The media aren’t interested in the nice side of her,” he said.

“There’s not really an option right now to turn her around, you’d need a TV show.”

 Miranda Ward 


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