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Britney Spears on Media Lockdown


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Most artists operate somewhere between the unfiltered ramblings of Charlie Sheen and the tightly controlled statements of Warren Beatty (let me know if you have a better example of someone who rarely speaks to the media). Britney Spears has swung to both sides, and is now on media lockdown. Someday this will be studied by students of public relations.

Let's review:

1999: Britney breaks through with "Baby One More Time" and becomes a media sensation. Her PR is expert - probably someone familiar with the Disney method did it - releasing enough photos and bio information to keep the chat rooms happy, but keeping her away from anything that would delve deeply into the real Britney.

Mid-'00s: Achieving stardom, Britney has to feed the beast and reveal more about herself, and it turns out she's pretty much a regular country girl who can charm a camera. It's mostly the paparazzi who tell her story, as her PR team does everything they can to keep her image on track while she starts to implode.

2007: The PR team is either incompetent or under orders to stay out of the way. Britney goes through a divorce and no one stops her from exposing her demons in pubic, including the classic mess that was her MTV Video Music Awards appearance. By the time of her Dateline Interview, she had gone rogue and was doing lots of crying in public. It seemed no one was looking out for her, and of course the media was more than happy to broadcast it.

2008: The comeback. MTV makes amends and gives Britney Video of the Year for Piece Of Me. Her acceptance speech is tightly scripted, and there's clearly been a deal made to use MTV to help repair the mess they made a year earlier. Her album Circus takes off, with songs crafted by experts who use Britney's drama as the storyline, and access to the star is selective, but available, as she tells the world about the challenges she's overcome.

2011: Now we have her Femme Fatale album, and this time there's nothing personal - Britney has no songwriter credits and not much connection to it. She gets an MTV special to promote it, and makes appearances on Good Morning America and a few other big shows, but for the most part, any performance is pre-taped, and any interview is screened for approval. If you're a big name, you can get access to Britney, but the terms are so tight that they soil your journalistic integrity if you agree to them.

So in Britney, we're now seeing the opposite of Charlie Sheen - a media lockdown.

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