The curious PR failure of Bryan Adams (Column)

“Everything I do, I do it for you, Robert Mugabe – oooh …” Geoffrey Rowan is partner and managing director at Ketchum Public Relations Canada “Everywhere I go, kids wanna rock,” said musician Bryan Adams, explaining his decision to play a concert in Harare, Zimbabwe on Jan. 24. Yes, after they want to eat, and […]

“Everything I do, I do it for you, Robert Mugabe – oooh …”

Geoffrey Rowan is partner and managing director at Ketchum Public Relations Canada

“Everywhere I go, kids wanna rock,” said musician Bryan Adams, explaining his decision to play a concert in Harare, Zimbabwe on Jan. 24. Yes, after they want to eat, and maybe go to school, a lot of kids want to rock. Well, also after they avoid getting beaten up by political thugs. Then yes, kids just wanna rock. No doubt. That’s what they want, all right. To rock.

The Canadian-born rocker has handled the controversy over his performance in Zimbabwe about as well as Justin Bieber hides eggs for the neighbourhood Easter Egg hunt, or practices driving in the neighbourhood Easter parade.

Adams is, of course, entitled to perform wherever he wants to. Opponents of his performance see it as validation of the country’s president, Robert Mugabe, whose leadership, described by some as a reign of terror, has destroyed the country’s economy and threatens the rule of law throughout Africa. But others say there’s no reason the tiny minority elite in the dirt poor southeastern African nation should be deprived of husky Canadian vocals just because their president is a tyrant.

One complaint is that tickets – priced $30 to $100 – are far out of reach for average Zimbabweans. But most Canadians can’t afford Leafs’ tickets. And Adams isn’t the first entertainer to perform in a badly governed country.

The great irony is that Adams is a recognized social activist and award-winning humanitarian who has famously given free concerts to benefit various social causes.

His long-time manager Bruce Allen made matters worse when he told the CBC that this is a “non-story.” That’s pretty much what Rob Ford said about his tumble from the sobriety wagon last week.

Adams would have done much better to acknowledge the concerns and offer to give $10 from every ticket sold to education in the struggling country.

Free advice: when your PR strategy is the same as Rob Ford’s, it’s time to develop a new PR strategy.

Advertising Articles

Maple Leaf Foods launches ‘Songs in the Key of Wiener’

Facebook campaign for Larsen Wieners pays homage to the “As Seen On TV” era

Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance’s online adventure

How the organization is using annotations to lead viewers from one taste to another

Nissan hopes to score with final leg of CFL program

“Back in the Game” sending high school football teams and media to Grey Cup

Mark’s pops up in Vancouver with football competition

CFL partner will test fans’ skills ahead of Grey Cup championship this month

Aimia takes a data-dive for Canadian charities

Employees donate data analysis skills to not-for-profits in 24-hour event

The Macallan ties one on with Harry Rosen

Scotch brand tries to change perceptions that older is better with sampling events