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March 21, 2011


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Traci Hayner Vanover

Couldn't agree more, David. Wishing he'd find himself a hairbrush, but there is no disputing the PR genius of what he's been doing.

It will be interesting to see if CBS does take him back (as some of today's reports suggest), and if so, if he can actually use it to get an even bigger payday when he does.


I think Charlie Sheen is winning, but I don't necessarily see other media outlets losing. All media, including online, is built to get views. Networks, blogs, even Charlie Sheen, do what they do to get people to watch. And all outlets will seek an angle that will differentiate themselves from others. So if a network laments his behavior, it's not because they believe what they are saying, it's because they believe that's what their viewers want.

I think the reason Sheen is winning in this sense is because no one can keep up with him.

However, I also believe that the next scandal, or world issue, or celebrity screw-up will put Sheen on the back burner. Remember Ted Williams? The Homeless Golden Voice? Where is he now? No one cares, because Sheen is the train-wreck du jour. Tomorrow it will be someone else, and every media outlet will try an angle to separate themselves from the rest.

Dan Schawbel

Two words sum this up: "brand leverage."

If Charlie wasn't already famous, no one would care.

Great article David. I just pinged my friends and hope to go.

David Meerman Scott

Traci - I hadn't heard that CBS news. Will be interesting to see.

Paul - All good points. Thanks. Your thought on "no one can keep up" is interesting. As I said, Sheen is a real-time marketing genius. Yes, we get tired of things quickly, but for now he is on top.

Dan - personal branding!!!


Yeah, winning at PR, but at what cost? The question is what is he actually losing? He can win the game he is playing, but what are the short and long term costs he is paying which we (nor he) can see?

Just because he has a bunch of talking heads following him and people watching him, doesn't make him a success.

In the end, maybe all of this was orchestrated, but if that is ever discovered, what would be the result? If all of this wasn't planned, people are more interested in morbidly watching him self destruct.

ray dennis

great post!

Patrick Allmond

Winning is subjective. He is getting a lot of exposure. Don't equate that with winning. Is he increasing his chances of being an actor again? Is he profiting? How are those kids of his doing?

The same media outlets that are giving him all of the coverage right now will also give his funeral great coverage if ODs. Is he still winning then?

David Meerman Scott

JP and Patrick - Thanks for jumping in, As I said in my post, this wasn't a comment on his personal choices, but rather on his use of social networking and self-publishing. And yes Patrick - his 20 city tour x 5,000 seats each x 65 bucks a ticket is profit, don't you think?

Steven W.

Paul is right above - it's a 'win-win' for Sheen and the media that love to watch him so ;)


I feel like we all lose when we focus attention on silly behavior instead of working together to solve our bigger problems. I want real entertainment when I take time off.

Jake LaCaze

Personally, I think Sheen knew that, if he let the media control this, he would have an experience very much like Tiger Woods (though not exactly the same situation). And I think he decided to have fun with it and to see if he could find a way to take control and have a blast while doing it.

Yes, I agree with you; he is indeed winning.

Jim Logan

Winning? Hardly. He's lost all that truly matters. His PR campaign is a disaster: only proving he lacks the character to be a real success.

Everyone slows to watch a train wreck.

Marketing Gal

He is EVERYWHERE. He may be a total train wreck, but he is def winning. It's like a bad accident on the freeway, you might not WANT to look...but you're gonna....

Jeanie Weems

Hi David,
You are spot on with the Charlie Sheen post! I wish him the best of luck as entrepreneur and will be following his progress as many others will. He is a living and accessible example of many of the concepts in your book ,The New Rules of Marketing & PR.
Of course I've read the book and using the strategy and exercises to re-align my emerging business. Terrific post and thank you for sharing your knowledge.


David - Another excellent post. To see the difference the "social media" world has had on speed of relevancy, look no further than Mike Tyson. A mega-star spiraled to earth, bankrupt and ostracized from society for poor choices during his time at the top. Years later he resurfaces thanks to a cameo appearance in the hit movie The Hangover.
Sheen starts to fall and latches on to social media and old fashioned media and within days his name is more popular than when he was just a star of Two and a Half Men. Through great viral buzz he has been able to keep hi name (and his views) at the forefront.
I think it also helps that the media knows that stories of war, a struggling economy and the never poular politic stories don't attract viewers like a good ol' "Celeb Gone Wild" story (see Lohan, Spears, Gibson, Baldwin, et. al).


Good points on Social Media and free air time. I think he'll be the loser in the long run. The majority would not pay 65 cents to watch him continue to make an ass of himself or support his habits. Anyone giving him airtime or cyberspace in enabling a sick man.

Ted Page

While Sheen is clearly playing the media world like a violin, he's promoting a personal brand that is unhinged. It's no different from people slowing down to see a car wreck on the side of the road. I would not call that winning. But I do appreciate your point about the skill of media use.

Julia Stewart

Thank you so much for writing this. I was beginning to think the whole world had turned into sheep with iPads.

Recently, I used an anonymous Twitter account to wonder out loud if Sheen wasn't crazy and over a third of my followers (mostly bloggers) unfollowed me within an hour!

Sheen is crazy like a fox. He's one-upping the Joaquin Phoenix/Casey Affleck mockumentary, 'I'm Still Here', about Phoenix's supposed demise amid drugs, whores and a new hip hop career. Eventually, the actors admitted it was all fake.

Sheen's mock 'Winning Recipes' show on Funny or Die should give folks a clue that he's more self aware and much more savvy than he seems.

Last night I watched Bill Maher and Richard Belzer trash Sheen's tour, while lamenting that his shows are already selling out. Belzer actually complained that Sheen was mocking the form (of stand up). Aren't comedians supposed to mock things?

You know, psychologists say the folks you really hate are reminding you of yourself. Could it be that Sheen's manic/narcissistic/megalomania drives entrepreneurs and show biz folks up the wall, because he hits a little too close to home?

David Meerman Scott

Julia - thanks so much for this interesting analysis. I'm particularly intrigued by the last paragraph about people hating those who remind them of themselves.


Seems to me that Sheen is mocking the whole notion of being an entertainment celebrity. He's tugging on Superman's cape, he's pissing into the wind, and he couldn't care less what "the suits" do next.

I wonder what it's like to be a free spirit, and simply not give a shit about supposed reputation as a "professional" whatever?

Brad Stewart

It's funny how the American Public sees winning as melting down in public. I'm as interested as anyone and check his twitter handle every day to see what he blabbing about but I'm not sure he's winning. He may be winning in the short term but will his winning ways continue? It'll be interesting to see where Charlie's at in 2 years. I guess we'll have to wait and see if his #winning can last...

Sonny Gill

Mentioned to you on Twitter but figure it's worth adding to the conversation here - but people forget that Conan O'Brien had a VERY similar approach after he left NBC.

Though the guys are very different (one close to being clinically insane), Conan also took advantage of the opportunity of his community + social media that was in front of him. He built a massive group of backers who were for him and against Leno/NBC. He took to the social web, eliminating the need for a middle man, built up a team, and launched a hugely successful comedy tour (went to his show in Chicago) until he came back on air with TBS.

Two different situations but same approach. As annoying as Sheen may be, he's a smart guy that probably won't get the credit for due to his antics.

Ron Carter

Charlie Sheen may be winning the PR game, but at what price. Will anyone remember his mastery of the media or will they remember his outlandish rants. I believe the latter is true. His brand will forever be connected to his bad behavior.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks all - some great stuff here. I appreciate you jumping in.

Sonny - good point on Conan O'Brien. He also took his beef public like Sheen is doing now. And he also did a tour like Sheen is.


Sheen is Marketing Gold. He is having fun with this also. Timing is everything and he is striking while it is HOT. If CBS takes him back they will wait to have Charlie come in May for the SWEEPS.


I 100% agree. this guy is good... and wacky as he is he has certainly done what every brand wishes they could do.. make a big impact. The Sheen brand is an interesting one that you cant help but watch albiet through covered eyes peeking through the gaps.

great post

Pepe Fanjul

Charlie Sheen is going to come in a new dynamic role and he also is thinking in the same manner that when the time comes he tweets and come social.


It is a good case study regardless of what happens to Sheen in 2 years or what one considers as 'bad behavior'.

If he had not done his social media and tours, the media would have moved on to the next big thing. He is keeping them fixated on him longer than otherwise and making a few million off it, it seems.

See we are even commenting on a blog post about him :)

Pepe Fanjul

He built a massive group of backers who were for him and against Leno/NBC.

Christmas Island fishing

I think he decided to have fun with it and to see if he could find a way to take control and have a blast while doing it.

Charles H. Green

Oh please. Precisely the same could be said for Larry Flynt.

David, this suggests you never got escape velocity from the inherently amoral world view of PR.

The guy is a wife-beater, for crying out loud. And you're now on record as saying he's doing everything you've talked about for years.

Be careful lying with dogs, you get fleas.


I interviewed Charlie's social media guy, Bob Maron, for my blog. What he told me confirms what you say: They make sure they put out quality content that his fans will be interested in. He also told me Charlie is, indeed, having fun with Twitter.

You can read the interview at http://cayem.us/k6

Sharon J.

Personally, I don't see what the fascination is with Charlie Sheen. I have never really liked him and I don't understand the following he has.

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