Tampa's Glenn Selig marks the rise of the publicist for news train wrecks
There have always been high-profile "crisis manager" publicists; the guys (or gals) you call when a well-known person lands in serious trouble, whether it's Michael Jackson accused of child molestation or O.J. Simpson accused of murder.
These were the folks who figured out how to handle the tsunami of media interest raining down on their clients, formulating ways to manage the publicity best and turn around a destructive public image -- whether you're Alec Baldwin visiting The View to combat the attention given a profanity-laden voice-mail left for your teenage daughter or you're Hugh Grant (left) sitting down on the Tonight Show to explain getting arrested with a prostitute in your vehicle.
But there is a new class of celebrity that needs those services these days -- the unknown person caught up in a story splashed all over the wide array of media sources -- from accused murderous mom Casey Anthony to baby factory octomom Nadya Suleman.
I've got a piece in today's St. Pete Times telling the story of a Tampa guy whose publicity and media firm is expanding thanks in part to such work -- former WTVT-Ch. 13 reporter Glenn Selig.
Selig represents retired Chicago-area cop Drew Peterson, who some suspect in the murder of his third wife and the disappearance of his fourth. When Selig began working with him about a year ago, Peterson was making odd appearances on the Today show, videotaping the hordes of media trailing him and getting involved with a radio station dating game -- behaviors that made him look less like a guy with a missing, estranged wife and more like a suspect.
Selig is also representing a not-so-obscure person -- ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich -- helping him set up the massive media tour in January and early February where he spoke to everyone from Diane Sawyer to David Letterman insisting he didn't try selling the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.
Publicists with these kinds of clients can make a national reputation quickly, landing on the speed dials of big-name journalists and news producers in ways that can help other clients. But their clients can be unpredictable: the 50-something Drew Peterson's off-again, on-again engagement to a woman close to his 20-something missing wife's age hit headlines again last week.
And negative feelings toward the client can rub off on the publicist; Suleman's publicity firm quit last week, citing death threats.
But at a time when even a mother of 14 on food stamps has a publicist and, most recently, an agent to sort through all the media offers, perhaps Selig's just ahead of the curve.