Behind the Scenes of Caitlyn Jenner's Announcement

Caitlyn JennerIt's hard enough for companies to announce organizational changes, but Caitlyn Jenner had a real challenge ahead of her. An interesting New York Times article describes the publicist and process behind Caitlyn Jenner's announcement that she is transgender and planned to transition.

Alan Nierob managed her announcement but prefers to stay out of the limelight himself. What's useful for business communicators is to understand his decision process: what was the best way for Jenner to announce her transition? Here are the options described in the Times article:

  • "Keeping Up With the Kardashians": At the time, Jenner was on this E! television show, but Neirob worried it would look too "self-serving," and they questioned the loyalty of the family and network to represent the story well.
  • Interview with NBCUniversal: Nierob rejected this plan as too corporate and seemingly financially motivated.
  • Interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News: Nierob trusted Sawyer and ultimately chose this as one of the options. 
  • Interview with Vanity Fair: This was Neirob's additional plan for people to understand Jenner's life and to see glamorous photos. 

Reporters seem to respect Nierob's work. Here's a great description of an alternative to saying "no comment," which typically doesn't go over well. This is Nierob's response to questions about Mel Gibson's "blaming Jews for all the world's wars"(!): 

"What I remember," said Jeff Jensen, a reporter for Entertainment Weekly assigned to write about Mr. Gibson's saga, "is that Alan respected our inquiry without participating. It was like: ‘I know this is a story, I know you have a job to do, and I wish you well, but I can't help, and Mel won't comment.' It was incredibly gracious and professional. He did his job for his client while showing respect for mine."

Discussion Starters: 

  • How could an interview with NBCUniversal look "corporate"? Explain how this might be perceived and how it could reflect negatively on Jenner. 
  • What if Jenner had described her transition on the Kardashian show? Describe potential positive and negative outcomes. 
  • Why is "no comment" a poor response to a reporter's question? What alternatives could work better?