Stories and Strategies Podcast
Guest: Kayley Hamilton
Published February 5, 2023
Doug Downs (00:05):
Like so many others in public relations and marketing. My own career started as a reporter, a journalist, and like any other journalist, I have my list of celebrities and celebrity politicians that I’ve interviewed, famous people I’ve talked with one to one for me. The list includes US President, Bill Clinton, Canadian Prime Ministers, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, and Kim Campbell, South African Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, legendary Soprano, Luciano Pavarotti, a whole bunch of professional athletes including Wayne Gretzky a few times, and a number of Hollywood stars including Morgan Fairchild and John Candy.
John Candy (Planes, Trains, Automobiles) (00:46):
Top of the morning officer. Hi. Is there something I can help you with?
Michael McKean (Planes, Trains, Automobiles) (00:51):
What the hell you driving?
John Candy (Planes, Trains, Automobiles) (00:52):
We had a small fire last night, but we caught it in the nick of time. <laugh>,
Michael McKean (Planes, Trains, Automobiles) (00:57):
You have any idea how fast you were going?
John Candy (Planes, Trains, Automobiles) (00:59):
Funnily enough, I was just talking to my friend about that our speedometer melted and as a result, it’s very hard to say with any degree of accuracy exactly how fast we were going.
Michael McKean (Planes, Trains, Automobiles) (01:08):
78 miles an hour,
John Candy (Planes, Trains, Automobiles) (01:10):
Doug Downs (01:12):
John Candy was one of my favorites. I’ve always remembered personally that two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes that I spent with them, I’m just as sure they don’t <laugh>. My time with them was one interview out of thousands, maybe tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands that they did over the course of their career. Still in those few minutes that we spoke, some were better at convincing me than others that they were paying attention to the conversation and not just providing canned answers. It’s not just celebrities and politicians who do that. People do that in real life too. When it comes to people who fake it, Hollywood is supposed to be the leader, right? So today on Stories and Strategies we speak with former Red carpet reporter turned PR Pro Kayley Hamilton about her experience deciphering if someone is keeping it real or faking it till they make it.
My name is Doug Downs music Off the top, back in Baby’s Arms, the Patsy Cline version. That was the theme song of course, to Planes, Trains and Automobiles starring John Candy and Steve Martin. Just before we start, I want to thank Dr. Terry Hernandez, the assistant professor in public relations at Mississippi State University. Dr. Hernandez and her class are using nearly a dozen of our episodes in their curriculum this spring. Mississippi State Go Bulldogs. My guest this week is Kayley Hamilton of Kayley Media based in Los Angeles. Hi Kayley.
Kayley Hamilton (03:01):
Hi Doug. How are you?
Doug Downs (03:03):
I’m good, and I know the way things go. We can all work remotely and people can be anywhere. You’re actually joining us from Denver today. How are things in Calgary South?
Kayley Hamilton (03:14):
Calgary, south, exactly. Oh, Denver’s fantastic. It’s cold. Definitely colder than Los Angeles, but yeah, I’m in Denver now, relocated about six months ago from Los Angeles, so it’s been good.
Doug Downs (03:27):
Now you get seasonal change. That’s the benefit. It’s not the same season all the time.
Kayley Hamilton (03:32):
Exactly. No, it’s lovely. It’s beautiful here.
Doug Downs (03:35):
Kayley, I know you’ve worked for some of the top entertainment outlets like Entertainment Tonight and Us Weekly. You’ve interviewed thousands of a-list stars right on the red carpet at the Oscars, the Grammys, the Emmys. You’ve won two Emmys yourself as a celebrity news reporter, journalist and producer. You now lead Kayley Media securing media exposure in outlets like Forbes, Business Insider, NBC, and Top-rated podcasts. I can remember the first big name that I interviewed where after the interview I felt like I hadn’t gotten to the person. I’d gotten only canned answers, nothing genuine, and I will actually share the name. It was soon to be Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. It was this empty feeling. You’ve had the same right there on the red carpet as well?
Kayley Hamilton (04:28):
Oh my gosh. Well, I love that you and I can talk about what it’s like interviewing celebrities and big name people obviously. So exciting and so exhilarating, but especially if you do get those canned answers, that’s when it can definitely be a letdown. So as a reporter, my job was to basically get that headline and get that super juicy, interesting, entertaining conversation or sound bite from the person that I was interviewing. And in order to do that, you have to be able to just connect with someone on a deeper level and make them feel comfortable. And you also have to do so quickly because it’s a very fast paced environment when you’re interviewing people on a red carpet. So not only is it bad if you walk away from an interview without getting something juicy from somebody, but it’s also a letdown in general when that connection just wasn’t made and the conversation was unfulfilling
Doug Downs (05:21):
And they kind of know that deal that for them to appear in numerous clips for them to go viral, things like that, they’ve got to give you something as well. They need to be likable if not to you then to your audience. They know the game here. Right?
Kayley Hamilton (05:36):
Exactly. That’s the thing. If they give me something that’s rehearsed or been said before, which is fine, a lot of people ask the same questions, but if something interesting doesn’t come out of it, then it was kind of time wasted because the things that make air or the things that are written about in articles are created into headlines are that juicy, interesting conversation, which has to come from just that genuine connection and conversation. So if that doesn’t come, then they don’t get that promotion that they need and that’s the whole reason they’re doing those celebrity interviews.
Doug Downs (06:09):
That’s right. And the big names, I mean, they do lots of interviews. Does that sometimes make it okay for them to zone out? I know when they’re doing some of those junkets, they’re doing 15 minute interviews, but they’re back to back to back to back to back to back to back. So I guess what I’m asking, is there a certain point where it’s okay for them to fake the smile for them to fake the contact?
Kayley Hamilton (06:36):
I know that makes me think of the Royals. I haven’t interviewed the Royals, but even just watching them just the photos, the endless engagements, pictures and cameras at every corner, they always have to have that smile. And God forbid they make one wrong move or say one wrong word or have one weird facial expression. I honestly do. It just seems like so much pressure. And so I can understand with the amount of engagements that the Royals have to do they probably get to a point where it’s like the gas is empty in the tank and they do probably have to put on that forced kind of demeanor. Obviously it’s not ideal if things feel fake, but at the end of the day, everyone’s human. Sometimes you run out of gas in the tank and the faking it becomes the only way. But when it does come to junket interviews, like you mentioned, those are so intense for celebrities.
I honestly don’t know how they do it. They sit in a hotel room usually it’s maybe one actor or maybe two or three, and they just funnel through reporters all day long and a reporter maybe has seven minutes and then it’s just in and out, in and out, in and out. So geez, talk about a lot of just trying to be on the whole time. So I can understand why someone would just get exhausted and feel like they had to fake it. But somebody that comes to mind is the Rock and Kevin Hart, I’ve interviewed The Rock before, and he’s just such a pleasant, pleasant person. And if you watch The Rock and Kevin Hart together, they’ve done multiple movies together. They can go through countless junket interviews and always seemingly be upbeat and be on. So there are people that can just do it so seamlessly, I think because they’re just so excited and they’re able to keep that excitement up.
But I understand why other people maybe can’t do it. But yeah, being genuine will at the end of the day just be the most fulfilling experience for everyone. And I just feel like it’s all about your mindset and the energy that you put out there if you have a positive mindset, and that’s coming from the reporter side and also the celebrity side. If you have a positive mindset, it’ll just be so much more pleasant for everyone around, just a more pleasant experience. And then there will always be times when there’s something that you don’t want to do. Of course, I understand that celebrities just doing those endless interviews, it can become just work for them after a while and then their mindset does give out. It does kind of feel forced. Sometimes there’s just less energy there and it is what it is. But at the end of the day, if I ever walked away feeling like, oh, shoot, I didn’t super connect with them, that they felt kind of off, I just have to remind myself to not take it personally and to also not make an assumption about maybe what’s going on in their head.
Sometimes I’ve gotten really excited to interview somebody and it has felt like kind of a letdown, and then I’m like, well, gosh, I can’t even imagine putting myself in their shoes. Maybe they’re having a bad day. It just is what it is.
Doug Downs (09:48):
They still have a spouse, they have kids they have work colleagues, same stuff that you and I have. So if you are in the limelight and if you’re on the red carpet you represent an outlet with a sizable enough audience that the interview actually matters because some of these interviews, celebrities do, it’s with smaller outlets. And I kind of get it, like you hear from someone on Twitter and they don’t have 5,000 followers, they have 50, it’s a little bit different. What’s the impact of faking the interview? I’ll give you an example. One I saw on television didn’t involve you with I think her name was Cara Delevingne, and she was doing a morning show interview. She was somewhere remotely and doing a morning show interview. I’m sure it was with an LA TV station, and there’s just no way to pull punches here. Delevingne was not into it. Yeah, she was rude. She was just not going to go with it at all. And I’ve never thought differently about her since I don’t have the same opinion of hers I might otherwise have had, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily hurt her career. What is the impact of faking the interview?
Kayley Hamilton (11:02):
I know it’s like they always have to be their best, especially if it is a very big outlet, but also you just never know. Everyone will have an opinion and you always have to do your best. And sometimes I actually have this interesting story, a pretty big male actor. Yeah, in a lot of stuff. I feel like <laugh> with one of my interviews, it was this big movie premiere and he was going down the line and he had already done a handful of interviews before he got to me, and he was newly engaged to another famous celebrity. And so everyone at that red carpet didn’t necessarily want to talk about the movie they wanted to talk about and ask him details about the upcoming wedding and wedding planning. And so he knew that going into it. I’m sure he was prepped going into it, but obviously by the time he got to me, he had been asked that a bunch of times and I could tell that it kind of annoyed him because he was out there proud of this movie that he worked so hard on and wanted to promote it when he was just getting asked questions about his wedding planning and his personal life.
And so when he got to me, he actually, and I try to word it in a way that isn’t so intrusive, and I try to ask the questions that they want to be asked. The whole reason there is to promote the movie. So I asked the question about the movie, and then I led that into a wedding question and he ended up actually giving me a very juicy headline worthy sound bite that ended up becoming an article and a headline. And then later on, maybe six months or a year later, he got married. And I remembered back to the headline and what he had told me, and I think unless his plans changed, but I think he completely made something up just to shut reporters up and told me, yes, the wedding is going to be in the winter in a winter place, and then it ended up being in the summer in a summer place kind of thing. So it was funny to me, I just felt like, oh my gosh, sometimes maybe these people just throw out something that isn’t even necessarily true, just to get these reporters to zip it with the personal questions and get back to <laugh> the questions of promoting what they’re working on.
Doug Downs (13:30):
Podcasting now there’s an idea, you listen to podcasts, maybe a podcast is right for you or one of your clients stories and strategies is a full podcast production company with clients in the United States as well as Canada, great Britain and Australia. If you want to chat, send me an email, Doug stories and strategies, and we’ll set up that chat. Let’s talk podcasts.
So the celebrities in our real life day-to-day life are our CEOs, our bosses, the people who had our businesses to an extent, even colleagues if they’re notable, taking what we’ve talked about and moving it into a workplace interaction where we get the feeling that we’ve just had a conversation, but the person we’ve talked to was faking it. You get the, Hey, it’s Monday. Yeah, let’s get to work. They kind of fake interaction. Are the implications the same? Do you think we come away thinking less of that person or do we do that ourselves? I know I’ve been guilty of it where I’ll put on that fake smile, especially if I have direct reports. Yeah, my job is to keep, to help try to keep them enthused about the work. Talk me through your thoughts on some of that and how it relates back to the red carpet interviews.
Kayley Hamilton (14:57):
Gosh, sometimes it is difficult because we all have to put ourselves in situations that we don’t necessarily want to be in. I mean, that’s how you grow and you step outside of your comfort zone. So maybe you could come across as being fake or sometimes you could even potentially project or someone could project onto you some sort of opinion. And at the end of the day, the impact of that, it’s just it doesn’t make it pleasant. A faking interaction with a colleague or a client it’s just unpleasant. It feels disingenuous. Human interaction is supposed to be genuine, otherwise, what’s really the point? I’m actually reading this book and maybe you’ve heard of it. Oh, I actually have it right here. It’s called the Four Agreements and it’s it’s kind of like a wisdom self-development positivity book and the four agreements that they talk about, which is really, it just kind of ties back to this conversation.
The first one is be impeccable with your word. So that’s to not speak ill of yourself and to also not speak ill of other people basically like gossiping which is funny because that’s what my job was as an entertainment reporter. It’s getting that kind of juicy gossip and that is what it is. It’s part of Hollywood. But the second one is don’t take anything personally. And this is so much easier said than done, and something that I always struggle with. I’m very much a people pleaser. I want to make sure everyone’s happy, but sometimes at the end of the day, you can’t control people’s opinions. You can’t control what they’re going through or how they project things onto you. So you just can’t take things personally at the end of the day if somebody makes you feel weird or just unpleasant. The third one is don’t make assumptions.
So again, it goes back to you don’t know the kind of day that people are having. And then also people don’t know the kind of day that you’re having. So if you feel like you came off a conversation weird, you could go back to that person and communicate like, Hey, just so you know, I’m having a really bad morning. I didn’t mean for anything to come off any type of way, things like that. And then the fourth agreement is always do your best. So it’s kind of always doing your best. Take the pressure off at the end of the day when you go to sleep at night, thinking about the conversations that you’ve had, it’s like, yes, I, I did my best with those. I did my best with the attitude or with the emotional state that I was in or the feelings that I was having that day with the tools that I had. Going to sleep at night knowing I did my best. And if something needs to be resolved the next day, it can be resolved.
Doug Downs (17:44):
That’s such good advice for leaders and the leaders of tomorrow. Thanks for that. So for you you’ve rolled up the red carpet, now you’ve started your own business, Kayley Media with a focus on PR and web3. Tell me a little bit about the work you do and maybe just a sentence or two differentiating for Web3 and why it’s at least a little bit different.
Kayley Hamilton (18:08):
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, two years ago, I left my job at Us Weekly and started my own company. And it was during the pandemic obviously everything shut down and my job was to go and work every red carpet event and then all of that just kind of fell to the wayside, of course. And it’s kind of hard to be a reporter when you’re stuck inside. And so I finished out that year at Us Weekly, and during that time I kind of went through a low point I the world shut down. My job kind of shifted. I went through a breakup, all these kind of things. It just like my life all at once just got ripped out all at once. And so at that time, I had a lot of time to be at home. And so I ended up finding incredible people, or basically they found me through podcasts, through TV interviews, through digital print articles business coaches, mindset coaches, all of these incredible people with incredible expertise truly made themselves visible through these media outlets to find me and share their wisdom with me.
And so I kind of put two and two together and I started Kayley Media to help up and coming thought leaders, amplify their exposure through the power of media, whether it is through podcasts or articles or television. And I got into Web three a year ago just by happenstance, and it was funny going into last year, I had put Crypto NFTs on my vision board going into last year, and it was so funny, by February, one of my clients who was a music artist came back to me and he was like, Kayley, I’m getting into NFTs. You have to help me. And I was like, ding, ding, boom, done. That’s perfect. So funny that it fell into place. And so I went full in. I learned just the basics. I’m not an expert by any means, but crypto, blockchain technology, how NFTs work, how music NFTs work, and that’s just kind of such a different unique space.
It’s moving so fast. So it keeps me on my toes, and it’s so exciting and it’s different because it’s like pulling people from all these different industries and they’re all coming together in Web three. So you’re crossing paths with all these different types of people that you would have never thought you would’ve crossed paths with, which is really cool. And a lot of people, it’s hard to, what I found and the feedback that I was getting was it’s hard to bridge the gap between Web3 kind of tech and jargon and Web2, which is just our regular reporting and regular news outlets. So I come in and work with Web3 companies to bridge that gap and to basically simplify what they’re doing with the technology and put it into layman’s terms for people who aren’t in the web three space to understand what this is, why it’s exciting, and why they should pay attention to it.
Doug Downs (21:02):
Great to have you on the podcast today, Kayley. I really enjoyed it.
Kayley Hamilton (21:05):
Thank you so much, Doug. I appreciate you so much. Thank you.
Doug Downs (21:09):
If you’d like to send a message to my guest, Kayley Hamilton, best way to do that is through the contact form on our website, and there is a link to that in the show notes. Stories and Strategies is a co-production of J G R Communications and Stories and Strategies podcasts. We would love it if you could leave a rating for this podcast on Apple or Spotify that tells other listeners, this is a podcast worth listening to. Thanks for listening.