Michael Levine knows things you don’t. Really.

By jes. on December 14, 2009

LOS ANGELES (Herald de Paris) – If one were to set out looking for excellence in this over-puffed, watered-down age, a great place to start would be Los Angeles .. and the office of Michael Levine. Since he first appeared on the communications industry scene in 1983, Levine and his company, the Levine Communications Office (LCO), have been widely considered the preeminent public relations firm on the planet, representing international brands like Nike, Sharp and Pizza Hut, while also representing many bigger than life human brands like Barbra Streisand, Charlton Heston, Robert Evans, Michael Jackson, and David Bowie.

In the communications industry Levine is literally a one-man wrecking crew, having authored nineteen published titles including Guerrilla P.R. (Harper Collins), the most widely used introduction to P.R. book in the world. He has appeared on or in just about every significant media-based publication, television program, and radio show in the English-speaking world, and when the industry shifted and went digital, Levine just went ahead and created the most respected online newsletters in the industry, LBN E-Lert (Levine Breaking News), which feeds the latest insider breaking news to approximately 317,000 insiders in all 50 of the United States and 22 foreign countries, including China, India, Japan, Australia, Russia, England, Israel, Germany, South Africa, Mexico, Canada and Korea.

I caught up with Levine in his LA office, to discuss how all this technology has changed the PR business. Instead, the effervescent and amiable master schooled me in the role he plays, and how he’s affected by the evolution of the media. Levine greeted me like an old high school classmate, all warm and light-hearted.  It was immediately clear that Michael Levine wears his personality on the outside.

There is a rare thing that happens in interviews, when you know the individual you are sitting down with has all the answers before they ever get past, “Hello.” This was clearly one of those times, and I was not to be disappointed. Levine speaks in full-color, painting his words with bold and decisive brush strokes slapping against the canvas of our discussion.

This was going to be fun.

Jes: I’m so glad to finally talk with you like this, Michael, because I always love working with your office.

Levine: Well, it’s mutual. So, what would you like to talk about?

Jes: I’m curious about the PR industry, and how it has changed with the rise of the digital age. It seems that every celebrity, every company, has a website or a Facebook or a Twitter account, and they are perfectly content to say whatever they want. How does a communications company now deal with all that?

Levine: When I started in this business there were no computers, no FAX machines, no USAToday … and nobody used mobile phones. Now, the metabolism of the world has changed – it’s much faster. That makes peoples’ word less sacred; less reverent.

Jes: And you would quantify that how?

Levine: Man-made versus Divine.

Jes: I like that.

Levine: Thank you.

Jes: So, how does all this affect your clients?

Levine: There is no privacy. We’ve never had media crawling all over the place like this. Now there are so many more outlets, both in print and online. The result is, it alters behavior. Anyone’s behavior would change if everything they did were watched all the time.

Jes: And sadly, it is sometimes hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Levine: Well, there’s no filter. Any jackass in pajamas can put together something that looks professional, then go out there and say whatever they want. In fact, I could go on TMZ or some other site and say, “Jes Alexander contributed money to a communist organization,” and publish your home phone number. What takes me five minutes to put out there – anonymously – goes all over the world in an instant, and might take you five or six months to un-do.

(Jes’ inner monologue: Thank god Michael isn’t a jackass, and that he doesn’t wear pajamas to the office)

Levine (continuing): What’s going on is really anonymous sabotage, and everyone has 24/7 access to participate.

Jes: So, where does the PR industry fit in to all this? How does a communications company succeed in this environment?

Levine: We’re the filter.

Jes: Ahhh. Well then in general, where does this current climate leave people in your position?

Levine: Concerned. Right now, the world is dangerously distracted; people are masturbating digitally, and acting with vapid inanity.

Jes: [laughing] That’s quite a parting mental image. Thank you – this was even more of a pleasure than I imagined.

He’ll get no arguments from me. Michael Levine has just, in the course of one brief discussion, summed up everything I feel and believe about the current tenor of the media, and of the public at-large. But it almost didn’t matter what I thought. Somehow, no matter what I believed, this dynamic man would not have let me go until I shared his perspective. That’s what filters do.

I have no doubt that we’ll do this again soon.

Michael Levine is the Founder and President of the Levine Communications Office (LCO), LCOOnline.com. His private website address is MichaelLevineWebsite.com.


Comments
Pleasant Wayne December 15, 2009

Brilliant insight

Debra Joy December 16, 2009

Stunning interview Jes, you are brilliant as always.

anonymous December 17, 2009

His one sentence answers were inspiring to you??

Leave a comment