Why Porn PR is Rarely About the Porn

Over the past few decades, the gap between the adult industry and mainstream culture has grown ever narrower. But you wouldn’t necessarily notice this from porn’s coverage.

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As popular as the films produced by smut peddlers might be, mainstream news outlets are unlikely to cover the latest edition of Big Booty Moms or Barely Legal; when porn winds up in the media, it’s more as a punchline than the subject of serious reportage or criticism. That is to say, porn isn’t the easiest thing to promote.

Of course, porn public relations isn’t impossibleBrian Gross — who transitioned to porn PR after a few years as a music publicist — notes that, whether he was persuading music reviewers to give an unknown act a listen, or encouraging mainstream media to write up some of the world’s most beloved porn performers, he was doing “the same type of publicity.” Namely it was a very aggressive, very creative sort of strategising.

Of course, there was still one big difference: while Gross might eventually get reviewers to write up the music performed by one of his more obscure acts, it’d be next to impossible to get a straight review for the work of even the world’s most famous porn star. While music publicity is always, fundamentally, about the music, adult industry publicity is very rarely about the actual porn, a reality that’s helped fuel porn PR’s reputation for stunts targeting the lowest common denominator and press releases hyping their own inherent wackiness, rather than a viable, compelling product.

During the years that I spent writing for porn blog Fleshbot, I became intimately acquainted with this sort of press release, which most commonly took the form of a seven-figure porn contract offered to whatever beleaguered celebrity happened to be in the news. Google “Vivid offers 1 million” and you’ll turn up a plethora of these stunts, as everyone from Nadya “Octomom” Suleman to Pippa Middleton to Ted Cruz has been turned into fodder for the adult industry public relations machine.

These days, sites like Pornhub make splashy announcements about shooting porn in space or plowing streets overrun with snow, only to largely abandon these efforts as soon as the earned media value has run out. For many people — especially beleaguered members of the press exhausted by press releases announcing things like Pornhub-branded lubePornhub promoting the cause of pet sterilization awareness, and a service nobody wants that involves texting emoji to receive porn — porn promotion doesn’t do much to challenge the adult industry’s reputation as a seedy business with a primary focus on immediate gratification.

But while these cheap ploys for attention are certainly a part of how the adult industry courts mainstream attention — Adella, founder of FAM, notes that doing stunts “makes [clients] happy and they like it and it’s easy” — it’s inaccurate to reduce the entirety of porn PR to empty press grabs. Mike Stablie, whose clients include Kink.com and xHamster, compares this sort of strategy to a “sugar rush” and notes that “stunt PR fades pretty quickly, and I don’t think that it contributes a lot to the overall conversation around sex and sexuality.”

This, despite the adult industry’s reputation, is actually pretty important to many people working in porn PR. While it’s easy to get quick hits off of outreach that plays up the shocking, taboo nature of sexually explicit media, that doesn’t do much for the long-term health of the industry, which benefits far more from mainstream respect than the “edgy” cred of being part of an aggressively stigmatized industry.

Adella tells me that she always tries to pitch an angle “that isn’t just about porn, or isn’t just about sex, but is about creating a dialogue in our society about the evolution of our sexuality and female empowerment.” In a similar vein, Stabile sees porn publicity as a way to fill in the gaps in our cultural conversation around sex. “Sexuality is not something that is adequately studied,” he tells me, noting that government funding for sex research is virtually nonexistent. “Porn companies are one of the few places that hold this data. What I try to do when I work with a company is to try to figure out what that data tells us, even if it’s imperfect.”

 

Read the full The Verge article.

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