'To be Tuku's publicist'

HARARE - In this final instalment of extracts from the explosive upcoming book, Tuku Backstage, written by Tuku’s former publicist and veteran journalist, Shepherd Mutamba, the author focuses on the chapter ‘To be Tuku’s publicist’ revealing challenges that come with managing the publicity of an A-list celebrity like Tuku.

The Daily News was given exclusive rights, by the author, to publish a series of extracts from the book to be published before the end of the year.

When the book hits the bookstores, the Daily News readers will be the first to know.

Follow the author on Twitter @tukubackstage14 and like the page on Facebook — Tuku Backstage, alternatively contact tukubackstage 2014@gmail.com.

ENFORCING information, communication and publicity systems and etiquette, in an organisation that had previously existed without the relevant policy guidelines, procedures and standards, was not easy when I arrived at Tuku Music.

Just to get the executive management and Tuku, himself, to adapt to the new information and publicity protocols and start operating in a more official manner was an epic battle.

Celebrities love to see their big names and colourful pictures splashed in newspapers and nice things said about them.

They want to hear their own voices on radio and see their faces on television. All of them have undying affinity for attention and will circumvent the publicist if they suspect that you will advise against certain publicity.

Over-exposure is killing Tuku today.  His manager allows promoters to bid for Tuku, every weekend, as if he is some piece of furniture at the auction floors.

The manager does not appreciate that, while it might make box office sense to book Tuku, five shows in one week, like he usually does, it naturally wears out the musician and diminishes creativity, energy and the quality of performance and fans notice.

As a publicist, I would find it difficult to explain to the media Tuku’s incessant shows and some of the poor performances where he was dismal because of fatigue from marathon shows.

Tuku and the manager would avoid my office when he chose to participate in the adverts of certain commodities and brands because they knew I would advise against stupid adverts. But they would go behind my back because they wanted to make money.

In 2013, Tuku advertised on billboards greasy pieces of chicken very bad for public health and sold by a certain fast food outlet.

Why should Tuku’s manager lead him to partake in such adverts? In 2014, the manager led Tuku to receive a bogus doctorate degree in Harare conferred by a dubious non-academic outfit. I would not be gullible and allow that to happen.

I could only watch while the manager was leading Tuku down the garden path in publicity matters.

Common among celebrities is the habit to deny what they say in interviews the moment their comments provoke public backlash.

Politicians behave likewise flip-flopping in the heat. Cognisant of that tendency, I restricted Tuku from giving unscheduled interviews. It is okay that Tuku is nice to everyone but to be naïve, gullible and pander to the whims of the media was not going to do him any good.

The publicity decorum I designed set very strict parameters for the media, fans and the public. I did not wish that Tuku became reclusive or enigmatic. I wanted him to be conscious of the scheming of a bad press. It was necessary that he was also aware that there were no friends in the press.

My condition was that journalists submitted written questions electronically or request one-on-one interviews that I facilitated but strictly on merit. I recorded on tape all the interviews in case the stubborn reporters misrepresented facts and we would have the basis for civil claim. Journalists hate the idea of being laboured with written questions and I got a very bad name in the industry as a result but I did not care really about that.

I stopped telephonic interviews, altogether, except with journalists whom I thought were credible and objective and would not put us in a mess.

For all that effort, Tuku would frustrate me and make spontaneous statements and decisions that were not well thought out such that damage control was even pointless.

What appeared straight forward corporate publicity protocol turned out to be quite a Herculean challenge for Tuku to adapt and lead by example as chief executive officer.

It took time and immense effort to drive the policy home and have Tuku conducting himself according to his own publicity decorum.

Our website became our official media platform for information and news about Tuku, Tuku Music and Pakare Paye Arts Centre.

I managed and generated content and photographs for the website.

The beauty of one’s own website, in all publicity work, is the freeway to express oneself without restriction and not having to go to newspaper editors on bended knees to get publicised. Rather the editors must come to your website for news.

When I issued statements to the press, Tuku never really gave talking points except only in cases where it was absolutely necessary, especially when it involved sensitive personal or family issues.

Some of the business matters that we shared with the media were discussed first depending on their sensitivity and Tuku would leave me to generate the relevant press statements for release without involving him further.

Running publicity systems for brands requires a network of credible contacts in key areas but especially the business community.

I was involved in building some of the useful business partnerships for Tuku with corporations that appreciate that entertainment is the most effective route for important messages that capture mass markets.

I got on fairly well with some of the journalists but often clashed with others who did not understand my job.

It is naïve of the press to think that publicists must be in the newspapers daily responding to press enquiries.

My job was also to deny journalists information. But I understood the difficulties of reporters, their hunger for news and tried to balance media interests and Tuku’s interests.

I simply dismissed what I deemed press trivia and became unpopular with reporters who thought that I overly protected Tuku. It is futile for journalists to think they can get unlimited access to celebrity work and life.

Because celebrities are not ordinary, they deserve extraordinary cushioning.

As publicist, my work obviously involved photography. I shot pictures for release to the press, others I filed documenting Tuku’s work, what we call archive photography that effectively immortalises Tuku’s work.

Showbiz photography, especially the live musical shows, can be agonising. Each of Tuku’s performances is different, unpredictable and the pictures difficult because the shots are not rehearsed and cannot be repeated.

Photography connects me with life in a profound way that deepens my understanding of the mosaic of creativity that surrounds me daily.

When cross pollinated with writing, photography makes a showbiz journalist more complete with enhanced appreciation of the perspectives of art.

But working with Daisy in areas of public relations is a total nightmare. She is so hot-tempered, buildings shake in tremors, if she is rubbed the wrong way. Efforts to school her in the decorum of public relations, humility and restraint failed.

Her language can be so crude it embarrasses her husband and everyone else.

In 2010, she described in the press a woman, who was claiming to be carrying Sam Mtukudzi’s child, as “a piece of sh**”. Sam had just died.

Daisy’s outburst provoked public criticism from people who felt I should have stopped her from making abusive statements in the press.

But how could I stop her if she did not recognise our own PR etiquette in the first place?

 

Comments (19)

On the website Shapiro is spot on - it was efficient during his days and you'd know Tuku's shows months in advance - this Is sadly no longer the case. I see the gun wielding Daisy can't catch a break....I'd have never known beneath that benign seeming countenance is such a nasty hubby grabbing impossible to work with charlatan.

Murah - 10 September 2014

How is Shapiro's relationship with Sam Mataure the current manager? I sense some vindictiveness here? Wakadzingwa Sheperd tanga zvako!

chitotazi - 10 September 2014

K k k k k, Murah you made me laugh today. I hadn't laughed since yesterday and this is the first time I am laughing today. You said "I see the gun wielding Daisy can't catch a break...I'd have never known beneath that benign seeming countenance is such a nasty hubby grabbing impossible to work with charlatan."

Gideon - 10 September 2014

Chitotaz, I don't see any vindictive in Mutamba's writing about the inefficiencies of Tuku's manager Sam Mataure. I only see a bold writer who is brutally honest with the truth. I like the author's style of writing...simple, incisive but sharp as someone commented on yesterday's extracts. The problem that some of the readers are having is denial that Tuku, Daisy and Mataure have their shortfalls and make serious mistakes. I suspect that some of the denigrating comments like Chitotazi's above are coming from Mataure's firiends/relatives. But that will not change anything because the book is going ahead. Some of us want the truth to be told. If Tuku, Daisy and Mataure are right thinking people they must actually thank Mutamba for telling them the truth and in accepting criticism the three will become better people . This book must be very accurate given that the author worked with Tuku. And so the book is building Tuku's legacy and setting Tuku free from the pressure and people's expectations to behave like an Angle. Mandela's first wife once commented that people were "treating Mandela as Jesus Christ when he is only a man." that is exactly what some die hard Tuku fans commenting about the book are doing...treating Tuku like Jesus. This is a great book, certain the first of its kind in the history of celebrity biographies, can't wait to buy a copy. I like the simple, easy going but sharp style of writing.

Thoko Moyo - 10 September 2014

Thoko Moyo, you are very right. We have the problem of denial that is why our society reeks with corruption because we want things swept under the carpet. Mutamba is not washing Tuku's linen in public. The author is sharing news with the readers. And news comes in the form of good news or bad news. Don't waste time responding to some of the stupid comments by people who don't have anything to show for all their lives other than hate, contempt and bad smell.

Ruth Makoni - 10 September 2014

Here is a straight forward brutally honest journalist/writer. I like it when he said as publicist his job was also to deny reporters news. Spot on, that is exactly one of the principles in all information and publicity work. Nice book. Publish it tomorrow because I can't wait. I have learnt a lot in this chapter "To be Tuku's publicist'.

Betty - 10 September 2014

Great book indeed.

Nancy Rusere - 10 September 2014

What kind of person is Daisy? If I say she is heartless maybe it will be too harsh. She behaves as if she is an isolated buffaloe bull

masiyambiri - 10 September 2014

The author knows how to play with language in a simple but sharp style. He says "building shake in tremors when Daisy is rubbed the wrong way". Such imagery reinforces the way he thinks about Daisy...a very difficult woman to work with as pointed out by Murah in his comment. Well done author.

Kenneth - 10 September 2014

Ha Ha Ha Ki Ki Ki...."Buildings shake in tremors when Daisy is rubbed the wrong way." It shows this woman is bad news. Can't wait to get a copy of this book. I love it.

Rocky - 10 September 2014

I have noticed that over 24 000 people read the extracts. If each one of those 24 000 people buys a copy then the author is going to smile all the way to the bank.

Edzai Sithole - 10 September 2014

Mutamba is right on the issue of Tuku and some of the adverts in which the superstar features. I saw a billboard in Harare where he appeared holding a piece of fatty, oily chicken thigh or something and a big smile plastered on his face and I thought that a personality of his stature did not need to appear in such an advert promoting unhealthy eating habits. We know what fast foods are...junk food. Michael Jackson got his hair burned while shooting an advert for Pepsi. Jackson like Tuku was also promoting junky drinks. And why surely should Tuku's manager lead an icon to advertise in such adverts? Looking for money at every opportunity regardless of the consequences? The same manager led Tuku to receive a fake doctorate degree from a fake institute without researching first about the institute that later turned out to be bogus and led by a former convict from Wha Wha Maximum Prison. Tuku needs a manager of the calibre of Debbie Metcalfe who made him what he is today. And for sure Tuku needs a publicist of the calibre of Shepherd Mutamba. Mataure is a brilliant talented drummer, one of the best and like him on drums but management is not for him I am sorry to say.

Rumbidzai Chimanga - 10 September 2014

Tuku on vocals and guitar, Mataure on drums, Debbie in management and Mutamba as publicist. That would certainly be the best team because these four are talented and great in want they do. Just my thoughts.

Comrade - 10 September 2014

Oh, unlucky Tuku. None of the two women ever talk about how they assisted or participated in developing Tuku's music. All they talk about is the cash point. How can Melody think it is normal to go to church wearing new clothes every Sunday? That is horribly materialistic display of greed and not religious worship. And Daisy, has palpitations and tried to shoot Tuku. She does not even realize that she did not invent Tuku. She rushed to the cash point also. Both women don't seem to appreciate Tuku as a musician. All their possessiveness is based on what they can get out of the guy. They don't even realize that Tuku's silence in these few extracts speaks more than words. If I were him, I would just continue singing and ignore the two women whose tastes are interestingly similar: money and more money.

Chenjerai Hove - 10 September 2014

Mr Chenjerai Hove: I associate myself with your sage remarks. Very little to do with the artistry of Tuku; instead, it's about being bought houses and BMW's to assuage their histrionics...

Murah - 11 September 2014

The lowest point in Tuku's illustrious career was, to me, being misled by bad management advice, to accept a fake doctorate degree. I am still one of those people who sincerely believe that there is no better deserving and worthy artist locally, than Tuku, who deserves r, to be granted an honorary doctorate. I am also still puzzled about what transpired for Tuku to part ways with the meticulously efficient Debbie Mertcliffe (who literary re-launched Tuku's career from scratch.)I hope this biography helped shed light on this. As for Daisy's temperament, I tend to suspect that little education on her part, is largely to blame for her uncouth attitude towards other people. It takes more than money, for one to have class and a refined personality.

tafamutekwe - 11 September 2014

kkkkk i now want to be a publicist, and my mentor to be .........u guessed right!!!!

UNCLE REAL - 11 September 2014

This book sounds more about the publicist than it is about Tuku. Nxa!!!!

Ndini uyo - 12 September 2014

@ Ndini uyo. Eish!!! Why do you rush to comment without understanding,the articles is clearly titled ,its the part of the book where Shepherd outlines how it was for him being Tuku's Publicist.Ko uri kurasika papi muOne room

Gwangu - 17 September 2014

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