The 3 Basic PR Rules Broken by The Price is Right

By Kendall Tenney


September 10, 2012- First, let me say I am a huge fan of The Price is Right. I’ve watched it since I was a kid and have always wanted to host the show.  In fact, I ended up on a short list of about 117 other people who hoped to take over as host when the legendary Bob Barker decided to retire.  (I’d like to think I made the top 100)


Recently, The Price is Right celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special show that invited back contestants from years gone by.  Great way to commemorate the longest running game show on television, right?  There was only one thing missing-the man who is largely responsible for making it the longest running game show on television.


Somehow and for some reason, the producers failed to invite Bob Barker, the show’s host for 35 years.  When asked about the perceived snub, Barker said he had been ignored and that no one had even contacted him about the anniversary show.   What??


When I read that, I thought, there had to be more to the story.  Perhaps they had invited him and simply didn’t offer enough money for his appearance.  Or maybe they thought the 88-year-old Barker wouldn’t be up for it.   And surely, the folks at The Price is Right would have a response ready to smooth the ruffled feathers of Barker fans which are legion.


Instead, a head-scratching reply came from the show’s current host Drew Carey.


Side note-I think Drew Carey is a great comedian and consider him a buddy since I sat right in front of him once at a Billy Joel concert.  He smiled and said “hello” to me so I knew right then we were like brothers.  That being said, I think he would be the first to say he’s no Bob Barker when it comes to hosting the show.


So Carey, when asked about Barker not being invited to the anniversary show said, “it didn’t occur to anyone to invite him”.  Come on!!  Seriously?  The producers went out of their way to track down winners and contestants on the show from thirty years ago and NO ONE thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we invited Bob Barker to drop by?”  Ridiculous.


What can be learned from this from a PR perspective?   Well, following three simple public relations rules could have saved a public relations mess in this case.


Rule #1- As we used to say in Texas, “Remember who brung you to the dance.”  People love it when you pay homage to individuals who laid the cornerstones of modern day success.  Had the producers simply invited Bob to come on stage to receive a 30 second standing ovation, everyone would have been happy.


Rule #2- When you screw up and forget to follow rule #1, admit it, apologize and amend it!  The second the media started barking about the Barker blunder, there should have been damage control.  If the producers had come clean and said something like, “This was a terrible oversight on our part and we’re reaching out to Mr. Barker right now to make things right.  After all, he’s the man who built The Price is Right, which is why the studio where the show is recorded is named after him.”

Americans love to forgive and forget because we all make mistakes and hope others will forgive us.  But it’s harder to forgive someone when they don’t say they’re sorry or make lame excuses.


Rule #3- Don’t make lame excuses!  “It didn’t occur to anyone to invite Bob Barker”??  No one is going to believe that and even if they do, it will only make them angry.  You or your company is going to make a mistake at some point.  If you come up with a terrible reason why it happened and fail to own it, you’re only going to make things worse.


So it’s not too late to make reparations.  My guess is people behind the scenes of Price is Right are busy right now putting together some sort of Bob Barker tribute show as we speak…if they’re smart.  If they’re not, they have way overbid when it comes to measuring the public’s level of tolerance for a dumb oversight.

Kendall Tenney is a four-time Emmy-Award winning journalist who now runs 10e Media, a full service marketing and public relations firm specializing in media training.