Facebook founder survives "Social Network" so far
By Matthew Belloni
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Who is winning the Mark Zuckerberg PR battle?
As Sony's "The Social Network," the unauthorized story of Zuckerberg and the origins of Facebook, hits theaters Friday, the answer might be both the studio and the press-shy billionaire.
Months before the film began screening, speculation was rampant in Hollywood and Silicon Valley about how Facebook and its founder would fight back against a heavily marketed film based on a controversial book that paints him in an unflattering light.
Zuckerberg chose not to hire a crisis PR team, instead employing a counterstrategy created by his company's internal corporate communications group and Outcast, its usual PR agency.
A decision was made that Zuckerberg, fearful of how his reaction might further fuel interest in the movie, would not publicly slam the film. Instead, Facebook put forward friends like Chris Hughes, a company co-founder who left in 2007 to join the Obama presidential campaign, to challenge the depiction of Zuckerberg in an August story in the New York Times.
But that article, in which "Social Network" producer Scott Rudin said that Facebook had tried unsuccessfully to convince him to change certain things in the film, set off a flurry of media attention ahead of its New York Film Festival premiere September 24.
Zuckerberg declined to cooperate with the steady stream of media requests that followed. Instead, his team aggressively sought a "prestige" venue for the 26-year-old billionaire to tell his story. They reached out to the New Yorker magazine and writer Jose Antonio Vargas for a mostly flattering profile that ran September 20.
"The most important thing was to make sure people had a fuller portrait of Mark," said Larry Yu, Facebook director of corporate communications. "That was the point of the New Yorker profile." Continued...