{Rules of PR no.26} Are PR Stunts a New Form of Child Abuse? #balloonboy

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Balloon Boy and the Flying UFO blow-up saucer of desert doom is a hoax. We know that now and doesn’t it just depress you?

I mean sure, we’re happy little Falcon is safe and sound, but that’s not the point where my sword of unhappiness and disgust is pointed. It’s pointed straight at Falcon Heene’s parents who outrightly manipulated their child and leveraged him for their own “celebrity” status.

I don’t think the telenovela writers at Telemundo and Univision could come up with a better story – and we all know they’ve tried.

Repercussions; that’s something his family never thought about.

In this instance, forget his jerk of a manipulating father, think about Falcon.

What type of stigma do you think he’s going to grow up with?

Thanks to his selfish father, that kid is going to grow up with the term “Balloon Boy” attached to him for the rest of his life.  His brothers will probably resent him more than siblings resent each other in momentary spurts throughout their lives. And dating? Yes, I’d really like to see what’s going to happen in that arena. Imagine ten years from now, when Falcon is going to Homecoming, or what about a date?

Not only that, but according to CNN and the New York Daily News, based on as series of interviews the day of and the days after, Falcon Heene was throwing up constantly, looked decidedly pale and obviously exhausted.

Between his parents, for putting him in the situation, and the general media, for capitalizing on it, I’m not sure who should have the bigger blame for the post-flying saucer balloon’s toll on a 6-year old kid from Colorado.

He’s 6-years old. Let’s remember that.

I’m not only appalled at his parents for obvious reasons, but I’m appalled at my fellow communications peers for treating a child like a toy or better yet, Britney Spears…after an MTV VMA stunt or something.

The moral of this sad story is, think before you act because for every action there is a reaction. We live in a world of ying and yang…and for this 6-year old, his karma might be out of whack for the rest of his life, thanks to the actions of a few.

Little Pink Book’s Rule of PR #26:
For every action, there is a reaction.
Remember that.


Sasha Muradali runs the ‘Little Pink Book’ . She holds a B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida (’07) and an M.A. in International Administration from the University of Miami(’08). She loves Twitter and all things social media, so you should find her @SashaHalima or get a copy of the ‘Little Pink Book’ delivered to your Kindle.

Copyright © 2009 Sasha H. Muradali. All Rights Reserved.


  1. JohnSternal says

    I don't think life for Falcon will be as bad as you think. He will get a book deal. Perhaps TLC will do a reality series on the family (now that they need to replace the Jon & Kate circus). And as for dating, well, no one will remember this incident five years from now since every day it seems someone is pulling a boneheaded move for their 15 mins. of fame. We'll have a million other Falcons to deal with between now and then. He'll be fine.

  2. I have to agree with John Sternal, he may get teased a little bit in school, but what 6 year old doesn't get teased? People will forget about this as soon as Jon & Kate do something else that is annoying or the Duggars have their 19th child. I can see the Heenes' being ostracized by other parents for the stunts, but people will take pity on the kid. After all, he is only a 6 year old that trusts his parents and probably thought he was playing a game.

    I think the only way this could impact him long-term is if Child & Social Services get involved to check out the well-being of the children, and thats a whole other issue.

  3. I definitely feel bad for Falcon and think that the parents are definitely to blame for this whole fiasco. They acted upon their selfish ambitions and used a little boy for their own motives. I'm not sure how long the effect of this story will last on Falcon's life, but for now he is definitely suffering from the doings of his parents.

  4. Hmmm…I got picked on b/c of something as simple as my name (i.e. Nar-pee-pee, Nar-doo-doo…I know, the cruelty of 1st and 2nd graders is quite simple); so I can only imagine what the little kiddo will have to put up with.

    But this is a good reminder of the fact that every company/brand is so much more than any kind of PR campaign or stunt. You've gotta assess the pros & cons of EVERYTHING, as well as look at things from a big picture view – otherwise, you come out with a half-baked approach, a misguided plan and a big mess.

    Dig the Post, Sasha!

    Narciso Tovar
    Big Noise Communications

  5. I agree, Sasha, that I'm angry at his parents for putting him through this – obviously telling him to lie, and as you stated, he was “was throwing up constantly, looked decidedly pale and obviously exhausted.” I *do* believe this is a new form of child abuse and it will be interesting to see what happens, but mostly I'm just shaking my head in chagrin.

  6. I completely agree with you on this Sasha. Those parents really should be ashamed of themselves for subjecting their child to this type of lie and definitely should be penalized. The repercussions from this will undoubtedly have a profound affect on that little 6 year old. I mean it already has – he's literally been sick during interviews. He'll be known as Balloon Boy among other things everywhere he goes and that is so messed up for him. I just hope for little Falcon's safety at home because I'm sure his dad must have been pretty angry when his cover was blown on national television. Kids that young don't lie unless they've been coerced to do so.

  7. I don't know if abuse is the right word, but it is exploitation.
    However we condemn a lot of things without looking first at ourselves. Perhaps it reflects a behavior we do but don't like.
    If you have kids, how many times have you manipulated them for the sake of manipulating your spouse and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

  8. That's an interesting way of looking at things David, I never thought of it
    that way.

    Personally, I don't have kids. Not married either. I'm a recent college grad
    fresh out of school 🙂

    But don't get me wrong, I can see where you're coming from. It's interesting
    because someone told me that how we treat people is actually a reflection of
    us. Or how we feel we have been treated.

    It's an interesting thought though.

    Thanks for reading 🙂

    best wishes,

  9. I'm there with you I don't have kids either, but you were once a kid and it was done to you.

    I see it all the time as well.

    And I absolutely agree, our reality is a reflection of our selves.

    Thanks for posting

  10. I'm there with you I don't have kids either, but you were once a kid and it was done to you.

    I see it all the time as well.

    And I absolutely agree, our reality is a reflection of our selves.

    Thanks for posting

  11. I'm there with you I don't have kids either, but you were once a kid and it was done to you.

    I see it all the time as well.

    And I absolutely agree, our reality is a reflection of our selves.

    Thanks for posting