Professional cuddling

Negative Publicity Pays Off

Samantha Hess has taken some ribbing, including in the news media, for her new career as professional cuddler. It all seems to be working out for her.

Normally, PR wizards advise against bad publicity. For example, who would advise Donald Trump to keep that horrific comb-over hairdo that makes him the butt of parodies? Yet, the Trumpster's popularity continues to grow. 

But in Hess' case, the snickering publicity about cuddling has given her and her startup business a giant boost. Her coverage ranges from a tabloid that shouted a headline, "Who'll Give Me Cash for Cuddles?" to a button-down news business review in the Portland Business Review. There also have been pieces on CNN, Yahoo, NBC News, CBS Sunday Morning and the London Daily Mail.

Media about her has touched 14 million viewers and counting, without spending a dime on advertising. More attention will come as her book, Touch, the Power of Human Connection, hits bookshelves and her business opens its doors in Portland, billed as the first retail cuddling center in North America.

Hess, 29, told PBJ Editor Rob Smith she got the idea for Cuddle Up To Me when she saw a man on the street with a sign that offered to give a hug for $2. The dollar sign was less of an inspiration than the notion that many people have a deep desire to be held and made to feel secure. Comforting people seemed more rewarding than her previous office job.

She has been cuddling clients since last summer and says her typical client is someone who feels lonely, such as a widow, divorced woman or single dad. "Most people just relax and get to feel okay for a while," Hess told Smith.