You never know when you’re going to need a good mug shot for your PR guy to leak to the press. I mean… seriously. Are you going to leave the photography to some angry night shift booking flunkie? Do you really want that mug shot to show up in the tabloids? Heck no. Look at these motley fools:

(Note/Update: This post was originally written long before Michael Jackson and James Brown passed away. My sympathies go to their families, friends and fans.)

This is what happens when you go out on the town without a “Plan B” (especially if you’re planning on spending half the night doing speed balls in the back of Pedro’s van in West Hollywood).

Look. You’ve worked hard on building your personal brand. You can’t let one photo ruin it for you, right? Even if you get into a bit of trouble with Johnny Law, eventually, people will forget what you were arrested for… but thanks to Google Images and the AP, photos are forever. That could be bad if you don’t have a plan.

Real professionals are always prepared. This is why I recommend having a professional mug shot ready to be fired off to every media outlet known to man, just in case. That bit of advice isn’t just aimed at ex-movie stars, out-of-work TV actors and celebutantes. I’m talking to all of you in in blogtwown and twitterville.

A few tips:

1. Go with black and white. It looks better, it looks timeless, and if it worked for Jim Morrison and Jimmy Hendrix, it’ll work for you too.
2. Look confused but not dazed. You’ll inspire sympathy instead of contempt.
3. Wear a nice shirt. Do not wear a blanket, ratty T-shirt or other homeless/crack addict garb.
4. The hair should be unruly and as big as possible, but it shouldn’t look like you just spent a week living in a van (Paris) or were fished out of a Mexican toilet (Nick).
5. Chin scruff should be a day old. No mas, no menos.
6. Use your eyebrow superpowers.
7. Do. Not. Smile. (James.)
8. Don’t pretend you’re getting your passport photo taken (Michael.)
9. .jpg and .gif files work best.
10. Make sure your PR guy or assistant is someone you can REALLY trust.

Filed under “personal branding.”