PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to President Vladimir Putin, for shocking mishandling of the crisis of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Far more concerned with finger-pointing to maintain image, Putin allowed the deceased to remain unattended in a field, and for what is now known to be a crime scene to be compromised. Even those on the side of Russia in their battle against separatists have had a difficult time defending Putin.
THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska who first gained international attention when she was chosen by John McCain as his vice presidential running mate. Since that loss Palin has been flying sans PR handlers, and she generally makes the news when uttering an outrageous statement. Her latest is calling for President Obama to be impeached, saying that not doing so is an affront to God. Bad PR? Not at all; Palin has transcended that notion, going from politician to rattlesnake handler with deftness that bespeaks a natural talent. In terms of getting media attention, Palin has cemented her place in the PR Tabloid folder, under “any press is good press.”]]>
PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Oscar Pistorius, who was involved in an altercation in a nightclub last weekend. Pistorius claimed that a drunken patron verbally attacked him about his trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The patron alleges otherwise. The real question: Does Pistorius have no one in his entourage who might clue him in to the fact that hitting the nightclub for a pint, while one is on trial for murder, is inadvisable from a PR standpoint?
THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Comcast for their limp response to an incredibly bad customer service interaction that promptly went viral. Ryan Block posted eight of the 20 minutes he spent arguing with a Comcast rep who refused to disconnect his service as requested. Social media, which eats this kind of thing with a large spoon, spread the clip like wildfire. Comcast merely said the employee’s behavior was unacceptable and that they would contact Block to apologize. No word as to whether they’ll honor Block’s request and disconnect him, though.]]>
PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to The Daily Mail, which crossed a celebrity gossip line by reporting that George Clooney’s future mother-in-law opposed his marriage to Amal Alamuddin on religious grounds. Clooney struck back in an editorial printed by USA Today, saying that the article could inflame religious sentiment against his family. The MailOnline apologized and removed the story from the website, said to average 52 million visitors a month, but not without drawing criticism for the story.
THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Robin Thicke, who last week was the subject of embarrassing media attention about a Twitter PR stunt gone awry. #AskThick resulted in a slew of scathing tweets regarding the lyrics to “Blurred Lines,” Thicke’s worldwide hit regarded by many as misogynistic. The attention continued this week as a humbled, vulnerable Thicke tried to explain his latest album, Paula, an undisguised attempt to win back his estranged wife. Public meltdown, or PR gold? Either way, Thicke is reaping the level of media attention required to support a new album and tour, even if it’s the Train Wreck method of PR.]]>
PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to United States Speaker of the House John Boehner and Congress, who tied this week for new lows in partisanship. House Speaker Boehner confirmed this week that he intends to sue President Barack Obama for unlawful use of executive order. The announcement was made soon after Congress nearly came to a brawl over an IRS scandal involving missing emails with sensitive information—a perfect opportunity to point fingers and cry “J’accuse!” at the other side. At a time of historically low levels of trust in government, these elected officials should think twice about their choice of focus.
THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Chen Guanbiao, the Chinese millionaire who took out an ad in The New York Times to tell the world he would treat 300 homeless New Yorkers to a fancy luncheon and give each of them $300 in cash. Chen, a recycling businessman with a penchant for publicity stunts, was asked by his charity liaison for a donation of $90,000 instead, to protect the homeless from using the money for drugs. At the lunch, Chen had homeless people pose for photos of him giving them cash—that they had to return—so he could maintain his business card statement, “Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China.”]]>
PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to President Obama, who finds himself on the receiving end of campaign of blame for the current situation in Iraq. Republicans seized upon news that Iraqi soldiers, trained by the US at a cost of $25 billion and many lives, turned and ran from encroaching ISIS militants. However, the tide may yet turn: media pundits are denouncing former Vice President Dick Cheney’s accusations against Obama, reminding the public of Cheney’s role as architect in the Iraq war. Touché.
THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to American Apparel, which voted this week to unseat founder Dov Charney after years of accusations of sexual harassment of employees. Charney also hired photographer Terry Richardson to do American Apparel’s ad campaign; Richardson has been accused of harassment of models, and the campaign blasted as pornography. These issues have been going on for long enough to drive American Apparel’s stock price below a dollar; perhaps that, and not the numerous accusations, finally led the board to take action. The move is long overdue – and perhaps too late to change the company’s falling fortunes.]]>
PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Eric Cantor, the second highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, who lost his party’s primary. Cantor was expected to be the next Speaker of the House, but his support of immigration reform was attacked by Tea Party rep David Brat. Cantor’s loss was considered a stunning upset for Republicans and made headlines all week, exacerbated when Cantor resigned from his post.
THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to David Brat, winner of Virginia’s congressional primary. The media shone brightly on Brat’s Cinderella story and surprising win, but when the victory confetti settled to the floor, Brat revealed himself to be unprepared to face the media. Asked by NBC Washington correspondent Chuck Todd about minimum wage issues and foreign policy, Brat responded, “Hey, Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects.” The weak response supported the theory that Cantor’s stance on immigration reform, rather than the attributes of Brat or the Tea Party, was the deciding factor in Brat’s win.]]>
PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the National Football League, which faces a lawsuit now joined by football Hall of Famer Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins. The legendary quarterback, along with over 40 others from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and thousands of other players, charge that the NFL concealed information about the effects of concussions on the brain. The league continues to deny wrongdoing while seemingly unable to back up their claims.
THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to detractors, and supporters, of President Obama’s prisoner exchange for POW Bowe Bergdahl. Republicans have been focusing on the possibility that the exchange of one American soldier for the release of five members of the Taliban may cause grievous harm in the long run. Democrats are leaning on the patriotic credo of leaving no man behind. Both sides seem to be going through expected motions, though, because as pundits point out, there may be far more to these negotiations than the general public will ever know.]]>
PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Greg Abbott, Republican contender in the race for Texas governor. Abbott’s supporters created large posters of an “Abortion Barbie” with Democratic opponent and pro-rights activist Wendy Davis’s face and put them around Los Angeles in advance of a fundraiser for Davis. Though Abbott’s reps said they weren’t behind the stunt and found it appalling, the bad taste stays all in his mouth.
THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to website Rap Genius, which forced the resignation of co-founder Mahbod Moghadam (left) after he made incredibly insensitive comments about the mass shootings at the University of Santa Barbara, CA. Rap Genius began as a site that annotates rap lyrics and has grown since then—but apparently not grown up. As the company’s explanation states, there was debate as to whether to include the shooter’s manifesto on the site in the first place; when they decided to go ahead, no one checked the annotations. While the action was swift, it did little to offset the damage that mere forethought could have stopped.
Credit Suisse pled guilty this week to helping more than 22,000 Americans evade taxes by stashing their cash in Swiss bank accounts — a notable event on several levels, PR included.
The deal represents the first criminal conviction of a major global bank in more than a decade. Criminal charges, it has been widely thought, are a death knell for institutions that cop to them. Credit Suisse agreed to pay $2.6 billion — the largest penalty ever in a US criminal tax case. Prosecutors huffed and puffed about how significant this plea is: US Attorney General Eric Holder warned, “No bank is too big to jail.”
But…nobody’s going to jail, at least nobody at the top. While the conviction generated a lot of media, the general impression is: It’s not so bad. Credit Suisse wasn’t forced to reveal any client names, and it can keep operating in the US. The bank’s CEO told analysts he expects little business impact from the agreement. Indeed, Credit Suisse stock actually rose after the deal was announced.
No doubt the US faced a conundrum: Regulators wanted to inflict serious pain, but too harsh a penalty might be so destabilizing as to spark unintended (and unwelcome) consequences. After all, the threat of banking failures precipitated the last global recession. So they walked a line — and that’s exactly how the media read it.
THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the US government, which gave its PR team little to work with.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Actions speak louder than words. Are we really shocked, shocked, to discover that Swiss banks help people hide money? Yes, the fine is big, but even the general public has become inured to banks paying massive sums. If the US really wanted to send a message to tax evaders and the banks who love them, regulators needed to be more visible: name-and-shame clients, or put some white collars in orange jumpsuits. There’s nothing like a CEO in handcuffs to really command attention.]]>
Does no one remember the lesson hard-learned by fashion designer John Galliano, taken to task after wearing Jewish dress in a mocking fashion? Apparently not. Rapper Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, is on a steep learning curve after wearing a costume that many are calling anti-Semitic.
Last week, the Grammy winning duo of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed in their hometown of Seattle at the EMP Museum. Macklemore appeared on stage wearing a black wig, a fake beard, and a large, hooked prosthetic nose to perform a song called “Thrift Shop” about scoring fashions for a bargain.
His look, coupled with the song’s subject, “is deeply offensive and propagates Jewish stereotypes,” read a statement from B’nai B’rith, the Jewish human rights group. Social media was full of blowback too, prompting Macklemore to tweet, “A fake witches [sic] nose, wig, and beard = random costume. Not my idea of a stereotype of anybody.” Actor Seth Rogen, among those who’d called the rapper out, tweeted back, “really?? Because if I told someone to put together an anti Semitic Jew costume, they’d have that exact shopping list.”
Macklemore, who has been lauded along with Lewis for their pro-gay stance, has since apologized, though the statement’s start opposes his initial plea of innocence: “I acknowledge how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature.” As Seth Rogen said, “really??”
THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for rapper Macklemore.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: When fashioning an apology, don’t change your client’s plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” unless you absolutely must. Apologies for wrongdoing should come quickly and without qualification, with the focus on the mea culpa. Starting the apology with an acknowledgement goes against Macklemore’s claims that any thought of caricature was mistaken. With a strong apology alone, the worst that can happen is people thinking your client is clueless. Any more than that, and the charges won’t be changed no matter what the plea.]]>