Paul Marrone

About Paul Marrone

Paul Marrone was most recently Director of Media Relations and Issues Management for Allstate Corporation. Previously, he was Director of Media Relations for UBS and a Senior Vice President for the global public relations agency Burson-Marsteller.

Guest Column: On Your Mark, Get Set… Stop!

nyc marathon 150x150 Guest Column: On Your Mark, Get Set... Stop!

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the decision to cancel the New York City Marathon.

Yes, let’s go ahead with the marathon! Wait a minute – let’s not. Late on Friday, Mayor Bloomberg reversed his previous position to go ahead with Sunday’s NYC marathon, an event involving thousands of runners, after coming under tremendous pressure. By Friday, Sunday’s Marathon had been cancelled.

Why the turnaround? In the days following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation on the New York area, it was remarkable to hear the rhetoric from the Mayor – namely, that going on with the race would be a show of strength by New Yorkers. Could Mayor Bloomberg have been more misguided in thinking that holding the event anyway, despite a city torn in half by those who had power and those who did not, would be good for New York morale? What he completely missed was a more careful look at the details. The world could see what apparently only he and the event’s sponsors could not:  This was not September 11.

As the severity of Sandy’s impact grew more apparent, focus sharpened on the redeployment of services to support the race. The New York City Marathon is not a simple run in the park. It includes the use of multiple generators, the very same generators that could now power darkened, cold neighborhoods. Police and Fire Department professionals could also be reassigned from controlling traffic to recovery work. This was one case where the show must NOT go on.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the final decision to cancel the New York City Marathon.

The PR Takeaway: One size does not fit all. Mayor Bloomberg’s original decision to create a” life should go on” platform (as happened with September 11) was the wrong comparison to make. He might have been better guided by the mistake of Condoleezza Rice’s much-maligned visit to Manhattan immediately following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when she caught a Broadway show and bought a pair of Ferragamos. Then as now, the message was not carry on as normal but rather, stop what you are doing and get help fast to where it is most needed. And that doesn’t include running a marathon.

Guest Column: Axelrod’s Post-Debate Petulance

 Guest Column: Axelrods Post Debate Petulance

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for David Axelrod’s demonstration of petulance and personal attack on his client’s adversary.

With the first presidential debate completed, the pundits and social sphere weighed in with immediate evaluations of both candidates’ performances. With more debates to come, the general consensus was that for round one, President Obama was disappointing. Even the Democrats said so.

That disappointment was clearly reflected in the President’s chief strategic advisor David Axelrod’s post-debate comments. Axelrod called Romney an “artful dodger” and a person whose statements during the debate  were “devoid of honesty,” “rooted in deception,” “untethered to the truth,” and “well delivered but fraudulent.”

Can Axelrod be more candid and more ad hominem? He did not offer much by way of factual correction, nor attempt to make the mind-numbing statistics provided by both candidates more user/voter-friendly. Do most voters know what Dodd-Frank or Simpson-Bowles are?  By the end of the debate, voters were still trying to absorb the kaleidoscope of  “what was that number” or “how does that math work” confusion?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for David Axelrod’s demonstration of petulance and personal attack on his client’s adversary.

The PR Takeaway: Take the high road, regardless of your personal feelings.  Address facts and express “disappointment” in your opponent’s argument without the need to call your opponent “fraudulent.” Anger shows weakness, and Axelrod, in those immediate moments of media confrontation about his client, would have served both himself and President better by “correcting the record” rather than taking personal pot shots which, up until now, has been the tenor of Axelrod’s communications leadership. Remember that rather than launching personal attacks on those opposing you, persuasion founded in facts engages those whose point of view you seek to capture.

What’s your opinion of David Axelrod’s post-debate commentary? Give us your PR Verdict!


Guest Column: Nokia’s Embarrassing Stumble

 Guest Column: Nokia’s Embarrassing Stumble

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Nokia. (Pictured: Nokia CEO Stephen Elop)

Last week, Nokia introduced its new smartphones, the Lumia 820 and 920, at a media launch. The biggest selling point? Lumia’s “PureView Camera Technology,” which separates this phone from the rest of the pack. A fancy launch, complete with a promotional video and advertisements, showed images taken using Lumia’s new “optical-image-stabilization” feature (OIS).  The trade press was meant to swoon.

But – whoops – the press noticed that neither the promotional video nor the still images in the ad were taken with the Lumia 920 camera in the phone. Did anyone get photos of Nokia executives’ red faces? But wait, the cringing wasn’t over yet: Nokia was unable to state a date as to when the product would arrive in the market. After all, they’ve been busy… Apparently finding good photos to use for press materials.

The company issued a pro forma apology for the ad, saying that it “should have posted a disclaimer stating this was a representation of OIS only” [emphasis added]. Nokia said that its aim was to show what the Lumia 920′s OIS technology will be able to do once available and apologized for the confusion it caused. No intention to mislead, and yes, “There was poor judgment in the decision not to use a disclaimer,” a Nokia spokesperson told Bloomberg.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Nokia. See what can happen in the rush to market products?

The PR Takeaway: Don’t be bullied by the market, and you’ll avoid later embarrassment. Companies need to control their competitive impulses. The smartphone market is driven by quick sales and product differentiation demands; everybody appreciates that. But what is the point in creating demand when the public will find only empty shelves, and the company may be accused of manipulative sales tactics? In this case, further damage was arrested with a quick apology, but in the future, how about a more thoughtful and cautious analysis of reputation risk? After all,  the rule is simple: be careful what you promise and when. That will avoid vividly red faces from showing up in the press.

What else should Nokia have done to avoid this kind of media embarrassment? Give us your PR Verdict!