Stella McCartney’s Icy Olympic Tweet

 Stella McCartneys Icy Olympic Tweet

The PR Verdict: ”D” (PR Problematic) for Stella McCartney and her PR.

What was the PR advice given to designer Stella McCartney, creator of Team Great Britain’s podium outfits, as the opening of the Olympics got underway? As the Olympians went down the fashion runway, everyone watching had a point of view about each country’s sartorial expression. The Brits wore white and gold uniforms provided by clothing retailer Next, and not everyone was a fan.

The New York Times pronounced the uniforms “over the top.” Other commenters described the outfits as “somewhere between celestial beings and extras in a Jay-Z and Kanye West video.” Despite the unqualified success of the outstanding opening ceremony, some of the fashion press could’t resist a swipe. Presumably Stella McCartney didn’t want her clothing to be confused with those from Next; she designed the uniforms for the podium, not the opening. What to do?

Team McCartney dove into the world of social media and Tweeted, as the Brits’ uniform was unveiled, that Stella “designed the Team Great Britain performance kit, podium suit & village wear, not the Olympic ceremony suits.” Got that? Nothing to do with us, effectively read the message on Twitter. Her Tweet got more attention than it ever intended.

The PR Verdict: ”D” (PR Problematic) for Stella McCartney and her PR. Why not err on the side of generosity by congratulating Next and setting the record straight at the same time? Clarifying an issue with the word “not” is always open to misinterpretation.

The PR Takeaway: Be nice! Gushy good manners can make the same point as clarifications that may come off as harsh. From a PR point of view, it’s understandable that Stella McCartney wants to set the record straight about what was and wasn’t hers. Congratulating Next, instead of sending them out in the cold, would have been nicer and could have made the same point. How about this PR Appropriate Tweet: “A big fat congratulations to Next. My turn follows with our podium suits when we win our medals. Happy Games!” Exactly the same point, but nothing defensive, and it includes praise for  your Olympic partner. Sometimes good PR really is just about good manners.

To read more bitchy commentary about the Olympic uniforms, click here.

What’s your opinion of Stella McCartney’s clarification? Give us your PR Verdict!

Former Citigroup CEO: “Too Big” Can Fail

 Former Citigroup CEO: Too Big Can Fail

The PR Verdict: “B” (Almost a Winner) for Sandy Weill, who has joined the chorus of concern about the “too big too fail” banking ethic.

So Sandy Weill, Citigroup’s former CEO, is now conceding that what he spent his lifetime proudly building maybe wasn’t such a great idea after all. The former architect of megabank Citigroup stunned the market this week with his observation that banks may be too big to manage. Why not split up investment banking from regular banking, he suggested during an interview on CNBC. Weill revealed a new mantra: bigger may no longer be better.

Quite a volte-face from the man who fought tooth and nail for the repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act, which previously drew a line between commercial and retail banks. Visitors to Weill’s offices when he was at Citigroup could feast their eyes on a proudly-displayed plaque that read, “The Shatterer of Glass Steagall.”  Back then, Weill and his peers credited themselves with creating a brand new banking world.

Why turn back the clock now? As an explanation, Weill’s was masterful in its positioning. Nothing wrong with what he did at the time; it’s just that well, NOW, the situation has changed, Weill explained. This was not an admission of personal responsibility–just that what was once right at the time is “not right anymore.” That was then, this is now.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Almost a Winner) for Sandy Weill, who has now joined the chorus of concern about “too big too fail”. Weill has done a neat (albeit cynical) job of personally shifting from “man in charge” to curious bystander.

The PR Takeaway: Context gives plenty of air cover. By concentrating on the macro, not the micro, Weill has moved into the debate without any personal admissions of failure. This was about what works in the market and nothing to do with his own personal role in the crisis.  Not really a change of heart, more of an update about what the markets are saying.  That makes it so much easier to swap sides and means he can now sit with the cool kids at the school cafeteria.

What’s your opinion of Sandy Weill’s about-face on banking? Give us your PR Verdict!

The Boss Bares All

 The Boss Bares All

The PR Verdict: “B” (Almost a Winner) for Bruce Springsteen and his decision to talk to the New Yorker.

Is there something we didn’t know about Bruce Springsteen? Apparently so. Pre-publicity for the next issue of the New Yorker is generating headlines with a massive 16,000-word profile that lets readers into The Boss’s darkest secret: He has been battling depression for years.

Springsteen made the personal revelations during the weeks he was being interviewed and trailed by journalist David Remnick, the author of the profile. Advance PR tells us that Springsteen will come across to readers as a thoughtful and considerate soul with a high level of self-awareness and introspection. And, one could say, well-versed in the language of therapy.

The multi-platinum musician has been seeing a therapist since 1982. Remnick says that Springsteen avoided drugs due to the “thread of mental instability that ran through his family,” including Springsteen’s father, who battled “paralyzing depressions.” Additionally, Springsteen’s wife Patti Scialfa confirms in the article that she is bipolar. Such revelations might have been sensationalized in the hands of a lesser publication, but this elegant, straightforward bastion of publishing was the right choice to discuss an intensely personal story.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Almost a Winner) for Bruce Springsteen and his decision to talk to the New Yorker: a sensible place to discuss a wider social issue.

The PR Takeaway: Where you say something matters as much as what you say. Top marks to Springsteen for choosing the New Yorker to air an intensely personal issue. This might have gotten big airplay on E! Entertainment News and celebrity publications, but if Springsteen wanted to make some wider nuanced points, this was the way to go.

To read more, click here.

What’s your opinion of Bruce Springsteen’s decision to reveal this intensely personal information? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

Bachmann’s Accusations Backfire

 Bachmanns Accusations Backfire

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Michele Bachmann.

Michele Bachmann, former Republican nominee, recently brought to the nation’s attention her concern that foreign agents are infiltrating the very highest levels of office in the US. This is her first major media moment since announcing application for dual citizenship (her husband is Swiss) and quickly retracting after embarrassingly negative outcry from her constituency. Signing a letter she made public, she claimed that the infiltration of the U.S. government by the Muslim Brotherhood was possibly underway and claimed that two prominent Muslims — Huma Abedin, the State Department aide to Hilary Clinton, and Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota — are tied to the organization.

Bachmann, who also sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has used her position there to lend gravitas to her allegations. But the “ouch” moment came when the committee’s chairman told USA Today, “That kind of assertion certainly doesn’t comport with the Intelligence Committee, and I can say that on the record.” Hmmm… What now, Michele?

Everybody ran for cover. Sen. John McCain denounced the accusation from the Senate floor and joined members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, shutting this news event down. Republican party officials hardly rushed to Bachmann’s defense, with her own state party Chairman “not available” for any elaboration. So far, Bachmann’s office has denied repeated followup media requests. Are they hoping this will simply go away?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for a mess that still needs to be cleared up. Saying nothing won’t wipe the slate.

The PR Takeaway: As mommie used to say: Clean up your mess! With Bachmann’s accusations described as loony by the media and her congressional colleagues on both sides (who says the government can’t agree?), it is clear this PR missile is only gaining speed in the wrong direction. One voter was quoted in the coverage as saying Bachmann is the “Only one telling the truth” but then again he also claimed that President Obama goes to Martha’s Vineyard to observe Ramadan….. Before Bachmann positions herself as an unequivocal fringe outsider, it might be time to retract, apologize, and simply say this was a mistake. Until she does, the issue is unlikely to go away.

What can Michele Bachmann do to save political face now? Give us your PR Verdict!

Will Tony Robbins’ Feet Be Held to the Fire?

firewalk 150x150 Will Tony Robbins Feet Be Held to the Fire?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Tony Robbins.

These are embarrassing times for one of America’s most loved personal development gurus. Attendees at a recent seminar hosted by the self-actualized Tony Robbins not only found themselves in the headlines but cooling their feet in ice water as well. The reason? A fire-walking episode that failed to go to plan.

Late last week, over 20 attendees at a recent Tony Robbins personal development seminar suffered burns while walking across hot coals. The famous fire walk is part of Robbins’ “Unleash the Power Within” seminar, aimed at helping participants understand that they can overcome personal challenges. Participants are encouraged to tackle their fears, feet first.

“I just heard these screams of agony,” one witness relayed to the media, presumably to the horror of the Robbins’ PR machine. While many left the seminar feeling elated and transformed, others weren’t so lucky and left with second-and third-degree burns, caused by coals heated up to a cozy 2,000 degrees. As for Robbins himself, he has been nowhere in the subsequent media coverage. Where is our guru, and will his feet be held to the fire?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Anthony Robbins and his handling of a personal transformation exercise that went wrong. Next time, how about more leadership from one of America’s leading gurus?

The PR Takeaway: Unleash the Power Within and say SOMETHING. Tony Robbins has been noticeably absent from media coverage concerning this mishap. His organization, Robbins Research International, issued a bland CYA statement saying, “We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel … ” Perhaps, but  wasn’t this the time for one of America’s leading advocates of personal responsibility to explain–personally–what happened? A company statement is fine, but his name, after all, is on the billboard. Might we suggest a refresher fire walk to reaffirm his commitment to personal responsibility and accountability?

Should Tony Robbins have personally addressed this PR mishap, or should he continue to lay low? Give us your PR Verdict!

When Tragedy Strikes: Keep Calm, But Don’t Carry On

120720 aurora dp1 330a.photoblog500 150x150 When Tragedy Strikes: Keep Calm, But Dont Carry On

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Warner Bros.

America is reeling from the horror of the cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado, last week, and news broadcasts continue to be saturated with coverage of the deadly event. The PR and marketing whizzes working on the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises must be wondering, where to now?

The juggernaut marketing and PR initiatives designed to promote the film and promote its cult status were already activated and in full play before the tragic shooting. Advance promotions were booked months ahead, as were the press tours, interviews, and PR programs. But when tragedy strikes, what is the appropriate response in the middle of a national tragedy?

Warner Bros. PR response so far, seems to be the best in a worst-case scenario. Director Christopher Nolan, the producers, and the cast have individually issued statements relaying their immense sadness and incomprehensibility at the turn of events. Warner Bros. has been rightfully low key, issuing a two-line statement restricted to talking about the victims and their families, to avoid any suggestion it is trying to salvage a now imperiled investment. Spot on. Next,  advertising was pulled, premieres and interviews halted, and box office receipt figures were withheld. All that was left to do was continue to express solidarity with the families of the deceased and the rest of the country, and wait.

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect). A well-handled and sensitive response to the unforeseen and unimaginable. With no handbook response available for such an event, this is ultimately a matter of common sense and taste.

The PR Takeaway: Individuals make the difference. With the director and stars of the film issuing their own statements, this tragic event remained clearly in the domain of the personal, and not about business or commercial interests.  The key priority in an emergency PR plan of this sort is to halt all promotional activity immediately, to avoid it running alongside a news story covering the same event. Definitely not business as usual. For now, this is  a national conversation, not a commercial exercise.

To read more, click here.

What’s your opinion of Warner Bros. response to the tragedy in Aurora? Give us your PR Verdict.

What In “God’s Plan” Was George Zimmerman Thinking?

screen shot 2012 07 19 at 11 53 58 am 300x254 What In Gods Plan Was George Zimmerman Thinking?

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for George Zimmerman.

Who knows what George Zimmerman was thinking when he went on Fox yesterday for an hour-long interview? He clearly had messages he wanted to convey but in the end, his sit down interview probably made matters worse. The self-appointed neighborhood watchman, who made national headlines for murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, looks set to continue being an ongoing lightning rod.

Presumably Zimmerman wanted to set the record straight ahead of his trial. His key message, “I’m not a racist, I’m not a murderer,” got ample airtime, but it was his other responses that made headlines. Zimmerman was asked if there was anything he regretted about the night he killed Trayvon Martin. “No sir, “ was the response. “I feel that it was God’s plan and not for me to second-guess or judge it.”

Zimmerman tried to make some amends by saying he prays for the parents of Martin daily and that he would “tell them again that [he is] sorry.” The interview concluded with Zimmerman looking into the camera apologising that his actions have polarized America. The key takeaway? The only thing guaranteed was that the interview further enraged Martin’s parents. What a mess.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for George Zimmerman. Apologies don’t work when you invoke the work of others, perhaps even blaming them, and that includes God. Where was his prep before this interview took place?

The PR Takeaway:  There was so much wrong with this interview. An hour-long television interview is the wrong way to apologize. If you do choose this route, say you are sorry in a short interview without bringing God into it to reduce your culpability. After this interview aired, Trayvon Martin’s father issued a statement saying, “I simply really don’t know what God George Zimmerman is worshipping, because there’s no way that the God that I serve had in his plans for George Zimmerman to murder my son.” With this sound bite, the worth of Zimmerman’s lengthy interview was reduced to zero.

Should George Zimmerman have done this interview? Should he have been better prepped? Is there anything at all that went right with this God-forsaken interview? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

Is Anthony Weiner Hot-Dogging for Public Office?

anthony weiner 3001 Is Anthony Weiner Hot Dogging for Public Office?

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Anthony Weiner and his image rebuild.

Whatever happened to Anthony Weiner, the former congressman from Queens? Weiner resigned at a farewell press conference in 2011 after he was caught sending photos of his own wiener to six women, none of whom were his wife. The press went crazy and resignation swiftly followed. After something like that, how do you rebuild a reputation?

Judging by the recent interview he gave to People magazine, Weiner is getting good PR advice. People covered his recent interview with three full pages, complete with pictures of his baby, adoring wife Huma Abedin, and the headline “I Feel Like a Different Person.”

The article ticks all the right PR boxes: Yes, he regrets the incident; yes, he has sought counseling (sigh of predictability); and yes, his marriage is stronger than ever. He talks about how he let people down and would still love (possibly) to return to public office. Add in an endorsement from a political strategist who says, “[Weiner] worked hard when in office and can rebuild his life,” and have his loving wife show her support by saying that Anthony is trying to be the best husband and father “he can possibly be.” Finally, downgrade photos that were previously  called ‘lewd” and “creepy” during the height of the scandal to the more playful adjective “naughty.” Done! The stage is set for a political comeback.

The PR Verdict: “A”  (PR Perfect) for Anthony Weiner and his image rebuild. Nicely done.

The PR Takeaway: Slow and steady wins the race. In PR remakes, the best course of action is to take tentative baby steps and gauge reactions. As Weiner himself says, “I’m still trying to work out where I am in the public consciousness.” For the moment, stay away from political controversy and stick to self-improvement. Wieners (the type besides the congressman and the hot dog) have gotten all sorts of famous men in trouble, Elliott Spitzer and Bill Clinton, to name two. This Weiner’s PR recovery is just beginning.

Can Anthony Weiner return to public office after this public scandal? Give us your PR Verdict!

Being a Libor-Tease with the New York Times

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The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Department of Justice.

Don’t you hate a tease? The New York Times set the tone for this week’s Libor coverage with its weekend story that the Justice Department (and other regulators) is thinking about filing criminal charges against banks and individuals involved in Liborgate. “It’s hard to imagine a bigger case than Libor,” said one of the unnamed government officials. Golly! What’s next?

The news presumably sent a chill through banks and their senior management. We all know what happens when a firm faces criminal indictments: If true, things could get very ugly, and it’s normally over in a matter of hours. Just talk to Enron’s former auditors Arthur Andersen.

The Times article reported that the DoJ is building its case, though they hedged by saying this could take time. But since publication two days ago, the Libor waters have been further muddied. Did the Bank of England knowingly overlook rate fixing? And what did the US Federal Reserve know? Talking about a criminal prosecution, even unofficially to The New York Times, might have been a little premature. The facts are not so simple and there is enough blame to go around, including even possibly some regulators. In the end, the Justice Department may not be able to prosecute. That’s one story that won’t help the weakened PR image of law enforcement.

The PR Verdict:  “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Department of Justice. This might do more PR damage than good, if not followed through.

The PR Takeaway: Crying wolf messes with your PR. With a public increasingly incredulous that no big name is behind bars following the financial crisis, there is certainly PR mileage in saying”This time around, someone is going to stand trial.” But unless it’s a certainty, this is one headline that should have been delayed until a criminal prosecution was given the all clear. A disgruntled public, suspicious of the cozy relationship between regulators and Wall Street, might find yet again that hefty fines and civil charges are they only penatlies ultimately on offer. Failing to press charges won’t help the PR image of independent enforcement and regulation. Next time, why not pause before making the splashy unofficial announcement?

Is the Department of Justice being a big Libor-tease? Give us your PR Verdict!

Ralph Lauren’s Olympic Disaster

 Ralph Laurens Olympic Disaster

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Ralph Lauren

Oh no! The blue blazers and white trousers of the US Olympic team aren’t made in the USA? The clothing that athletes from Team USA will wear was actually made in China? Outrageous! Ralph Lauren, who has proudly supplied the US Olympic team with its uniforms over the years, suddenly found itself in the ugly crossfire of the outsourcing debate.

The fracas started when both Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi got wind that the uniforms were made in China. What a great media opportunity! The clothes have been Chinese-made since 2008, but oddly enough no one seemed to mind then, when outsourcing wasn’t such a hot political issue. This time around, everyone wanted to get on board. And when Donald Trump becomes the latest to start publicly opining, it’s definitely time to take remedial action.

Ralph Lauren issued a statement late on Friday night, presumably to kill weekend drumbeating, saying that the clothes will be made on US soil next  time:  “We have committed to producing the opening and closing ceremony Team USA uniforms in the United States that will be worn for the 2014 Olympic Games.”

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Ralph Lauren for recognizing this was an issue with no winnable defense. Take corrective action, quickly, and move on.

The PR Takeaway: Issue your response and then elevate the topic to wider macro concerns. There is no upside in advocating outsourcing, particularly when it involves national symbols. No matter that other US fashion houses of similar standing would have done the same. Next step, make it clear that this is a wider issue. The firm said it will take the lead in the  “conversation” within the industry and government  about “manufacturing in the United States.” See? This issue wasn’t about Ralph Lauren… it was about the state of US manufacturing! Nothing personal.

What’s your opinion of the US Olympic team uniform debate? Give us your PR Verdict!