The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity Edition

 The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity EditionPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Joan Rivers, who stormed out of a CNN interview while on a publicity tour. Rivers might have expected questions about her latest book, Diary of a Mad Diva, but host Fredricka Whitfield asked instead if Rivers felt she was being mean on her celeb fashion critique show Fashion Police, and why Rivers, an animal rights activist, wore fur on her book cover. Rivers answered for a few minutes before snapping, “You’re not the one to interview a person who does humor!” and walking off set. A stunned Whitfield later suggested the walkout was a publicity stunt; the video suggests otherwise. Calculated or not, Rivers won more buzz than she would have for any normal interview.

 The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity EditionPR 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 Report Card: Special Celebrity EditionTHE 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.

Rapper Macklemore’s Costume Called Anti-Semitic

macklemore 150x150 Rapper Macklemores Costume Called Anti Semitic

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for rapper Macklemore.

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.

Damage Control Handbook: When Celebrities Attack

 Damage Control Handbook: When Celebrities Attack

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Solange Knowles.

Publicists have always tried to control celebrity clients’ appearances and interviews; it reduces the need to break out the damage control handbook later. These days it’s especially important, when social media can go mad with, say, footage of Solange Knowles, sister of mega-star Beyoncé, attacking her rap icon brother-in-law Jay Z.

On Monday, social media went ablaze with a video showing a woman reported to be Knowles kicking and punching a man believed to be Jay Z. The video was security camera footage from an elevator at the Standard Hotel in New York. “Reported to be,” “believed to be,” “apparently”—in other words, nothing has been confirmed.

Nothing has been denied, either, and lack of denial is as good as a confirmation; were these not the people in question, flaks and lawyers would have responded with all the threatening impact of the Wildlings on Game of Thrones. So far the only comment has come from the hotel, “shocked and disappointed” about the release of the security camera tape. (They’ll need to go into damage control, too, to regain guests’ trust.) As time passes with no response from PRs, minor celebs opine, social media pundits make jokes, and the problem lingers… For now.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Solange Knowles.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Damage Control Rule #1: Think before you make a statement. Issues such as this require a huddle with all of the celebs’ representatives. Stick to the facts within your own confidential conversation, and then agree upon a plausible explanation that will douse the flames of interest. A misunderstanding; too many cocktails; people are making too much of this. Most important? Keep your clients quiet. The alternate route is to say nothing; it’s new page in the handbook, and one that allows the story to remain alive, but only for the few days it takes for social media to move on to the next viral trend.

Hotel Group Suffers Via Association with Sharia Law

 Hotel Group Suffers Via Association with Sharia Law

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Dorchester Collection hotel chain.

What’s the connection between Hollywood’s celebrity elite and an ancient law that punishes homosexuality with death by stoning? The Dorchester Collection, a string of luxury hotels including the famed Beverly Hills Hotel and other five-star lodging used by A-listers who have launched an aggressive boycott.

The problem is not the hotels themselves but their ownership by the Brunei Investment Agency. Recently, Brunei adopted the Sharia Law, which punishes theft with the severing of limbs, and adultery and homosexuality with death by stoning.

Celebrities and bold-faced names protested with a boycott of the Brunei-owned hotel chain. Understandable, though questionable; will oil-rich Brunei be affected by Richard Branson’s vow that no one from the Virgin family will stay at Dorchester hotels? No, but hotel employees will suffer, as Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, pointed out. “During this challenging time, we have been deeply touched by the tremendous support received from our loyal guests and longstanding business partners who recognize that Dorchester Collection hotels are part of the fabric of their social communities.” In other words, guilt by association should not be punishable by economic death.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Dorchester Collection hotel chain.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Just deliver the facts. There are times when companies may be adversely affected by their owners’ actions. In this case, there’s almost nothing the Dorchester Collection can do but what they did, which is to point out that they didn’t adopt the Sharia Law in Brunei, and there’s no reason their own employees should suffer for it. That said, financial boycott and the pressure of negative PR sometimes wins out. Will it here? It’s unlikely. If only to keep from losing face, Brunei will probably maintain their position. Dorchester walks a dangerous line between siding with an unpopular owner and maintaining business; best to keep quiet and hope for a sale to a less controversial owner.

NBA Fallout Continues As NAACP Head Resigns

 NBA Fallout Continues As NAACP Head Resigns

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NAACP. (Pictured: former NAACP LA President Leon Jenkins.)

Even when public relations scandals are properly handled, they can continue to thrive when an event triggers a national conversation. Last week, the National Basketball Association banned Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, from the NBA for life after racist statements he allegedly made went public. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pointed out that Sterling’s racism had been known about for years; action was taken after bad press went viral. Spurred by the larger issue of racism in America, the media continued to look for a story – and found one, in Sterling’s association with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins resigned last Friday after reports that Sterling was to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP. This would make two NAACP awards for Sterling. The first, for promoting civil rights, was given in 2009, the year Sterling agreed to pay a $2.7 million settlement after the US Justice Department sued him for allegedly refusing to rent apartments he owned to African Americans and Hispanics.

“In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused,” Jenkins said, “I respectfully resign my position.” Appropriate action, but again, it may not stop more negative fallout.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NAACP.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Internal review of public decisions is a must. Lifetime achievement and other awards, especially those given to public figures, will be featured in the media. As such, they should be carefully reviewed by the organization that will be represented by these figures. Jenkins is at fault for giving Sterling, a known racist, these awards, but did he act independently? Surely higher-ups must have known. They’re now likely shaking in their corner offices.

 

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

Clooney Alamuddin 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR FERFECT) to George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin, who did not announce their engagement this week. It’s standard Clooney MO not to talk about personal matters, but his lack of statement or attempt to hide the engagement (Alamuddin is sporting a rather large ring) led the media to dig. Therefore, what the media spoke about most is Alamuddin’s admirable human rights work via her law practice, which explains at least part of Clooney’s attraction. As for Cloons, previously a confirmed bachelor and serial dater, Alamuddin is a departure from his last companion, former World Wrestling Entertainment star Stacy Keibler.

rick scott 1 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who went looking for Obamacare horror stories and instead found praise. Scott, with media in tow, visited a senior center in Boca Raton last week to warn about cuts he said the Affordable Care Act would force on a popular Medicare program. Seniors, he said, “tell me stories about how their plans are being changed, how they are losing their doctors, the coverage is changing, and so what I’m here to do is just hear your stories.” But his fear-mongering didn’t fit with what seniors reported. “Not really,” said one, asked if she’d seen changes to her coverage. “Very happy,” said another. “Completely satisified,” said a third. None of which described Scott’s reaction.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. How jaded must we be that another revelation of the obstreperous mayor smoking crack cocaine — his second in less than a year — barely raises an eyebrow? This week, the Globe and Mail published photos of Ford holding what appears to be a crack pipe, while the Toronto Star posted audio of Ford, apparently inebriated, slagging off local politicians. Ford released a statement saying he’s going to take a “break” from his re-election campaign “to seek immediate help,” though he’s still refusing to go down with the ship, i.e. resign his office. The circus continues…

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Lupita Nyong’o, whose star continues to rise with this week’s announcement that she won the cover of People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful” issue. This can be attributed to Nyong’o’s obvious beauty – a welcome sign that the days when magazines shied away from putting women of color on covers are over – her Oscar-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave, and doubtless a team of PRs and managers who have kept Nyong’o in the public eye, steadily but not to the point of over-saturation. Congratulations, Team Lupita.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Bryan Singer, director of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Singer pulled out of publicity appearances at last week’s WonderCon and will likely remain behind the scenes after a lawsuit was filed accusing him and three other men of sex abuse of minors. “I do not want these fictitious claims to divert ANY attention from X-Men,” Singer’s PR statement read. 20th Century Fox, which will release X-Men next month, issued a terse comment a week ago: “This is a personal matter, which Bryan Singer and his representatives are addressing separately.” Time to distance a director accused of abusing teenagers from a product marketed to teenagers.

rove The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Karl Rove, Bill Kristol and other Republican-Conservative strategists/pundits, for stepping in to “unskew” a New York Times poll favorable to Obamacare and Democratic Senate candidates. The Times poll, conducted with the Kaiser Family Foundation, found Democrats running ahead of or, at worst, neck and neck with GOP opponents in traditionally conservative Southern states. “Badly done,” Rove said of the poll. Kristol and the Republican National Committee were more snarky. But none, including Rove, who famously freaked when Fox News called the Presidential election for Obama two years ago, offered more than opinion to refute the poll.

Lance Armstrong’s Road to Redemption?

 Lance Armstrongs Road to Redemption?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Lance Armstrong.

This Easter week, Christians around the world  celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Disgraced professional cyclist Lance Armstrong is apparently trying to resurrect his career. Armstrong popped up this week  in a rather strange place: a two-minute instructional video on OutsideOnline.com.

Dressed in a cap and bike mechanic’s apron, he introduces himself as  “Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France” before quipping “Hey, I didn’t write the script.”  Trying to be both humble and humorous, he shows viewers how to fix a flat tire: stripping the rim of a deflated inner tube, replacing it and ending with “And off you go,” saying under his breath “I broke a sweat doing that.”

Armstrong, of course, was himself stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned for life from the sport after evidence showed he had used performance-enhancing drugs. After years of denials, he eventually admitted his drug use.

Media coverage is almost universally harsh. The Bleacher Report calls the video “a drop in the bucket of some egregiously foul substance,” while Sports Illustrated sees “a blend of smugness and faux-humility” and  “[a] subtle play for all the American hearts he broke.” But he got a much better reception on Facebook, where he posted the video. As of this writing, the simple how-to film earned him nearly 9,000 “likes” and legions of fans expressing their unwavering support.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Lance Armstrong, cycling slowly uphill toward a better image.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When all is lost, there’s nothing to lose. Lance Armstrong’s legacy will always be tarnished. But with public figures admitting transgressions almost daily, hope springs eternal for those who want an asterisk next to their names in the history books.  The  media may not be inclined to give Armstrong a pass, but his fan base seems a lot more forgiving. Whatever Armstrong’s motivations and goals, this video of him performing a prosaic task just may be a start down the road to redemption.    

McCarthy invites scorn with anti-vaccine disavowal

jenny mccarthy 650x487 McCarthy invites scorn with anti vaccine disavowal

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Jenny McCarthy.

Looking to remake your image? Probably best not to try rewriting history, especially in the digital age. Ask Jenny McCarthy. The “View” co-host and onetime Playboy model has long been known for opposing vaccination, claiming that vaccines are related to autism and other ills, are overprescribed and generally responsible for more bad than good – all this counter not only to prevailng wisdom but also to decades of medical and scientific evidence.

With the recent resurgence of childhood diseases like measles , mumps and the like, perhaps McCarthy thought it was time to massage her record, which she did in a weekend op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times. “I am not ‘anti-vaccine,’” she stated unequivocally in her opener – followed by about 500 equivocating, obfuscating words and some selective omission.

McCarthy was immediately called out. A Time science writer she name-checked in her article penned a piece to fact-check her record, including previous statements. “You are either floridly, loudly, uninformedly antivaccine or you are the most grievously misunderstood celebrity of the modern era,” he wrote. “Your quote trail is far too long—and you have been far too wrong—for the truth not to be obvious.” In seeking to correct the record, McCarthy only confirmed it.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Jenny McCarthy, whose attempt at reinvention needs a shot in the arm.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Don’t run from your record. Whether for calculating PR reasons or with true sincerity, McCarthy might have had a change of heart about vaccination. But with her record of outspoken advocacy, she cannot possibly remake herself out of whole cloth. A better approach, if her motives are genuine, would be to show how her views have evolved. And blaming the media? Please. Like anyone else in the public eye, McCarthy cannot control how her public positions are defined. In PR, as often in life, before you can change, you must accept where you are.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to security firm Codenomicon and Google researcher Neel Mehta, both of whom discovered the web security bug known as Heartbleed. The bug, a flaw that allows access to user information on what was thought to be safely encrypted websites and search engines, has been around for a while, but was found simultaneously by vigilant researchers Mehta and Codenomicon. All sounded the alarm, which may have circumvented breaches in the millions.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Katherine Heigl, who perpetuated her image as a cranky prima donna with a lawsuit against drugstore chain Duane Reade. The store’s transgression? Tweeting a photo of her walking with two of their shopping bags. Heigl is a “highly recognized celebrity… When plaintiff chooses to endorse a product or service, she is highly selective and well compensated,” the lawsuit sniffed. In other words, as one gossip web site snarked, “Basically: Katherine Heigl don’t do no free advertising. She can’t just have her grumpy, exhausted face freely associated with some drugstore FOR FREE..” Perhaps Heigl should invest in a good mirror. Duane Reade carries them, we hear…

kimjongun The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO the North Korean Parliament, who this week re-elected, to no one’s surprise, dictator Kim Jong-un as head the country’s top governing agency, the National Defense Commission. Kim’s election (if that really is the right word) means he is still in control despite political turmoil in the regime and can work to consolidate power by filling leadership posts left vacant by – you guessed it – his purges. The government-run news agency called his re-election a sign of  “the unchanged will of the military and the people” to support him.