Times Gives Credit Where It’s Due (ie, Not to Gwyneth)

 Times Gives Credit Where Its Due (ie, Not to Gwyneth)

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Katherine Woodward Thomas, who owes the NY Times big time.

Though the “paper of record” has suffered a few black eyes in the last decade, the New York Times does its due diligence. In an article about the hot new catchphrase “conscious uncoupling” used by Gwyneth Paltrow last week to announce her separation from husband Chris Martin, the Times discovered the person who really launched the phrase: psychotherapist, relationship expert and author Katherine Woodward Thomas.

Thanks to the Times, Thomas is now enjoying renewed fame. Thomas is the author of Calling In The One, a self-help book that described how Thomas found her husband. Years later, after the couple parted, Thomas created a “conscious uncoupling” workshop.

Though Paltrow failed to cite Thomas as the source of the phrase in her now-famous divorce announcement –  a blog post on her website Goop – Thomas does in the Times. She attributes it to a friend who used it to describe his drama-free divorce, and Thomas asked if she could use it. Thomas also mentions that she’d been in talks with her publisher, Crown, about a book on the subject. After this article, it’s likely that Crown will be consciously rushing this one to the printer.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Katherine Woodward Thomas, who owes the NY Times big time.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Make sure credit is given where it’s due. It’s unclear from the Times article whether Crown alerted the Times to the true source of the catchphrase, or whether this was the result of a reporter doing extra digging. If it’s the former, good work. Though the term conscious uncoupling is mostly being made fun of, it’s of the moment and in the media. The originator can now ride the wave to sales. If, however, the truth was revealed not by a diligent flak but a curious reporter, someone at Crown has some explaining to do.

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

sorryloss The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to counter-protesters in Kansas City, Missouri, who responded last week with kindness to the hate-mongering Westboro Baptist Church. Members of the WBC, whose founder Fred Phelps died last week, brought their placard-ridden message of intolerance and hate to a Lorde concert last Friday. Across the street, though, a group responded with their own placard: “Sorry for your loss.” The sign wasn’t meant to antagonize, said Megan Coleman, who helped make it. They just wanted to send a positive message. Sadly and predictably, the fringe group’s members refused to acknowledge the sentiment – but everyone else took it to heart.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) for Princeton University, for their unfortunate association with Susan Patton, better known as “The Princeton Mom.” Patton, a Princeton alum, ruffled many a feminist feather last year when she urged female college students to focus on finding a husband. Her words of wisdom this year? If women get drunk and are sexually assaulted, it’s on them. A letter from the faculty disavowing Patton has done little to dislodge the moniker, linking Patton and her opinions to her alma mater. Harvard must be wiping sweat from its proverbial brow over Patton’s choice of school.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Gwyneth Paltrow and her soon-to-be ex, Chris Martin of Coldplay. In their inimitable, ethereal way, the duo announced their  “conscious uncoupling” — i.e. divorce — via Paltrow’s web site, GOOP. To be fair, the declaration was pure Paltrow; as usual, poor Martin just seemed to be along for the magic carpet ride. While GOOP did crash after the (un)couple’s post went live, the announcement primarily served to reinforce the perception of Paltrow as a new age-y twit whose experiences transcend the more pedestrian lives led by the rest of us. As for Martin, he’ll get PR props for steering clear of the woo and letting us all get to know him better during his upcoming gig as a judge on The Voice.

Vogue’s Kimye Cover Stirs Viral Uproar

 Vogues Kimye Cover Stirs Viral Uproar

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Vogue.

Print fashion bible Vogue has been trying to boost drooping sales with bold cover choices, such as rap sensation Rhianna and Girls star Lena Dunham. But this month’s cover of Vogue, featuring Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, is apparently straining the core readership’s tolerance for what’s new this spring.

“I guess I’m canceling my Vogue subscription,” tweeted actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. “Who is with me???” (And where was her publicist for that zinger?) Gellar was just one of many who took to the twitterverse and beyond to voice outrage over the cover choice. Why? Vogue die-hards want to know what Kim and Kanye have to do with fashion, other than being able to buy a lot of it.

Ah, but that would lead to the assumption that Vogue is merely about clothes. No no, asserts editor in chief Anna Wintour. “Part of the pleasure of editing Vogue…is being able to feature those who define the culture at any given moment, who stir things up, whose presence in the world shapes the way it looks and influences the way we see it,” Wintour is quoted as saying. Another reason? Sales have fallen 20 percent; desperate times call for Kim and Kanye covers.

The question in this internet age is whether controversy translates into cash, or if talk – when done online – will cheapen the effect. Time and sales figures will tell. For now, everyone is talking about Vogue‘s cover.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Vogue.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Talk is expensive, and may even cost you. It’s not easy these days to dominate web chatter, be the object of debate and even satire, and garner a large chunk of chat shows. Vogue‘s cover has done all of that, albeit probably not for the reason Wintour wanted. At the risk of riling the faithful – though dwindling – core audience, people are talking about Vogue. Better to be controversial than boring.

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

hijabs The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the Overland High School girls soccer team in Aurora, CO, for a stirring show of solidarity. Last week, referees barred one Muslim player on the team, Samah Aidah, from playing with a hijab on her head, calling it “dangerous.” Never mind that FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, officially permits the practice – not to mention the US Constitution. For the next game, all of Samah’s teammates and coaches wore the traditional Islamic headscarf in support. A tweet by one of the girls with a picture of team, all in headscarves, sent the matter viral. Young people leading by example, again.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO Lady Gaga, who continues to have a bad hair year. She fired her longtime manager, and her latest album, ARTPOP, hasn’t sold nearly as well as her previous collection, Born This Way. Now, her Born This Way Foundation, which seeks to “foster a more accepting society,” is under fire. Tax reports for 2012 show that BTWF spent $1.85 million in legal fees, salaries, travel, philanthropic consulting, and $808,661 in “other” expenses. Actual donations? A mere $5000. An example of how celebrity foundations aren’t born bad, they’re made that way.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO newly annointed Federal Reserve Chief Janet Yellen, who tried (and failed) to avoid rattling financial markets by couching her comments at her first press conference. Oh Janet, have you not studied your predecessors’ previous faux pas? After saying “We will try as hard as we can not to be a source of instability here (regarding communications)”, Yellen promptly gave what investors interpreted as a potential timeframe for interest rate increases, and one earlier than they had expected. Was that the message Yellen meant to convey? Who knows — and it doesn’t matter. Stock markets fell, bond yields rose, and the world carries on. PR tip to the head of the Fed:  When it comes to interest rates, “no comment” is the best comment.

She Said What? Celebs Are Uncensored Again

 She Said What? Celebs Are Uncensored Again

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Lena Dunham (above) and Elisabeth Moss (below).

Blame – or credit – for the sterility of celebrity interviews and quotes goes to Pat Kingsley, the legendary publicist who allegedly controlled questions and answers for Tom Cruise at the height of his fame. Since then, only stars willing to take risks might speak off the cuff about failed romances or to make an unscripted quip. Lately, things are changing, and thanks – or blame – can be given to Girls star Lena Dunham and Mad Men actress Elisabeth Moss.

Dunham’s star has been on the rise since Girls, now in its third season, debuted on HBO. This past weekend, she hosted Saturday Night Live. The show featured a skit about Adam and Eve, during which the 27-year-old Dunham got naked; nothing new for her, as Girls features many a nude scene. When someone tweeted to Dunham, “You don’t always have to get naked!”, Dunham replied, “Please tell that to my uncle, mister. He’s been making me!” After a slew of criticism that molestation jokes aren’t funny, Dunham took the tweets down and apologized. 

 She Said What? Celebs Are Uncensored AgainMoss got naked in a different way, dishing to New York Magazine about her eight-month long marriage to Portlandia star and writer Fred Armisen. “It was extremely traumatic and awful and horrible,” Moss says. “I’m glad I didn’t have kids.” She takes tabloids to task for making up things about her while admitting she reads them and trashes celebrities who want fame and awards while asserting that her own level of fame means “If I do the movie, it will get made, and if I don’t do it, the movie won’t get made.”

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for both Lena Dunham and Elisabeth Moss.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Get people talking about you, not against you. It’s hard for celebrities to stand out in this under-interesting time of overexposure, but being crass isn’t the way to go. Be funny and self-effacing, but don’t make fun of taboo subjects, and don’t talk smack about other celebs. No matter what anyone says, there is such a thing as bad PR.

Absentee Senators Busted by Actor With a Cause

 Absentee Senators Busted by Actor With a Cause

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for actor Seth Rogen.

Actor Seth Rogen headed to Capitol Hill to take on a new role: that of advocate, urging elected officials to put more money toward research into Alzheimer’s disease. What happened after his testimony, however, was the real show stopper.

Rogen, known for playing goofy, bumbling characters in movies like The Hangover and Knocked Up, appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee. He and his wife, screenwriter and actress Lauren MIller, have been helping care for Miller’s mother since she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s dementia nearly nine years ago.

Rogen’s heartfelt statement probably would have been well-received, had there been anyone there to receive it. Sixteen of the 18 senators on the powerful committee, which allocates federal funding to government programs and which had invited to Rogen to appear, either didn’t show or actually walked out during the hearing.

The lack of attendance could have been a PR miss for Rogen. Instead, he turned it into a cause celebre. He called the absentee senators on the carpet, shaming them on Twitter by tweeting a photo of an empty hearing room and responding to one senator with “Why did you leave before my speech? Just curious,” before hitting the media circuit.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Rogen. In the end, Rogen got more attention for Alzheimer’s than if he’d played to a packed house.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Learn how to turn lemons into one mean lemonade. Washington  denizens are used to the tableaux of the empty committee room, but it clearly caught Rogen off guard. Perhaps his actor’s training allowed him to take a deep breath and figure out how to rescue the scene. Life in the public eye (and, for that matter, life in general) is full of surprises. Try to view a situation from all angles in order to figure out if a negative situation can be redirected. It’s a skill that can save, or even make, a PR opportunity.

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

brewer veto 300x168 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer for saving her state from national condemnation by vetoing a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay customers on religious grounds. True, the fiery Republican governor had little choice: Boycotts were threatened, companies said they would leave, and the National Football League reportedly considered moving next year’s Superbowl if the bill became law. But Arizona is socially conservative, and Brewer’s decision is not popular in many camps. In the end, she met with both sides before brandishing the veto stamp and issuing a no-nonsense statement: “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value [but] so is no discrimination.”

pdeen The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Paula Deen, for comparing her effort to rebuild her battered reputation to NFL hopeful Michael Sam’s decision to come out as gay. Deen was fired from the Food Network last year for racial slurs revealed amid a lawsuit filed by a former employee. (The suit was dismissed.) In an interview, Deen said she fears that words like “embattled” or “disgraced” will always follow her. “It’s like that black football player who recently came out,” Deen told People. “He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player’.” Pity her much? With a recent private equity infusion of  $100 million, her path to redemption will hardly be a slog.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Alec Baldwin, for his article “I Give Up” in the latest issue of New York Magazine. Baldwin’s glib wrath is fired upon the paparazzi who hound him, Broadway co-star Shia LaBeouf, his producers at MSNBC, right-wing media, America, the world – release the Kraken! It’s not all negative; Baldwin makes sure to mention his charitable donations and the sensitivity training he’s undertaken. At the end, Baldwin says, “I’m done with it,” and then admits, “This is how I feel in February of 2014.” You can practically see this consummate performer smirking.

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

acton The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, the cross-platform mobile messaging service that claims more than 400 million active users. After 11 years at Yahoo!, Acton left the company in 2009 and was looking for work. First Twitter turned him down, then Facebook. “It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people,” he tweeted after the Facebook rejection. “Looking forward to life’s next adventure.” And what an adventure! Acton teamed up with former Yahoo! colleague Jan Koum to start WhatsApp. Last week, Facebook bought Acton’s messaging service for $19 billion in the largest ever venture-backed deal — creating a perfect PR story that requires no embellishment.

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Under Armour, official outfitter of the US Olympic Speed Skating Team – until very recently. Under Armour’s “Mach 39,” which the company called the fastest-ever speed skating suit, has been blamed for the US team’s rather disappointing showing in Sochi. The suits were worn in practice runs and seemed fine, but after failing to even place in Olympic games, the team switched back to their old gear for final runs. While they still failed to medal regardless of outfits, the damage is done: Under Armour’s stock fell 2.4 percent on Friday.

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair. After months of speaking to the press about the “epic takedown” feature the magazine planned to run on Gwyneth Paltrow, and talking of Paltrow’s alleged attempts to get all of Hollywood to boycott the magazine, here at last is…much ado about nothing. No epic takedown article appears in the March issue, but a 1500-word explanation does. “Not to bore you with the details,” Carter begins in his editor’s letter. We’ll stop right there, thanks.

Damon and Affleck Amaze with Omaze Charity Videos

 Damon and Affleck Amaze with Omaze Charity Videos

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Omaze.com charity date and videos.

Celebrities stumping for charities went from being a good use of excess fame to standard operating procedure, and a tool for PR flaks to use when naughty clients need to make penance. The public has gotten wise and grown bored. So when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wanted to raise money for their pet causes, they really upped the ante.

Affleck’s East Congo Initiative benefits organizations in that war-torn area. Damon’s Water.Org is on a mission to provide clean water around the world. Both worthy causes, but in a sea of celebs asking for donations for equally good causes, how to gain attention, and dollars? With a contest, and a series of hilarious videos to promote it.

Visitors to Omaze.com can enter the contest for $10. The prize is a trip to Los Angeles for a double date with Affleck and Damon at a Hollywood event, and a stay in a four-star hotel (presumably without the two married Academy Award winners). The promotional videos are the two old friends taking potshots at each other. “You could learn about…how incredibly short Matt Damon is,” says a smiling Affleck. “Or the fact that Ben’s left eye twitches every time you say the word ‘Gigli’,” Damon retorts, referring to Affleck’s bomb with then girlfriend Jennifer Lopez. The videos alone are worth the donation.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Omaze.com charity date and videos.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: In a crowded room, find a way to stand apart. Clearly, both actors’ causes are worthy, but a world confronted with a steady stream of bad news can’t bear more sad details that usually tug heartstrings and loosen pursestrings. Humor goes a long way, as does clever incentive. A reasonable donation of ten bucks buys a chance at a dream trip with a pair of famous, and obviously fun, actors: pure PR genius.

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 Canadian Olympic ski coach Justin Wadsworth. When Russian competitor Anton Gafarov broke a ski during the Men’s Sprint Free Seminfinals, he had no chance of winning a medal or even making it across the finish line – humiliating, especially on his home turf. But Wadsworth ran onto the slope and quickly attached a fresh ski to Gafarov’s boot so he could finish. In a highly politicized Olympics, Wadsworth’s gesture demonstrated the good sportsmanship that exemplifies the spirit of the Olympics.

Bernie Herpin The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Colorado Republican State Sen. Bernie Herpin, for saying it was “maybe a good thing” that accused Aurora, CO, theater shooter James Holmes used a 100-round magazine in the gun massacre that killed 12 and injured 70. The remarks came amid continuing Republican efforts in that state to roll back tougher gun laws passed after the 2012 shooting. Herpin’s logic-defying point? The high-capacity magazine jammed. As a state political blog noted: “The idea that anyone would count on product defects to protect the public in an actual shooting is, of course, ludicrous beyond words.”

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Shia LaBeouf, whose recent antics have folks scratching their heads. First, he responded to accusations of plagiarism by putting out a series of mea culpas, also seemingly plagiarized. Then he tweeted the phrase “I am not famous anymore” multiple times before scrawling it on a paper bag and wearing it over his head at a film premier in Berlin. On Tuesday, the 27-year-old kicked off #IAMNOTSORRY, some kind of performance art installation wherein he and his bagged head sit silently across from curious visitors (itself an apparent rip-off of Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist Is Present” in New York in 2010). Personal meltdown? Cultural commentary? Odd way of diverting attention from the plagiarism charges? Sadly, there may be no answers to these questions because no one cares.