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.

Allen Responds to Farrow’s Claims in Times

 Allen Responds to Farrows Claims in Times

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

The old saying “fight fire with fire” was updated in the ongoing, uncomfortably public drama surrounding Dylan Farrow and her adoptive father Woody Allen. A week after Farrow gave a vivid account of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of Allen to the New York Times, Allen responded with a self-penned Opinion piece, also in the Times.

Technically and from a PR standpoint, Allen responded two days after Farrow’s piece ran: His publicist stated facts surrounding the original allegations, and his lawyer followed two days later by restating facts. Never once was Dylan Farrow called a liar; rather, blame was shifted to her mother, Mia Farrow.

Allen continued in that vein, stating the findings of the special unit assigned to child sexual abuse, as well as giving a more personal account. So far, so good. But that gives way to a more emotional side of Allen. He addresses Mia’s coy pondering about son Ronan’s paternity, citing her hint of infidelity as testament to “what kind of character we are dealing with here.”

By the end, the angry Allen becomes a father despairing over a lost relationship, as well as having this alleged incident discussed publicly again. “This piece will be my final word on the matter,” he writes. “Enough people have been hurt.”

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

THE PR TAKEAWAY: State your case by stating the facts, and then move on. One could hardly expect anyone accused of a heinous crime to remain calm, whether in person or on paper. In cases such as these, damned if you do, damned if you don’t; an unemotional response might have had people calling Woody Allen unfeeling, while the emotion he displayed – anger against Mia Farrow – may also tarnish him. From a PR perspective, his choice to speak, his method of communication, and his venue were all appropriate, as was his promise at the end to say no more.

Allen’s Team Responds to Farrow’s Open Letter

 Allens Team Responds to Farrows Open Letter

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Woody Allen’s PR and legal team. (Pictured: Allen’s lawyer Elkan Abramowitz)

The denial of allegations of sexual abuse is extremely difficult to nearly impossible, especially in a public forum. Yet it was absolutely impossible for Woody Allen to remain silent after his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter detailing her account of Allen sexually abusing her as a child. But what would Allen say, and how?

The first line of PR response was not for Allen himself to go public. His reaction was given the next day through his longtime publicist Leslee Dart, who said Mr. Allen would respond directly “very soon.” She then listed the legal facts about the investigation.

Another response came yesterday – again, not from Allen, but from his lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, who gave an exclusive interview to the Today Show. His stance was crucial, as he was speaking for Allen: Would he call the victim a liar? Not a chance. “In my view, she’s not lying,” Abramowitz said. “She truly believes this happened.” He went on to reiterate the legal facts and to present Allen’s explanation: that Mia Farrow, enraged over Allen’s then-new relationship with her adopted daughter (with André Previn) Soon-Yi, coached daughter Dylan to say she was molested. Another talking point Abramowitz made was that Allen was not angry with Dylan Farrow. “His reaction is one of overwhelming sadness,” Abramowitz said.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Woody Allen’s PR and legal team.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Respond – don’t react. Allen’s team is obviously skilled and wise. While Allen’s answer could only be maintaining his innocence, the way this was presented was crucial. One cannot claim innocence without implying that the accuser – in this case, the alleged victim –  is a liar. Unless, that is, blame is diverted to the mother and a reason given for her to manipulate a child. In the court of public opinion, reasonable doubt has been introduced.

Farrow Accuses Allen in NY Times

 Farrow Accuses Allen in NY Times

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

In a weekend filled with public relations news – Yahoo’s mail breach, a former Chris Christie associate saying his boss knew about Bridgegate, the loss of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman – one story stood out. Yet from a PR standpoint, it’s one of most difficult to assess. We’re talking – as is everyone in the media – about Dylan Farrow‘s accusation of sexual molestation by her adoptive stepfather Woody Allen.

Farrow wrote about the abuse in Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times. This was both an interesting and obvious choice. Interesting because Kristof is known for writing about sexual abuse of women and girls all over the world. Obvious because, as Kristof discloses, he is a friend of Farrow’s adoptive mother, Mia Farrow, and her brother Ronan Farrow.

Reaction from the media was swift, and only two sides could be taken. There were those who agreed with Farrow that Allen should not have been honored by the Golden Globes, and those who defended Allen by recounting the fact that he was never formally charged.

From a PR standpoint, the effects on Allen are obviously dire. (At the time of this posting Allen had not responded, but his rep did; read her statement here.) As the statute of limitations has run out on the case by at least 15 years, no legal action can be taken. Farrow’s point was to speak out, she said, for herself and for other victims. In that respect, she has been heard.

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

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When dropping a bombshell, choose your vehicle wisely. There’s no doubt Farrow could have made millions with a tell-all memoir or an exclusive to a tabloid. However, Farrow said her point was to speak out for herself and for other victims of abuse. By choosing the column of a champion of women’s rights in a respected newspaper, with no money exchanged, she maintained the integrity of her goal.

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

davisfamily The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Amber and Dru Davis, for classily defending mom Wendy, a Texas gubernatorial candidate, from conservative attacks on her background and parenting skills. Right-wingers jumped on the Democrat after a newspaper article delved into her backstory – a teen-aged single mom who went from trailer park to Harvard Law School. “Dru and I have always been her number one priority,” Amber Davis wrote in a public letter refuting claims that her mother abandoned family for personal ambition. With a similar missive from Dru, the ill-conceived attack on Davis’ motherhood folded like the losing hand of Texas Hold’em.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to New York Congressman Michael Grimm, who threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony after the president’s State of the Union address. The reporter asked about an investigation into alleged campaign finance violations. Grimm walked off camera, then returned to mutter, “Let me be clear. You ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this f*cking balcony… I’ll break you in half, like a boy.” Grimm later said, “I doubt that I am the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter and I am sure I won’t be the last.” But there is doubt as to how much longer Grimm will remain a member of Congress.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Beyonce and Jay Z’s opening act at the 56th annual Grammy Awards, which fell flat for many viewers. Singing  “Drunk in Love,” their ode to alcohol-fueled marital relations, the routine featured a scantily clad Queen Bey writhing on a chair and on all fours under the approving eye of her fully clothed husband. While many called the performance sexy, others deemed it denigrating to women. Particularly disturbing was Jay Z’s line “Now eat the cake, Anna Mae,” which refers to a scene in Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It, in which wife-beater Ike Turner slams a piece of cake into Tina’s face. An act that was off key, at best.

Soda Endorsement Lands Johansson in Hot Water

 

ad 124673358 150x150 Soda Endorsement Lands Johansson in Hot Water

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Scarlett Johansson.


A seemingly routine product promo has put Scarlett Johansson in the middle of a geopolitical mess.

Johansson recently agreed to front SodaStream, the popular beverage maker. As part of the campaign, the 29-year-old actress will be featured in a commercial this weekend on Superbowl Sunday, one of the most widely viewed events in US television. The deal, however, is causing a furor. Oxfam, the UK-based international charity, has harshly criticized Johansson, saying SodaStream’s facilities in the hotly contested West Bank region of Jerusalem are an affront to the work Oxfam does on behalf of Palestinians.

It’s a particularly big “oops” for Johansson, who’s been an Oxfam ambassador since 2007. In a public war of words, Oxfam said businesses that operate in Israeli settlements “further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.” Johansson countered that SodaStream’s policy of providing equal pay and benefits to Israeli and Palestinian employees shows it wants peace between Israel and Palestine.

Johansson claims she “never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance.” However, there’s no disputing she’s there now.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Scarlett Johansson, whose “belief” that SodaStream is helping build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians strains credulity. SodaStream makes soda – not peace agreements.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Due diligence applies to celebrities too. In 2009, a similar scene played out between Oxfam and Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis, who endorsed a cosmetics company with a West Bank factory. She cut ties with the company after negative media pressure. With Oxfam’s position well known, it seems unlikely Johansson’s camp didn’t expect their reaction. She also could have spoken privately with Oxfam before inking the SodaStream deal. Instead, she’s choosing to battle a charity in the public eye. The result? The unfortunate impression that she’s willing to imperil years of good works for a lucrative spokesperson gig.

BOfA and Bono Team Up for Charity

 BOfA and Bono Team Up for Charity

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for BofA’s brand-building philanthropy.

When was the last time an activist rock star gave a standing ovation to a “too-big-to-fail” bank? That’s just what happened last week when U2 front man Bono extolled the generosity of Bank of America and joined CEO Brian Moynihan at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Moynihan and U2 frontman Bono announced a $10 million BofA commitment to RED, the AIDS charity co-founded by Bono. In a clever promotional twist, the bank will tie its donation to U2′s newest album release during the upcoming Superbowl. BofA agreed to pay for every download of the album’s song “Invisible” for 24 hours, an investment they will back with expensive Superbowl advertising.

Rarely have Moynihan and his bank basked in such a warm reception. Under the bright Davos sunshine, CNBC and The Financial Times (among other news media) took turns interviewing the Boston-based banker and his rock activist partner. The visual contrast was nearly as noteworthy as Bono complimenting the bank for its “game-changing influence.”

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for BofA’s brand-building philanthropy.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Regain trust by carefully picking your allies. Despite continuing efforts to engage in a public dialogue and foster good will, progress has been incremental over the past five years. In Davos last week, BofA wisely avoided interviews about its business. Instead, it joined a unique global health initiative and happily played back up to a true superstar. Well done, BoFA.

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 H&M, the sole clothing retailer set to advertise during the Superbowl. They’re going against heavyweights in the automotive, fast food and alcohol groups, but their $4 million gamble will likely pay off thanks to advance buzz on their commercial. In it, soccer star David Beckham, who has a line of underwear with H&M, will appear either in his briefs or naked (by TV standards) according to fan votes of #covered or #uncovered. This could be the first Superbowl in history with higher female than male ratings.

dimon The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, for telling CNBC that the expensive government legal cases against his bank were “unfair.” In swanky Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, Dimon said the bank, which paid $13 billion to settle claims over mortgage securities dealings and $7 billion more over hinky derivatives, power trading and overselling of credit card products, faced “two really bad options” between settling or fighting the cases. Going to court “would really hurt this company and that would have been criminal for me to subject our company to those kinds of issues.” Criminal as in, say, fraud? Better not to have picked up this gauntlet.

george zimmerman painting 300x235 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to George Zimmerman, acquitted of murder and now trying his hand at  “art.” Last July, Zimmerman was found not guilty of the 2012 murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. With a stack of hefty legal bills and job prospects presumably thin, Zimmerman has miraculously found his inner painter. His first piece, a blue flag with a patriotic verse painted on an 18 x 24-inch canvas, sold for more than $100,000 on eBay. His second work depicts prosecutor Angela Corey holding finger and thumb slightly apart with the caption “I have this much respect for the American judicial system – Angie C.” We fervently hope the art-buying world has even less than that for George.