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 Jeff Koons, who took Manhattan in a PR blitz that transcended the art world. Koons began with a retrospective at the Whitney, which is the museum’s final show at its Madison Avenue location. He also unveiled “Split-Rocker,” a 37-foot tall work featuring over 50,000 live flowering plants, in Rockefeller Center. Koons next went into the world of fashion, designing a “Balloon Dog” handbag for retail clothing merchant H&M and decorating their flagship store in Times Square. Art lovers, tourists, youthful fashion lovers… Koons has them all covered in an admirable media blitz.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to President Vladimir Putin, for shocking mishandling of the crisis of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Far more concerned with finger-pointing to maintain image, Putin allowed the deceased to remain unattended in a field, and for what is now known to be a crime scene to be compromised. Even those on the side of Russia in their battle against separatists have had a difficult time defending Putin.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska who first gained international attention when she was chosen by John McCain as his vice presidential running mate. Since that loss Palin has been flying sans PR handlers, and she generally makes the news when uttering an outrageous statement. Her latest is calling for President Obama to be impeached, saying that not doing so is an affront to God. Bad PR? Not at all; Palin has transcended that notion, going from politician to rattlesnake handler with deftness that bespeaks a natural talent. In terms of getting media attention, Palin has cemented her place in the PR Tabloid folder, under “any press is good press.”

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 Malala Yousafzai, for drawing international attention back to the nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped three months ago by militant group Boko Haram. Though President Goodluck Jonathan said the Nigerian government is working hard to find the girls, there seems to be little progress. In addition to having a press conference during which Yousafzai appealed directly to the militants to “release my sisters,” she met with some of the parents of the girls—something President Jonathan has yet to do.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Oscar Pistorius, who was involved in an altercation in a nightclub last weekend. Pistorius claimed that a drunken patron verbally attacked him about his trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The patron alleges otherwise. The real question: Does Pistorius have no one in his entourage who might clue him in to the fact that hitting the nightclub for a pint, while one is on trial for murder, is inadvisable from a PR standpoint?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Comcast for their limp response to an incredibly bad customer service interaction that promptly went viral. Ryan Block posted eight of the 20 minutes he spent arguing with a Comcast rep who refused to disconnect his service as requested. Social media, which eats this kind of thing with a large spoon, spread the clip like wildfire. Comcast merely said the employee’s behavior was unacceptable and that they would contact Block to apologize. No word as to whether they’ll honor Block’s request and disconnect him, though.

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.

Credit Suisse Tax Evasion Fine is Just That: Fine

 Credit Suisse Tax Evasion Fine is Just That: Fine

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the US government, which gave its PR team little to work with.

Credit Suisse pled guilty this week to helping more than 22,000 Americans evade taxes by stashing their cash in Swiss bank accounts — a notable event on several levels, PR included.

The deal represents the first criminal conviction of a major global bank in more than a decade. Criminal charges, it has been widely thought, are a death knell for institutions that cop to them. Credit Suisse agreed to pay $2.6 billion — the largest penalty ever in a US criminal tax case. Prosecutors huffed and puffed about how significant this plea is: US Attorney General Eric Holder warned, “No bank is too big to jail.”

But…nobody’s going to jail, at least nobody at the top. While the conviction generated a lot of media, the general impression is: It’s not so bad. Credit Suisse wasn’t forced to reveal any client names, and it can keep operating in the US. The bank’s CEO told analysts he expects little business impact from the agreement. Indeed, Credit Suisse stock actually rose after the deal was announced.

No doubt the US faced a conundrum: Regulators wanted to inflict serious pain, but too harsh a penalty might be so destabilizing as to spark unintended (and unwelcome) consequences. After all, the threat of banking failures precipitated the last global recession. So they walked a line — and that’s exactly how the media read it.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the US government, which gave its PR team little to work with.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Actions speak louder than words. Are we really shocked, shocked, to discover that Swiss banks help people hide money? Yes, the fine is big, but even the general public has become inured to banks paying massive sums. If the US really wanted to send a message to tax evaders and the banks who love them, regulators needed to be more visible: name-and-shame clients, or put some white collars in orange jumpsuits. There’s nothing like a CEO in handcuffs to really command attention.

Sterling Crashes and Burns in CNN Interview

 Sterling Crashes and Burns in CNN Interview

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Donald Sterling.

If ever you’re compared to the Hindenberg, it’s a safe bet to assume something went terribly, terribly wrong.

That was how one CNN anchor described his network’s exclusive interview with Donald Sterling, the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Last month, Sterling was banned for life from the National Basketball Association, including his own team’s games, after audio recordings surfaced of him making racist statements. After weeks of silence, Sterling agreed to be interviewed by Anderson Cooper on Monday.

As he sat with Cooper sans handlers, the 80-year-old Sterling seemed unaware he was plummeting from frying pan to fire. He tried to blame his woes on Magic Johnson, the NBA hall-of-famer he insulted in the first place and who, Sterling said, told him everything would be all right. He admitted that his original comments were made in pursuit of sex with a woman 50 years his junior. Worst, he made another seemingly racist statement about African Americans’ philanthropic efforts, or lack thereof.

“What this was to PR, the Hindenberg was to blimps,” CNN’s Bill Weir said, while The Washington Post grimly noted it was “a study in damage control gone wrong.” Variety said Sterling  “gave the impression of somebody who was not mentally clicking on all cylinders” and that “the erratic, strange performance…will be studied in crisis public-relations classes for years to come.”

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Donald Sterling, who may be long in the tooth but who still hasn’t learned to keep his mouth shut.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: “No Comment” is a PR strategy.  Sometimes a situation is so incendiary that the only recourse is to lie low until the heat dies down. There are (at least) two hard-and-fast criteria for walking into the flames: be absolutely certain that your messages will clarify or put the crisis in context, and be able to deliver them expertly. In Sterling’s case, he failed on both counts.

Fox Network’s Low Ratings Highlighted Before Upfronts

 Fox Network’s Low Ratings Highlighted Before Upfronts

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Fox network (pictured: advert for Fox’s upcoming series Gotham).

This week, advertisers flock to New York City for upfronts—parties, meet-and-greets with celebrities, and previews from networks of new fall TV offerings. This is when advertisers decide which networks and shows will share nearly $16 billion in ad dollars. Among talk of the upfronts, one recurring theme emerges: how badly the Fox network needs a hit.

A series of hits, actually, to make up for once mighty shows that have dropped precipitously in ratings. Take American Idol, which during one season had 30 million viewers glued to Fox. Now it averages less than 7 million. Another former hit, Glee, is also viewer anemic. “Fox has the most to prove,” said David Campanelli, senior VP and director for national television at Horizon Media to the New York Times.

Toward that end, Fox started buzz with Gotham, their big gun, which tells the story of a young Bruce Wayne, pre-Batman cape, and a young(er) Jim Gordon, pre-commissioner title. The drama melds popular TV themes of cop show with teens (yes, there are young versions of Catwoman, Joker, et al), and a hit movie genre, comic book heroes. Gotham’s trailer does look like one of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. Will it save Fox? A few days, a few cocktails, and a few billion dollars will tell.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Fox, if the network can turn the conversation from their need to advertisers’ want.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Ostriches can’t just take their heads out of the sand; they have to do something. Fox could say things are tough all over—they certainly aren’t the only network feeling the sting of failing shows, viewers who fast forward through commercials while watching recorded programs, and other ad-dollar losses. But Fox is suffering more than most networks, and their PR job is to generate buzz about Gotham and other shows, and get it off their ratings plunge.

Netflix Raises Prices – and No One Freaks Out

NETFLIX TV 150x150 Netflix Raises Prices   and No One Freaks Out

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR PERFECT) for Netflix.

This time they warned you – Netflix, that is. The on-demand streaming video service that scored one of the worst marketing and PR flops since the introduction of New Coke when they raised their rates in 2011. They announced a price increase for rentals last week, but this time in a way structured to keep existing customers happy – and investors, too.

You might recall Qwikster, the company’s ill-conceived DVD-only service, spun off in 2011 in the wake of a controversial and unpopular price hike that effectively doubled the cost of rentals. Subscribers rebelled and quit in droves, and Netflix reversed course, killing the service before it ever launched. It then spent much of the next year apologizing and begging customers to come back.

Clearly the company learned something from that experience. This time, Netflix moved methodically, initially raising the prospect of price increases months ago. It firmed up that news in late April with a letter to shareholders announcing a pending increase of “one or two” dollars. The final word came in an email to customers Friday – a $1 bump, but only for new customers, and no increase for existing members for two years. So far, the villagers have yet to light their torches or storm the castle.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Netflix, for taking the time to set appropriate expectations.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Timing is everything – and that doesn’t always mean just picking the right moment. Netflix, looking to avoid another mass stampede of customers for the exits, wisely started telegraphing its intentions on pricing months before actually announcing the increase. This amounted to a period of test marketing, giving both Netflix subscribers and investors time to get used to the idea. Then, by grandfathering in existing customers at the current price for two years, Netflix actually won a measure of goodwill, solely becauset it set expectations of a price increase for everyone. Investors liked the news also, sending the company’s stock up on the increase.

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’s Silver Is a PR Game Changer

 NBAs Silver Is a PR Game Changer

THE PR VERDICT: A (PR PERFECT) for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Just three months into his tenure as commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Adam Silver was confronted with a situation that could make or break his career: how to handle leaked audio recordings of Don Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, making racist statements.

Silver’s response was pure PR gold. On Tuesday, he shocked the sports world by imposing the maximum fine on Sterling ($2.5 million) and banning him for life from the NBA. Sterling cannot attend any NBA basketball game or appear at any Clippers facility, nor can he participate any business decision regarding the team.

At the press conference, Silver’s voice shook with emotion. “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage,” he fumed at the microphone. He also said he “wiill do everything in my power” to force Sterling to sell his interest in the team.

The punishment was swift and harsh–and universally lauded. “The conversation transcended sports,” wrote USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan [no relation to the author of this blog]. ESPN’s J.A. Adande opined, “He took bold strides down his own path, showed an unwillingness to allow the sore of Sterling to fester. It’s a new era.”

The magnitude of Silver’s decision, quick action, and unvarnished disgust conspire to make this one of the most significant moments in basketball history.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR PERFECT) for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has cemented his legacy just three months into the job.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  A good decision goes a long way. Silver’s unprecedented actions are important not just for managing the current situation, but for what they suggest about the new commissioner: this is a strong individual with a low tolerance for bad behavior, someone who will bring stability to the league. The press conference left no doubt: Adam Silver is a game changer.

Police Dept Goes from NY Hashtag to Global Bashtag

 Police Dept Goes from NY Hashtag to Global Bashtag

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NYPD’s #myNYPD social media campaign.

Two weeks ago, the New York Police Department launched a goodwill campaign on social media, asking people to post photos of themselves with police officers with the hashtag #myNYPD. The hashtag soon turned into what the Associated Press cleverly and appropriately termed a “bashtag.”

Members of the Occupy movement were quick to share snaps of violent interactions with police. “Here the #NYPD engages with its community members, changing hearts and minds one baton at a time,” read the caption of one post. The campaign may started locally, but it quickly went national, then global. Twitter users in Los Angeles showed police in menacing riot gear. Social media users in Greece posted photos of police brutality against protestors with the hashtag #myELAS, and users in Mexico started #MiPolicíaMexicana.

At first the response from the NYPD was typical New York attitude. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton waved aside the Occupy photos as old news and said, “I kind of welcome the attention… We really broke the [social media] numbers.” When the backlash continued and went worldwide, a more somber response came from Deputy Chief Kim Y. Royster, who said, “The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community…this is an open dialogue good for our city.” Really?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NYPD, whose social media campaign has embarrassed them and their law-enforcement brethren worldwide.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Not every PR tool flatters the user. Social media can work, in the right hands and when correctly implemented. Perhaps the NYPD could use social media for, say, tips on crime. But it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that this naïve attempt at generating positive PR image could be twisted. Royster’s key word was “effective,” and this use of social media clearly wasn’t.