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.

Elizabeth Warren: Champion of US’ Disappearing Middle Class

 Elizabeth Warren: Champion of US’ Disappearing Middle Class

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

You know your PR is on the “stun” setting when the question about the presidential election goes from whether Hillary Clinton will run to whether you’ll run with her. Welcome to Elizabeth Warren’s new world.

Warren, the Democratic Senator of Massachusetts who chaired the government oversight panel on the 2008 bailout, released her latest book, A Fighting Chance, this week. The book is part memoir of her childhood in rural Oklahoma, part commentary on the plight of America’s middle class. (An article in The New York Times about America’s middle class no longer being the richest in the world could not be better timed.) Warren’s plainspoken indictments of political and corporate actions that led up to the financial collapse will likely be read raptly by many a disenchanted American.

Now Warren’s is one of the names being bandied about for 2016. She says she has no intention of running for president herself, nor has Hillary Clinton committed to a run. But Warren is already taking another step in her role as champion of America’s ailing middle class.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Check the weather and step out accordingly. Since the economic collapse that still has the US (and the world) reeling, Americans have grown mistrustful of politicians and banks. Enter Warren, daughter of a janitor and a minimum-wage earner who became a Harvard law professor, who seems to speak the same fed-up language that average people do, basher of big banks and crusader for the little guy. The 2016 election is a while away, but Elizabeth Warren’s message is right on time.

Consumers Didn’t “Like” General Mills’ Arbitration Clause

 Consumers Didnt Like General Mills Arbitration Clause

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for General Mills for a bad move quickly righted.

Anyone involved with PR and decision-making at General Mills was busier than the Pope conducting Easter services this weekend. The food company, one of the world’s largest and owner of brands including Pillsbury, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Nature’s Way, and many more found itself working overtime on the holiday weekend to correct a mistake that bred bad PR like wildfire.

At issue was a change made last week to General Mills’ legal policy regarding consumers’ ability to take legal action against the company or one of its brands. The new terms seemed to state that even “liking” the company’s Facebook page in order to get a coupon meant consumers waived the right to sue.

Public condemnation was, predictably, fast and furious. General Mills tried to say that the policy had been “grossly mischaracterized,” but they quickly apologized and reversed the policy. “We’re sorry we even started down on this path,” wrote General Mills representative Kirstie Foster on the company’s blog. No translation of legalese necessary there.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for General Mills for a bad move quickly righted.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When consumers go on the warpath, declare peace. Lately PRs have been confronted with company heads who let personal opinion affect brand profiles, as with Brendan Eich and Mozilla. The case with General Mills is more of a classic demonstration of “The customer is always right.” When it became very quickly clear that a business decision angered the people who buy their products, their new policy decision was reversed. That’s the business side. For PRs, the job was striking the right sort of apology: brief explanation for the actions taken, a fast reversal, a human being making a plainly-worded apology. Good ingredients for PR repair after an idea turned out to be half-baked.

Lack of ‘Frozen’ Merch Means Chilly PR for Disney

princess elsa 150x150 Lack of ‘Frozen’ Merch Means Chilly PR for Disney

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Disney. (Pictured: Princess Elsa from Frozen.)

Call it a “good news, bad news” scenario. Disney is currently enjoying the success of its movie Frozen becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time. They can’t gloat for too long, though; the news has shifted from accolades to tears of frustration and temper tantrums, both from children and adults. The problem? A shortage of Frozen merchandise.

Social media hath no fury like mommies frustrated by not being able to buy their children what they want. Specifically, the Princess Elsa dress – a sparkly blue gown like the one worn by Frozen’s heroine. The movie was already a hit, the DVD is now out and reaching an even larger audience, and worldwide demand for the dress far exceeds supply. The costume, usually around $50 in the US, is apparently going for over $1000 on ebay. If you can find one.

When has Disney ever underestimated the popularity of one of its movies? It’s possible that this film became bigger than even the Mouse House foresaw. But with frustrations raging online and in the media from mothers who can’t get what their kids want, Disney had better grant some wishes soon.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Disney. The low grade is not for running out of merchandise, but because running out implies underestimating their own success, and being unable to rectify the situation.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Spin! Spin like a princess at the ball, and then be a fairy godmother, granting your consumers’ wishes. First thing should be a statement saying how fantastic it is that your widgets were so popular that demand for them exceeded supply. Second is getting more widgets out quickly, in this case before a sweet animated movie invokes episodes more like The Hunger Games. This is a problem every company dreams of, but action keeps it from turning into a PR nightmare.

PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

obamacare logo  PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, whose supporters, including its namesake, had reason to celebrate Monday when enrollments pushed slightly past the original sign-up target of 7 million. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that target for initial sign-up period through March 31. Despite a horribly marred start and with withering opposition at every turn, the mandated healthcare program saw sign-ups somehow make their numbers. And while public opinion is still hardly enthusiastic, one poll did find for the first time that public support for the healthcare law surpassed opposition. Perhaps the rally will prompt lukewarm supporters to stop apologizing and start cheering.

  PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to General Motors’ chief executive Mary Barra, for a defense statement best summed up by “I don’t know.” As the head of GM faced a House subcommittee investigating what the car company knew and when regarding flaws that led to numerous deaths and injuries, Barra’s responses infuriated senators and the families of the deceased alike. PR is in freefall, and GM is still recalling millions of cars and facing possible criminal charges. In leaving Barra to claim ignorance or hang herself and her company, GM’s legal and PR teams register a complete fail.

  PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Britain’s Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, whose editorial boards told a parliamentary science committee they believe humans are negatively impacting global climate conditions. Really? That’s rather confusing considering, as the committee chairman put it, “some papers regularly give a platform to lobby groups or indeed conspiracy theorists – many not even qualified scientists – who pooh-pooh the evidence and attack UK climate scientists.” We are shocked, shocked, to find out that publications, looking to increase readership, might take one view in their papers while believing the exact opposite. Yawn.

OkCupid Hits the PR Target

 OkCupid Hits the PR Target

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for dating website OkCupid.

OkCupid’s arrow was on the mark. The online dating site made headlines this week for its clever slam of Brandon Eich, the new CEO at software collective Mozilla. Visitors to OkCupid who use Mozilla’s Firefox web browser were greeted with a message asking them to return via an alternative browser –  because Mozilla’s new head honcho apparently doesn’t support alternative lifestyles.

In 2008, Eich donated $1,000 in support of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative declaring marriage as being between a man and a woman. The measure passed but was ultimately deemed unconstitutional. His donation, made public in 2012, caused some chatter that eventually died down.

With Eich’s appointment as CEO last week, however, concerns have resurfaced about his views.  OkCupid minced no words about its distaste, saying, “Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure. If you want to keep using Firefox, the link at the bottom will take you through to the site. However, we urge you to consider different software for accessing OkCupid.”

The company also gets extra PR points for the way in which it took its stand. A press release would have sufficed, but temporarily blocking visitors using Firefox was a real eye-catcher.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for OkCupid for inspiring such headlines as “OkCupid Makes War Not Love on Mozilla: ‘Don’t Use Firefox.’”

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Playing politics is potentially messy, but it’s not verboten. Certainly, companies should tread carefully when choosing sides on a controversial matter; it is easy to misstep. But there are times when doing so is a no-brainer and such was the case here. OkCupid says it’s in the business of “creating love,” so its objections to Eich’s appointment are both personal and professional. Even their statement notes that 8% of OkCupid matches are same-sex unions. As such, there is only benefit to standing up for equal rights for the LGBT community, and doing so loudly.

Wall Street Takes Another Hit With “Flash Boys”

 Wall Street Takes Another Hit With Flash Boys

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Flash Boys author Michael Lewis.

Hell may freeze over before Wall Street’s PR image improves. From the scandalous decisions that began the financial collapse to legal damages that seem, to the general public, hardly punitive and Martin Scorsese’s excess-laden Wolf of Wall Street, could the image of the financial sector get any worse? Yes, and a lot, thanks to the PR blitz for Michael Lewis’s latest book Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt.

Lewis is the author of several bestsellers, including Liar’s Poker and Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Flash Boys has been boiled down to a single crystal-clear, seismically charged sound byte: The United States stock market is rigged. Thus began segments on 60 Minutes, The Today Show, and a host of other TV shows, newspaper and magazine articles – enough media exposure to sink the stock market all over again.

Naturally, there’s been blowback from Wall Street, though anyone in the stock market is so mistrusted by the public that protests only lend credence to Lewis’s claims. Others in the stock sector have said Lewis is right and are becoming whistleblowers. While Wall Street’s image continues to plummet, Michael Lewis’s stock is on a high.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for author Michael Lewis (and an “F,” Full Fiasco, for Wall Street).

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Harmonic convergences can be planned. A hot topic, a ripe scapegoat, an author with a talent for explaining complex issues simply… Yes, these are all dream situations, but flaks can work their own version of stock market magic. Timing the book’s publication after the release of The Wolf of Wall Street may have been coincidental, but was more likely a skilled PR team working Wolf like a peloton. Lewis’s elevator pitch, as well as his Everyman-friendly explanations, sell themselves – after being honed. A perfect campaign; perhaps Wall Street should hire Lewis’s team.

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.

Sports Team Owner Fumbles on PR Front

 Sports Team Owner Fumbles on PR Front

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

Take bad PR, add a heaping cup of tone-deaf obstinacy and voila, you have Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins football team.

Despite worsening public opinion, Snyder continues his fight to keep the word “redskin” in the team name even though it’s seen by many as an ethnic slur against Native Americans. This week, he announced the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, whose mission is “to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities.” He came up with the idea, he said, after visiting more than two dozen Native American reservations across the US.

The Oneida Indian Nation was scathing, saying they hope that ”in his new initiative to honor Native Americans’ struggle, Mr. Snyder makes sure people do not forget that he and his predecessor … have made our people’s lives so much more difficult by using a racial slur as Washington’s team’s name.”  The media also see a slap in the face in the foundation’s name: Slate Executive Editor Josh Levin opined, “This is perhaps the most uncharitable name ever conceived for a charitable group, something akin to calling your organization “Kikes United Against Anti-Semitism.”

It won’t be the first time a company has tried to create PR goodwill by saying it will serve the people it has wronged. Snyder’s ill-advised effort, however, has fumbled badly.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Daniel Snyder, who, despite his crusade for the Washington Redskins football team name, oddly never uses the word “redskin” as a synonym for “Native American” in his communications.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Perception rules. Snyder may think he is on a righteous path because some Native Americans have assured him they don’t find the term offensive. But he chooses to ignore the ones who do — and they are the ones making the headlines. By naming the foundation so, Snyder has only created even more controversy and further divided the very community he is hoping to assuage.