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.

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.

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.

Google Saying Spying Allegations “Hard to Imagine” Calms No One

googlelogo Google Saying Spying Allegations Hard to Imagine Calms No One

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

Much haranguing and hand-wringing has come in the wake of revelations of internet spying by the government, with the possible complicity (or willful ignorance) of the tech world’s biggest firms. But what if those firms themselves are spying on users and defending it as a right ot service? We’re looking at you, Google.

Michael Arrington, the tech venture capitalist and blogger who founded the industry-tracking Techcrunch blog, wrote recently “about that time Google spied on my gmail” in response to leaked information he received. The alleged breach, which Arrington is “nearly certain” occurred, drew a direct response from Google’s general counsel, Kent Walker, who answered the “serious allegation” noting that although Google’s terms of service “might legally permit such access, we have never done this and it’s hard for me to imagine circumstances where  we would investigate a leak in that way.”

Such equivocacy hardly quells concerns, but Google is not alone here. Arrington’s initial post came in response to word that Microsoft spied on Hotmail users in the interest of corporate security. (Other firms have also been cited.) But Microsoft followed its initial double-talk defense with an unambigiuous avowal that going forward it would not read user emails and instead refer matters to law enforcement when necessary. No word yet on whether Google got the message.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Google, whose top lawyer’s spying denial didn’t do the job.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Watch legalese. Google’s response here points up the dynamic tension between good lawyering and good PR. Corporate lawyers and imageminders both claim their firm’s best interests at heart. But in answering public criticism or accusations, the two sides  must work together to craft the right language. Lawyers shy away from absolute statements that might come back to haunt in litigation, while PR pros push stronger language that puts matters to rest. Each instance must be weighed on its own, keeping in mind that a non-denial denial satisfies no one.

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.

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.

Google Co-Founder Shows Why Honesty Isn’t Always the Best PR Policy

larrypage Google Co Founder Shows Why Honesty Isnt Always the Best PR Policy

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Google’s Larry Page.

Google co-founder Larry Page has a chronic voice condition that forces him to speak not much above a whisper. But what he says can still raise the roof.

Page, who is worth $32 billion, sat for an interview with Charlie Rose last week in Vancouver and confirmed a statement he has made before: He would rather another entrepreneur billionaire inherit his fortune than leave it to charity. As for a candidate, he mentioned Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and founder of Tesla, who aspires to send people to Mars with another company he runs, SpaceX. The interview was summarized in Wired and picked up on tech blogs.

Page’s point: That money in the hands of a forward-thinking entrepreneur at the helm of an enlightened company isn’t such a bad thing. In Musk’s case, Page said: “He wants to go to Mars. That’s a worthy goal.” Perhaps, but Page’s comments paint him more as a plutocrat, not a philanthropist.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Google co-founder Larry Page, who probably should have ducked what was a pretty loaded question.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Leave nuanced opinion to the Op-Ed page. While Larry Page might have a point, when conveyed in a soundbite the meaning is lost and the entire interview hijacked. Page spoke about many things to Rose, security and privacy among them. But what people will likely come away with is a less-than-favorable view of another Silicon Valley rich guy who wants to give his money to another rich guy. As another observer noted, does that make Page a donor, or an investor? Either way, this probably isn’t the sort of PR Page and his people wanted.

The PR of Pulling the Plug Before Opening Night

 The PR of Pulling the Plug Before Opening Night

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Radio City Music Hall’s “Heart and Lights.”

Radio City Music Hall’s big draw is the Christmas Spectacular, but owner Madison Square Garden Company had big plans for a similar annual attraction for the spring tourist season. “Heart and Lights,” a musical production starring the Rockettes, is a $25 million extravaganza that was set to debut this Thursday. Instead, the show has closed before it’s even begun.

An article in yesterday’s New York Times details the fallout: millions in lost ad revenue and ticket refunds, the theater dark for five weeks. What has been gained is immunity from reviews that might have killed the show permanently.

Another gain is bad press. The first question facing MSGC executive chairman James L. Dolan was whether to let the show run and work out its kinks in previews, though apparently the problems were too large. Decision made, the next issue is the explanation of why the multi-million dollar show would not go on. Publicist Leslie Sloane Zelnick chose to let Dolan come relatively clean in an attempt to control fallout. A win, or a loss? More like a toss up.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Radio City Music Hall’s “Heart and Lights.” Now there are two storylines to fix.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When the news is bad, you’re less damned if you do than if you don’t. Rarely will producers shut down a show as expensive as this a mere week before opening night. There’s no way to contain press that bad, except to open the door on it. In this way a flak can form the script: True, the show isn’t great – but MSGC would rather take the loss and put out a better show. Or so you hope the media and public will believe. Failing that, all will be forgotten by the show’s new opening night, a year from now.

To read the Times article, click here.