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 the teams in the World Cup. Whether they won, lost, or bit opposing team members, they created drama, last-seconds goal tension, and must-see games. Gone was the bad PR facing Brazil in the weeks leading up to the games, all of it replaced by football frenzy the world over—even in the US, where it’s still called soccer.


 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to United States Speaker of the House John Boehner and Congress, who tied this week for new lows in partisanship. House Speaker Boehner confirmed this week that he intends to sue President Barack Obama for unlawful use of executive order. The announcement was made soon after Congress nearly came to a brawl over an IRS scandal involving missing emails with sensitive information—a perfect opportunity to point fingers and cry “J’accuse!” at the other side. At a time of historically low levels of trust in government, these elected officials should think twice about their choice of focus.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Chen Guanbiao, the Chinese millionaire who took out an ad in The New York Times to tell the world he would treat 300 homeless New Yorkers to a fancy luncheon and give each of them $300 in cash. Chen, a recycling businessman with a penchant for publicity stunts, was asked by his charity liaison for a donation of $90,000 instead, to protect the homeless from using the money for drugs. At the lunch, Chen had homeless people pose for photos of him giving them cash—that they had to return—so he could maintain his business card statement, “Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China.”

NBA Fallout Continues As NAACP Head Resigns

 NBA Fallout Continues As NAACP Head Resigns

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NAACP. (Pictured: former NAACP LA President Leon Jenkins.)

Even when public relations scandals are properly handled, they can continue to thrive when an event triggers a national conversation. Last week, the National Basketball Association banned Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, from the NBA for life after racist statements he allegedly made went public. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pointed out that Sterling’s racism had been known about for years; action was taken after bad press went viral. Spurred by the larger issue of racism in America, the media continued to look for a story – and found one, in Sterling’s association with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins resigned last Friday after reports that Sterling was to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP. This would make two NAACP awards for Sterling. The first, for promoting civil rights, was given in 2009, the year Sterling agreed to pay a $2.7 million settlement after the US Justice Department sued him for allegedly refusing to rent apartments he owned to African Americans and Hispanics.

“In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused,” Jenkins said, “I respectfully resign my position.” Appropriate action, but again, it may not stop more negative fallout.

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

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Internal review of public decisions is a must. Lifetime achievement and other awards, especially those given to public figures, will be featured in the media. As such, they should be carefully reviewed by the organization that will be represented by these figures. Jenkins is at fault for giving Sterling, a known racist, these awards, but did he act independently? Surely higher-ups must have known. They’re now likely shaking in their corner offices.


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.

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 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 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 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.

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.

“Three Cups” Author’s Apology Three Years Late

 Three Cups Authors Apology Three Years Late

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and author and philanthropist Greg Mortenson can speak to that. Mortenson broke a three-year silence with an interview on the Today Show to apologize for mishandling charity funds and answer charges that he fabricated parts of his bestselling memoir, Three Cups of Tea.

In the book, Mortenson describes how a failed attempt to climb K2, one of the world’s tallest mountains, put him in danger of exposure and capture by the Taliban. His rescue by Afghan and Pakistani villagers was repaid with a promise to build schools in the area.

Three Cups of Tea spent four years on bestseller lists. Mortenson was nominated twice for a Nobel Peace Prize and given millions for his charity. Among the donors was Jon Krakauer, a mountaineering expert and author. Over time he questioned Mortenson about distribution of the charity’s funds. The answers prompted Krakauer to write an exposé entitled Three Cups of Deceit, and for Sixty Minutes to report that Mortenson mishandled donation money and fabricated parts of his book.

“I let a lot of people down,” Mortenson told Tom Brokaw. He also, in “maybe a strange, ironic way” thanked Krakauer and Sixty Minutes. “Had they not brought these issues up, we could have gotten into more serious problems.” A humble mea culpa, yet Mortenson still faces a steep climb.

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

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Explanations can wait,  apologies can’t.  This is the first apology donors have heard in the three years since Mortenson  was ordered to repay $1 million to his own foundation and step down from its board. Explanations and finger-pointing can come down the road, but a delayed apology sounds less sincere with every passing moment.  For Mortenson’s deceived and disappointed donors, it was a long wait that yielded less then three cups of contrition.

After Loss Should the Show Go On?

 After Loss Should the Show Go On?

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

A few days have not dulled the shocking news that actor Paul Walker, best known from the Fast & Furious movie franchise died when his car crashed last weekend. Walker had just attended an event for Reach Out Worldwide, a charity he founded to aid victims of natural disasters.

As tributes mounted, others had to weave mourning with business. Specifically, Pantelion Films, the company set to release Walker’s last film, Hours, and Universal, which had scheduled the seventh Fast & Furious movie for next summer.

Hours is set during Hurricane Katrina, a disaster Walker’s foundation would have benefitted. The film company’s statement that Walker would have wanted them to carry on with the release date of December 13 seems more believable than pat. The more difficult road lies ahead for Universal which has yet to announce how it will deal with Walker’s absence in Fast and Furious 7.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Pantelion Films for staying on course to release Paul Walker’s final film, in keeping with his charitable endeavors.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The show must go on – in a sensitive way. When Heath Ledger died before the release of Batman: The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan spoke of Ledger’s intense performance as a way of saying, well, Ledger would have wanted the film to come out. Homage must be paid to the departed for a film company to avoid looking as though they’re cashing in on a star’s demise. A donation to the actor’s favorite charities helps. Ultimately the matter is one of sounding a respectful grace note. The show will go on, but it must do so in a way that allows the viewers to watch comfortably.

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 the International Association to Save Tyre, a charitable organization that came up with a most innovative fundraiser: a raffle to win a Picasso. Sotheby’s Paris will host the drawing, in which one lucky ticket holder will win Picasso’s “Man With Opera Hat,” a cubist illustration valued at $1 million dollars. Tickets are available online, worldwide, for $135/€100. After the publicity the raffle received, it’s a cinch the ceiling of 50,000 available tickets will be met, bringing in a raft of donations and awareness in this artfully crafted fundraiser.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who committed an uncharacteristic PR misstep this week. Christie told The Record, a NJ newspaper, that a “low-level manager” at NJ Transit was responsible for deciding to move more than 300 trains to a facility that wound up flooding during Hurricane Sandy last year, causing more than $100 million in damage. The governor suggested that the manager went rogue and didn’t properly vet his decision within the transportation agency. The call-out alone would have been bad enough, but it turns out that The Record has emails showing that this poor unfortunate’s decision was, indeed, approved by more than a dozen supervisors, including the agency director. Bad intel and poor form, governor.

kochs The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Charles and David Koch, for denying any role in the anti-Obamacare government shutdown but not disavowing the Republican-led effort. The conservative billionaire brothers, who bankroll numerous right-wing causes, figured prominently in a Sunday New York Times article  that traced how Koch-funded conservative groups and politicians plotted the shutdown strategy to block the Affordable Care Act. On Wednesday, in a blanket letter to US Senators, the Kochs said although they oppose Obamacare, they had “not taken a position” on the shutdown strategy nor lobbied Congress to defund the program. So in other words, they’re not to blame for a shutdown, which they have no opinion on, anyway.




Yet Another Blow for LIVESTRONG

 Yet Another Blow for LIVESTRONG

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Lance Armstrong’s cancer charity LIVESTRONG.

As Lance Armstrong entered a public event for the first time since his admission of doping banned him from professional cycling, news show CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on Armstrong’s cancer charity LIVESTRONG. Just as there were questions about whether Armstrong won seven Tours de France without enhancement, some are now asking whether LIVESTRONG is a charity, or an enhanced way to make money.

The first blow to LIVESTRONG was, of course, the doping scandal. Armstrong stepped down from the organization to avoid tainting it, and for a while, that seemed to work. Months later, Nike dropped its lucrative sponsorship deal with the company, saying it couldn’t tacitly approve of Armstrong’s doping and lying by maintaining sponsorship. Still, LIVESTRONG insisted they’d soldier on in their efforts to benefit those stricken with cancer.

And what, exactly, are those benefits? A donor and former LIVESTRONG volunteer is asking, via a lawsuit. The Sunday Morning report revealed that LIVESTRONG no longer invests donated funds into cancer research. A LIVESTRONG spokesperson says they help cancer survivors improve their lives via  free advice and referrals and that 82 cents of every dollar donated goes to help cancer survivors. The report reveals that the figure includes marketing, a “rainy day” fund of $13 million, and executive salaries. Whatever the breakdown, while Armstrong distanced himself from LIVESTRONG, questions of truthfulness haven’t gone far.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for LIVESTRONG. Revelations such as this may be the death of this “cancer survivor” organization.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Stay true to your mission, or face possible consequences. Consumers reacted badly to New Coke; how will donors react to the revelation that LIVESTRONG, a cancer fund, does not fund cancer research? This switch in focus came about rather quietly, as has the fact that LIVESTRONG sold their name to a for-profit health and fitness company that runs, as opposed to Among charities, transparency is key to long life and steady funding. When that transparency reveals an inconsistent message, prepare to divert some of those funds to damage control.

To read the CBS Sunday Morning report, click here.

Hospital’s Unhealthy PR Response to Lawsuit

HUGUETTE CLARK 150x150 Hospitals Unhealthy PR Response to Lawsuit

PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Beth Israel Hospital. (Pictured: heiress and patient Huguette Clark.)

The story of copper heiress Huguette Clark (left) has all the makings of a soon-to-be optioned movie. Clark was a Manhattan heiress with an estimated $300 million fortune and no direct heirs of her own, who lived in seclusion on Fifth Avenue. In 1991 she was admitted to Beth Israel, a leading New York hospital, and continued to live there until her death in 2011 at the age of 104. During her stay she gave the hospital some $4 million in donations, not counting the $1,200 a day she paid daily in out-of-pocket expenses.

Beth Israel is now on the receiving end of a legal suit launched on behalf of the heiress’s distant relatives. Their accusation? That the vulnerable heiress was subjected to a relentless fundraising campaign that included showering her with trivial gifts and  exercising undue influence to encourage the donation of cash and highly valuable art. The case will be heard in September.

So far, Beth Israel has declined comment, referring the media to its publicly available legal filings. “Having provided lifesaving and compassionate care to a person of Ms. Clark’s wealth, it would have been surprising if Beth Israel had not approached her for donations . . . the amount of money she gave to Beth Israel was not very large, considering her vast wealth,” the filings state matter-of-factly. Hardly a face-saving PR strategy, for one of New York’s major hospitals.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Beth Israel for a truly disastrous response.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Separate PR from legal. Relying on filed defenses for a PR response is only tempting the fates. While wise to decline to comment on the specifics, why not reaffirm that Clark was a beloved and admired patient at the hospital during her twenty-year stay? Express regret that the distant relatives have decided to launch civil proceedings over donations that have been put to good use (and then mention what $4 million has bought). Above all, avoid saying it wasn’t very much anyway. Huguette Clark is unlikely to have agreed with Beth Israel’s assessment – $4 million, even in her book, was presumably not chump change.

To read more, click here.