The Obamacare Show Must Go On

 The Obamacare Show Must Go On

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the launch the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday, the Affordable Care Act – the long-awaited and controversial US health care program also known as “Obamacare” – launched amid a US government shutdown and a host of technical glitches. A bungling of presidential proportions? Not necessarily.

The federally-mandated marketplaces that are the cornerstone of the new US health system opened for business on October 1. That’s the same day a Congressionally-led shutdown, sparked by the program’s opponents, closed iconic American memorials and national parks and furloughed more than 800,000 workers. As if that weren’t inauspicious enough, millions of Americans were met with error messages when they tried to check out their state’s exchanges, many of which are managed by the federal government through its portal.

But these factors didn’t cast a PR pall over the program – at least not initially. The fact that the health care exchanges opened on time, despite a government shutdown, was a PR coup. It also seemed to elevate the program above the Congressional bickering that has come off as childish and impotent. As for the technical problems, they’re being met with a shrug. These days, inability to immediately access the latest technology platform has become almost de rigueur; opening-day delays imply overwhelming demand. For Obamacare, there will be a short grace period for the program to get its act together and start signing people up. After that, though, all bets are off.

THE PR VERDICT:  “C” (Distinctly OK) for the launch of the Affordable Care Act, debuting in a timely manner and piquing the interest of millions of Americans.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The show must go on. Having come this far, President Obama would have invited a PR disaster had he given in to demands to delay the launch of the health insurance exchanges. If the product is useful, intriguing, or novel enough, consumers are willing to endure a few headaches at the outset. All that said, the countdown has begun: Obamacare needs happy customers, and soon, if its going to establish itself as the viable solution to America’s health care woes.

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 Edward Snowden, the American intelligence analyst-turned-global fugitive who reportedly walked out of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Thursday a free man (for now). Snowden’s improbable mission to expose secret American surveillance programs will see another chapter writ after Russia granted the 30-year-old temporary asylum for one year. During his five weeks in the airport’s transit lounge, Snowden stayed away from cameras and stressed, through statements and spokespeople, that his quest is about the American people. The aura he’s created is one of honest motivation and cool determination. Folk hero, anyone?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: F (FULL FIASCO) to Barbara Morgan (at left, with Anthony Weiner), communications director for the death-spiraling Anthony Weiner campaign who – not realizing she was on the record – went on a profanity-filled tirade to a journalist. Anthony Weiner, of course, is the delusional mayoral candidate for New York City who has repeatedly sent photos of his crotch to young women. It was in commenting on one of them that Ms. Morgan unleashed her verbal assault, calling former intern Olivia Nuzzi a “slutbag,” a “bitch,” and several other unprintable epithets. In a shocking development, Weiner said he’ll stand by her.  The only thing missing from this circus is a clown car.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to the Obama Administration, for over-promising on releasing new details about the government’s domestic electronic surveillance program. The not-so-big reveal came as Administration officials again appeared before Congress to testify on the legality and necessity of the surveillance program. But the three – yes, just three – documents were heavily censored and clarified “nothing of importance,” as the New York Times editorialized. Testimony before Congress also produced nada of substance. Meanwhile, events continue to blow past the Administration’s efforts to contain the damage: UK newspaper The Guardian published more spying program details, and a day later, Russia granted secret-leaker Edward Snowden temporary asylum.

Google Keeps It Green

google inhofe dont fund evil 150x150 Google Keeps It Green

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good show) for Google, for not dodging a difficult PR situation.

“A better web. Better for the environment,” is Google’s glinty-green promise to the climate-conscious web user. Its massive, energy-devouring data centers use half the power of other such facilities – and so on, and so on, as the company contends in setting forth its conservationist bona fides.

So it’s completely understandable that the Jolly Green Giant of web search, whose corporate motto is “Don’t be evil,” would raise eyebrows and ire for hosting a fund-raiser for one of Congress’s most outspoken climate change deniers, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. The fundraiser, at Google’s Washington, DC headquarters last Thursday, drew a smattering of protesters, condemnations on the web, and news coverage of both.

Google, whose political donations rain down equally across ideological and party lines, initially declined to comment, but wisely thought better of its reticence. A spokesperson subsequently noted that Google has invested $700 million in job-creating data centers in Inhofe’s state that are powered by wind energy. Hosting the Inhofe fund-raiser is not blanket endorsement of all his positions, the flack said. “While we disagree on climate change policy, we share an interest with Senator Inhofe in the employees and data center we have in Oklahoma.”

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Google, for not dodging a difficult situation and telling it like it is.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Hold fast to your principles, and don’t let a public outcry turn your compass. Google’s green commitment is indeed substantial – the Inhofe fundraiser doesn’t change that. Like any publicly-held company, it has to balance obligations to corporate values with obligations to shareholders. Its forthright and unapologetic response in a slighty sticky situation constitutes reasonable deference to exigency over rigid adherence to ideals. Down the road, such realpolitik preserves Google’s ability to exert its potentially considerable influence in the conservation conversation. Its public response in this teapot-sized tempest confirms that being PR-savvy means making sure you never have to say you’re sorry.