The PRV 2013 Final Grade: And the “F” Goes to…

Healthcare Exchanges The PRV 2013 Final Grade: And the F Goes to...THE PR VERDICT’S “F” (FULL FIASCO) grade goes to, the website hub for US citizens to sign up for government-supplied health insurance. A long hoped-for dream of affordable healthcare for Americans, and what Barack Obama surely thought would be his presidential legacy, has turned into what is generally described as a nightmare.

Getting the Affordable Health Care Act bill passed seemed the hard part. The next step was constructing a website that would be easy to navigate and able to handle an onslaught of Americans in need of insurance. But surely this would be a cinch for Microsoft or Apple or any of America’s tech giants. Maybe, if they’d gotten the contract, or even been consulted.

From the start, was a disaster. The site bounced users off, refused to save their data, or was impossible to log onto. Worse, the few who did manage to get on and didn’t want to change their plans suddenly found themselves without insurance. The President’s angry promises to get the site fixed were empty next to facts emerging from a commission (yes, things went that bad). Not enough testing, wrong mainframe, blah tech excuse blah. Only this week has Microsoft been called in, but help arrived too late to save this story.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Under-promise and over-deliver. It’s easy to see why President Obama would have wanted to offer affordable healthcare as soon as possible. Now, in hindsight, it’s easy to see why he should have waited. The achievement is one thing, implementation an entirely different animal. Whether looking at a presidential legacy or a small business breaking sales expectations with a big account, plan. Factor in worst-case scenarios. Hire the best consultants. When the back-slapping over a major win is done, take a hard look at what’s ahead to see that your promise doesn’t become an error fail.

The PRV 2013 Final Grade: And the “A” Goes to…

 The PRV 2013 Final Grade: And the A Goes to...THE PR VERDICT’S “A” (PR PERFECT) grade for 2013 goes to Pope Francis, the Argentinian priest who appears to be single-handedly revamping the priorities – and image – of the Catholic Church.

What a difference a year makes. The church was in chaos in February when Pope Benedict XVI resigned the papacy – something not done in over 600 years. Benedict cited advanced age, though the media speculated his decision was linked to an alleged secret gay network within the Vatican and/or depression after his personal assistant leaked confidential information to the media.

Enter Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the first Latin American and first Jesuit priest to be named pope. He was an upstart from the beginning: standing to accept his cardinals’ congratulations instead of sitting on the papal throne; sporting a simple white cassock at his first public appearance; and becoming the first Pope Francis, a name he chose to honor St. Francis of Assisi, himself known for his dedication to the poor.

Pope Francis has sent a consistent message to his flock: get back to basics. On Easter, he bathed and kissed the feet of a group that included women and Muslims. On his first trip official trip abroad, he carried his own bag and insisted on limited security. He recently issued a blueprint for the church that denounced “the idolatry of money” and urged Catholics to stop obsessing over issues like same-sex marriage and contraception. Both Time Magazine and The Advocate, a gay and lesbian publication, named him “Person of the Year.”

THE PR TAKEAWAY: If you can’t reinvent, reinvigorate. No pope can rewrite the Old Testament, but he can take the church in a new direction. It’s no secret the Catholic Church – sullied for more than a decade with child-molestation scandals and a dwindling base – desperately needed a leader who could help close old wounds and inspire new hope. Pope Francis has all the  ingredients for great PR: conviction of his beliefs, consistent messaging, and a personality brimming with charm and enthusiasm. For the Catholic church’s PR, Pope Francis is a nothing short of a godsend.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners and Losers

Screen Shot 2013 05 23 at 5.15.34 PM 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners and LosersPR Winner: “A” (PR Perfect) to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, who was asked to testify on Capital Hill following a recent report that excoriated Apple as a tax dodger, parking profits offshore and not owning up to its domestic tax obligations. Tim Cook was just humble and conciliatory enough while pressing the larger point that the present tax code needs urgent reform to wipe out gaping loopholes. This was bait and switch at its best. Before anyone could reboot his or her iPad he had the Senate’s Permanent Committee on Investigation eating out of his hand. “I love Apple,” exclaimed one enthusiastic member as the hearing wore on. Tim Cook and Apple’s senior management presumably slept soundly that night.

Screen Shot 2013 05 22 at 8.03.19 AM The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners and LosersPR Loser: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Lois Lerner who pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination at the recent hearing on the ongoing IRS fracas. Leading the IRS’s division on tax- exempt organizations she arrived for what was always going to be a hostile and partisan hearing.  Lerner began by protesting her innocence saying she had “done nothing wrong,”  (fair enough) but then after delivering what seemed like an opening statement pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refrained from further comment. Is it really okay for a paid government employee to refuse to answer questions from Congress? It’s muddy water certainly, but making your case and then pleading the Fifth sounds rather like having your cake and eating it. Bon Apetit.

Screen Shot 2013 05 23 at 5.20.36 PM 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO:
 Kim Kardashian and the ongoing coverage of her problematic relationship with singer Kanye West. This week In Touch featured heavily pregnant Kim on its cover claiming she is humiliated by rumors that her baby’s father has a secret boyfriend in Paris (with supporting photograph). Is Kanye West gay asked the article? This is apparently Kim’s “greatest fear.”  In Touch had a picture of the rumored French boyfriend while OK Magazine went 180 degrees and broke news in the opposite direction. Describing itself as the only magazine “with the real story,” it insisted in breathless detail that Kim and Kanye are “happier then ever” and plan to elope to Paris. No doubt about it, claims OK Magazine. At this point either Kim or Kanye’s PR should set the record straight.


Angelina Jolie’s Brave Announcement

Screen Shot 2013 05 14 at 9.37.25 PM 150x150 Angelina Jolies Brave Announcement The New York Times editorial started off sentimentally, with superstar Angelina Jolie writing of how her mother died young, at just 56 years-old, and before she had a chance to meet all of Jolie’s six children. Soon, though, it was clear Jolie was making a shocking announcement: she had recently undergone an elective double mastectomy after learning she carries a genetic mutation linked to significantly higher incidence of both breast and ovarian cancer.

The decision to have her breasts removed without a cancer diagnosis was surely an anguishing one for the 37-year-old Jolie, considered one of the world’s sexiest women. In the editorial, she explained her decision-making process and went into detail about the procedures. She addressed the emotional impact that mastectomy can have on a woman, and the critical role that partners (in Jolie’s case, the actor Brad Pitt) play during this difficult time. By saying she “started” with breast removal, she also hinted she may continue with more prophylactic surgery, such as a hysterectomy.

In all likelihood, Jolie could have kept mum about this life event. However, she said, she chose to go public to raise awareness about the genetic testing available to women and to give reassurance to those agonizing over the same decision. As one columnist at National Public Radio noted: “Someone will think about having a mastectomy and remember that Angelina Jolie had one, and she wasn’t embarrassed, and she still felt pretty, and she told everyone that it can be survived.”

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) for Angelina Jolie, whose announcement was a flawless example of using one’s celebrity platform in a constructive and selfless manner.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The way an announcement is made can be crucial to how it is perceived. Ms. Jolie shunned a huge press conference or one-on-one interview in favor of writing a thoughtful editorial in one of the world’s most venerable publications. In doing so, she was able to express herself fully and eloquently yet also remain protected from a barrage of follow-up questions. Perhaps most importantly, by writing the op-ed she made her announcement more about a health concern shared by many women and less about Angelina Jolie. Well done.

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