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 Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury for combining forces to fight human trafficking. The Pope, leader of over a billion Catholics worldwide, and Archbishop Justin Welby, leader of over 80 million Anglicans, pushed aside doctrinal differences and met at the Vatican to discuss a unified strategy to combat “a crime against humanity.” Yet another sign that Pope Francis is committed to doing far more than just presiding over holiday services.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to President Obama, who finds himself on the receiving end of campaign of blame for the current situation in Iraq. Republicans seized upon news that Iraqi soldiers, trained by the US at a cost of $25 billion and many lives, turned and ran from encroaching ISIS militants. However, the tide may yet turn: media pundits are denouncing former Vice President Dick Cheney’s accusations against Obama, reminding the public of Cheney’s role as architect in the Iraq war. Touché.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to American Apparel, which voted this week to unseat founder Dov Charney after years of accusations of sexual harassment of employees. Charney also hired photographer Terry Richardson to do American Apparel’s ad campaign; Richardson has been accused of harassment of models, and the campaign blasted as pornography. These issues have been going on for long enough to drive American Apparel’s stock price below a dollar; perhaps that, and not the numerous accusations, finally led the board to take action. The move is long overdue – and perhaps too late to change the company’s falling fortunes.

Rapper Macklemore’s Costume Called Anti-Semitic

macklemore 150x150 Rapper Macklemores Costume Called Anti Semitic

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

Does no one remember the lesson hard-learned by fashion designer John Galliano, taken to task after wearing Jewish dress in a mocking fashion? Apparently not. Rapper Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, is on a steep learning curve after wearing a costume that many are calling anti-Semitic.

Last week, the Grammy winning duo of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed in their hometown of Seattle at the EMP Museum. Macklemore appeared on stage wearing a black wig, a fake beard, and a large, hooked prosthetic nose to perform a song called “Thrift Shop” about scoring fashions for a bargain.

His look, coupled with the song’s subject, “is deeply offensive and propagates Jewish stereotypes,” read a statement from B’nai B’rith, the Jewish human rights group. Social media was full of blowback too, prompting Macklemore to tweet, “A fake witches [sic] nose, wig, and beard = random costume. Not my idea of a stereotype of anybody.” Actor Seth Rogen, among those who’d called the rapper out, tweeted back, “really?? Because if I told someone to put together an anti Semitic Jew costume, they’d have that exact shopping list.”

Macklemore, who has been lauded along with Lewis for their pro-gay stance, has since apologized, though the statement’s start opposes his initial plea of innocence: “I acknowledge how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature.” As Seth Rogen said, “really??”

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

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When fashioning an apology, don’t change your client’s plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” unless you absolutely must. Apologies for wrongdoing should come quickly and without qualification, with the focus on the mea culpa. Starting the apology with an acknowledgement goes against Macklemore’s claims that any thought of caricature was mistaken. With a strong apology alone, the worst that can happen is people thinking your client is clueless. Any more than that, and the charges won’t be changed no matter what the plea.

Hotel Group Suffers Via Association with Sharia Law

 Hotel Group Suffers Via Association with Sharia Law

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Dorchester Collection hotel chain.

What’s the connection between Hollywood’s celebrity elite and an ancient law that punishes homosexuality with death by stoning? The Dorchester Collection, a string of luxury hotels including the famed Beverly Hills Hotel and other five-star lodging used by A-listers who have launched an aggressive boycott.

The problem is not the hotels themselves but their ownership by the Brunei Investment Agency. Recently, Brunei adopted the Sharia Law, which punishes theft with the severing of limbs, and adultery and homosexuality with death by stoning.

Celebrities and bold-faced names protested with a boycott of the Brunei-owned hotel chain. Understandable, though questionable; will oil-rich Brunei be affected by Richard Branson’s vow that no one from the Virgin family will stay at Dorchester hotels? No, but hotel employees will suffer, as Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, pointed out. “During this challenging time, we have been deeply touched by the tremendous support received from our loyal guests and longstanding business partners who recognize that Dorchester Collection hotels are part of the fabric of their social communities.” In other words, guilt by association should not be punishable by economic death.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Dorchester Collection hotel chain.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Just deliver the facts. There are times when companies may be adversely affected by their owners’ actions. In this case, there’s almost nothing the Dorchester Collection can do but what they did, which is to point out that they didn’t adopt the Sharia Law in Brunei, and there’s no reason their own employees should suffer for it. That said, financial boycott and the pressure of negative PR sometimes wins out. Will it here? It’s unlikely. If only to keep from losing face, Brunei will probably maintain their position. Dorchester walks a dangerous line between siding with an unpopular owner and maintaining business; best to keep quiet and hope for a sale to a less controversial owner.

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.

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

hijabs The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the Overland High School girls soccer team in Aurora, CO, for a stirring show of solidarity. Last week, referees barred one Muslim player on the team, Samah Aidah, from playing with a hijab on her head, calling it “dangerous.” Never mind that FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, officially permits the practice – not to mention the US Constitution. For the next game, all of Samah’s teammates and coaches wore the traditional Islamic headscarf in support. A tweet by one of the girls with a picture of team, all in headscarves, sent the matter viral. Young people leading by example, again.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO Lady Gaga, who continues to have a bad hair year. She fired her longtime manager, and her latest album, ARTPOP, hasn’t sold nearly as well as her previous collection, Born This Way. Now, her Born This Way Foundation, which seeks to “foster a more accepting society,” is under fire. Tax reports for 2012 show that BTWF spent $1.85 million in legal fees, salaries, travel, philanthropic consulting, and $808,661 in “other” expenses. Actual donations? A mere $5000. An example of how celebrity foundations aren’t born bad, they’re made that way.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO newly annointed Federal Reserve Chief Janet Yellen, who tried (and failed) to avoid rattling financial markets by couching her comments at her first press conference. Oh Janet, have you not studied your predecessors’ previous faux pas? After saying “We will try as hard as we can not to be a source of instability here (regarding communications)”, Yellen promptly gave what investors interpreted as a potential timeframe for interest rate increases, and one earlier than they had expected. Was that the message Yellen meant to convey? Who knows — and it doesn’t matter. Stock markets fell, bond yields rose, and the world carries on. PR tip to the head of the Fed:  When it comes to interest rates, “no comment” is the best comment.

Apple, Major Corporations Take Stand Against AZ Bill

 Apple, Major Corporations Take Stand Against AZ Bill

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Apple, American Airlines, Marriott, and the NFL.

Taking sides on religious issues was previously considered a bad idea for corporations. Better to remain neutral, lest someone – meaning, potential customers with buying dollars – be offended. Those days are over as of this week, when Apple, American Airlines, the Marriott hotel corporation, and the National Football League sent a message to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer: Veto Senate Bill 1062 or suffer economic consequences.

The now-infamous bill legalizes the right of business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians on religious grounds. Gov. Brewer, a conservative, has said she is “undecided” on whether to sign the bill into law.

Her decision may be assisted by threat of corporate boycott. Phoenix, AZ, is host to next year’s SuperBowl, and major corporations are making their non-neutral stance clear. Brewer may want to listen to Apple in particular: the tech giant planned to bring sapphire production to the state, which would have major economic impact – as would its loss. While no official statement came from Apple, Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, summed up the new corporate stance when he wrote to Brewer, “Our economy thrives best when the doors of commerce are open to all.”

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Apple, American Airlines, Marriott, the NFL, and corporations that take a stand against discrimination.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: It’s not always about the bottom line, even when it’s about the bottom line. Discrimination is wrong, period; about that, no one can argue. Even three of the senators who voted for SB 1062 are now urging Gov. Brewer to veto it. Companies never want to alienate customers, but at certain points, the only thing to do is take a strong stance. Sure, the lynchpin here is money. But in past times companies might have been content to say they were “gathering information,” or say nothing at all. Some may still be doing that, but the ones that speak up are the ones that stand out.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers PR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to CVS Caremark, the national drugstore chain, for its decision to stop selling tobacco products. Cigarettes in particular have been linked to diseases from cancer to high blood pressure and stroke – something that the country’s largest retail pharmacy just couldn’t reconcile with its broader mission of making its customers healthier. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark. The announcement was immediately hailed by everyone from President Obama to the American Cancer Society. CVS is the first such retailer to take the plunge and it will cost the company an estimated $2 billion in revenue, a small fraction of overall sales but no chump change.

SOCHI DOG 570 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Sochi Winter Olympics organizers and host city, where countless stray dogs are being killed ahead of today’s opening of the games. The strays were pets or offspring of pets left by families whose homes were razed to make way for Olympic venues. A Russian billionaire is financing belated rescue attempts but the culling continues – a grisly counterpoint to the festive atmosphere organizers would rather we see. The government claims the strays came for the food construction workers gave them, and stayed. The International Olympic Committee says no “healthy” dogs are being destroyed. Maybe, but this is certain: the round-up is just another PR fail for the most expensive (and worst planned) games ever.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Bill Nye, more popularly known as “The Science Guy,” who bothered debating science vs creationism with Ken Ham, President of the Creation Museum. The argument had rather predictable results –  no one was swayed from their original side. But apparently geeks and religious types still enjoy a good argument: the 800 audience tickets sold out in minutes, and 3 million people tuned in to watch on television.

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.

Has Rush Limbaugh Gone Too Far?

 Has Rush Limbaugh Gone Too Far?

PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Rush Limbaugh.

While it may seem that there is nothing politically conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh won’t say, his recent rant against Pope Francis may have just crossed a line.

On his radio show, Limbaugh railed against the Pope’s recent 50,000-word Evangelii Gaudium, or “The Joy of the Gospel,” in which the pontiff laid out his interpretation of the Catholic Church’s mission. Pope Francis urged his followers to relinquish obsessions with issues like same-sex marriage and contraception and instead return to the fundamentals, e.g. helping the poor. He denounced “the idolatry of money” and criticized “trickle-down economics …[which] expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

The Pope’s words thrilled many Catholics who have felt the church has strayed from its core values. But his clear dig at more capitalist societies irked others, including Limbaugh. In typical fiery style, he called the Pope’s views “pure Marxism” and said the Holy See was “dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong.” He also struck a paranoid note, wondering if someone “got to him” (God, perhaps?).

A sticky wicket for Limbaugh. His listeners are conservative, but so are many Catholics –  and a lot of Catholics really, really like their new Pope. Is Limbaugh really asking his fans to pick sides?

PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Rush Limbaugh, who risks alienating an important segment of his fan base.

PR TAKEAWAY: Even if your job is to be controversial,  avoid sacred cows. Indeed, Limbaugh seemed to acknowledge as much, saying “I gotta be very careful” during his tirade. We know how much Rush hates to be referred to as “an entertainer,” but the truth is that’s exactly what he is, and insulting a wildly popular Pope is about as PR un-savvy as it gets. Rush doesn’t have to endorse everything that Pope Francis says, but he would be wise to temper his papal tirades – lest he find some of his flock straying.

After Taliban Shooting, Malala Is Still On Message

 After Taliban Shooting, Malala Is Still On Message

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Malala Yousafzai.

Before anyone knew her name, or even that she existed, Malala Yousafzai had a mission: that she, and other girls like her, should be able to go to school. A simple right for many, yet forbidden to Pakistani girls like Yousafzai by the Taliban. But the world came to know the young crusader on the day a Taliban soldier boarded a school bus, asked “Who is Malala?” and shot the then-11 year old in the face.

Miraculously, Yousafzai survived. Even from a hospital bed, she was undeterred and unintimidated. Her parents soon reported that she was requesting her schoolbooks so that she wouldn’t fall behind in her studies.

The now 16-year-old Yousafzai tells of the day she was shot, and what has happened since, in her book I am Malala, being released worldwide tomorrow. She has addressed the United Nations and become the youngest person to be nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. Through it all, the girl who took on the Taliban at age 11 has stayed on message, on mission: “I was spared for a reason,” she writes. “To use my life for helping people.”

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Malala Yousafzai.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Don’t lose sight of your cause by becoming a celeb. Acts of heroism can be blurred by exposure in the limelight. If the mission is to become a star, as is the case with those who sign on for reality shows, then there’s no such thing as bad publicity. However, when the mission is of a humanitarian nature – say, fighting for the right for girls to be educated, against the edict of an oppressive regime – there’s a delicate balance between being the face of a movement and becoming a name. While no one may have known of Malala Yousafzai before she was nearly murdered by the Taliban, she makes sure her mission stays front and centre.