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 for continuing to stoke the ardor of the Catholic faithful on the first official papal trip abroad. In stark contrast with Pope Benedict’s drop-by in 2007, the pope was met by rapturous crowds in Rio de Janeiro on this week’s trip to Brazil for World Youth Day, which attracts hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from around the world. Seen carrying his own bag onto the plane in Italy and cruising around Rio in a mini-van with the windows rolled down and a limited security detail, Francis’ humble nature has charmed and reinvigorated his 1.2 billion-strong flock.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Anthony Weiner, who had to admit to and apologize for more sex-related emails again. The ones that most recently came to light show that Weiner – excuse us, “Carlos Danger,” his online handle – continued sexting even after such activity forced him to step down from his congressional seat, and while posing for glossy redemption stories in People and the New York Times Magazine. One would think that the hopeful mayoral candidate would have put down the keyboard and pulled up the zipper if only to avoid headlines by the New York Post such as WEINER: I’LL STICK IT OUT.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO THE US National Security Agency, whose Orwellian ability to eavesdrop on electronic correspondence practically anywhere in the world apparently doesn’t extend to its own email system. ProPublica, the non-profit investigative news organization, filed a Freedom of Information request for emails between NSA staff and a film crew working on a TV documentary on the superspy agency. NSA’s response? We don’t have the technology to do that. The system is “a little antiquated and archaic,” a spokeswoman said. Forget for a moment that this is borderline preposterous. If in fact true, a detailed explanation is decidedly merited. Financial services firms, among others, routinely search companywide email systems in response to subpoenas. If the NSA can’t do the same, it needs to explain why. Or maybe that’s classified.

Love, Russian Style

 Love, Russian Style

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Vladimir Putin (pictured with soon-to-be-ex-wife Lyudmila).

Russia has always been mysterious, both captivating and confounding the rest of the world. Perhaps that’s why Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s announcement last week that he is divorcing his wife of nearly 30 years, Lyudmila, seemed downright frank. In an “interview” as choreographed as the ballet the Putins had just left, the couple was approached at the Kremlin’s private theater by a journalist who just happened to inquire about their marital status. Dressed in formal wear and referring to each other by their patronymic names, the Putins stiffly confirmed an amicable split.

As strange as it was, the announcement marked a PR milestone for Putin, who has so fiercely guarded his private life that his adult daughters have never been photographed and he allegedly shut down a newspaper that speculated he was having an affair. Why be so open now? Possibly to put this issue to bed well before the next presidential election in five years. With one of the highest divorce rates in the world, Russians are no strangers to separation. Putin, however, is not particularly popular in his homeland, and divorce runs counter to the Russian Orthodox Christian church. He’ll also be the first Russian leader in 300 years to split from his spouse. At least Lyudmila won’t be banished to a nunnery like Peter the Great’s wife (at least, as of press time).

THE PR VERDICT:  “B” (Good Show) for Vladimir Putin. The harsh glare of the spotlight means that even former KGB agents have to practice a bit of glasnost now and then.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Be candid. Don’t resist. Today’s media is borderless and, often, relentless when it comes to the personal lives of public figures. At a certain point, it’s better to be candid about a significant event such as a divorce or affair rather than hoping (or forcing) the lid to stay on the pot. Just ask US President Bill Clinton, who probably wishes he’d handled the question about his involvement with intern Monica Lewinsky a bit differently. For leaders of nations, there is no such thing as a private life – even in Mother Russia.

Galliano Fashions a PR Comeback

 Galliano Fashions a PR Comeback

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for John Galliano.

Is John Galliano’s exile from the fashion world over? The designer has finally broken his silence, following his spectacular fall from grace in 2011 after making anti-Semitic rants in Paris. One episode in particular was videotaped, prompting his immediate firing from Dior and later conviction by a French court.

In his first interview since the scandal, Galliano opens up to a very sympathetic Vanity Fair.  His story has the making of an epic novel – the “un-idyllic” childhood in a multi-cultural but rough London neighborhood, where he was bullied for his homosexuality; his ascent into the world of high fashion; and the demons unlocked in fashion’s world of high pressure and unhealthy pampering. En plus, the unclear provenance of the incriminating video, fed to the media before Galliano’s arrest, provides just a hint of conspiracy. Vanity Fair spares no effort to exonerate, consulting and quoting experts to make the case that, when he hissed those spiteful things to people, Galliano just couldn’t help himself: Alcohol and drugs had simply made him insane.

Center stage in the article is Galliano’s contrition. Friends and other supporting sources, such as Jewish leaders he met through an executive of Vanity Fair’s publisher Condé Nast, vouch for the same. He studied the Holocaust, attended service at a synagogue, and is finally making tentative steps back into his profession, supported by fashion royalties such as Oscar de la Renta and Anna Wintour. Shalom, John, welcome back!

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for John Galliano. With a little help from influential friends, a comeback is always possible.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: For perfect rebound PR, timing is everything. Prepare the line-up of your supporters carefully, and make sure potential antagonists remain silent; one of the key stakeholders in this saga, Galliano’s former employer LVMH, declined to comment due to ongoing litigation about Galliano’s compensation. (The article hints at a soon-to-be-expected “human-to-human” apology from Galliano to his former bosses.) The glitterati love a tormented, artistic soul, and once confession and amends have been made, one may be pardoned and permitted to go back to work. Our PR advice? Post-comeback, work in silence.

 

The Vatican Joins the World’s Conversation

Pope tweets 150x150 The Vatican Joins the Worlds Conversation

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to the Vatican for an image overhaul now underway.

Since Pope Francis’s appointment, the Pontiff has issued more than 30 tweets. Is it  proof that the Vatican’s unofficial PR makeover is underway? Instead of taking clearly dogmatic and non-negotiable stands on established issues, the Vatican, it seems, is adopting a different tone and is joining new conversations. Some of them are raising eyebrows, with the latest being the most controversial: economic justice.

The Pontiff’s latest tweet took aim at corporations, blaming them for rampant unemployment rates throughout the world. “My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centered mindset bent on profit at any cost,” tweeted the Pope. This followed his earlier tweet criticizing the labor conditions at the Bangladesh factory building that collapsed and killed hundreds of people. As the Twitterverse built on the discussion, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, was asked about the papal tweet at a news conference. “We are . . . frustrated, yes, certainly,” he said.

Suddenly, the Vatican is in the news for different reasons – talking about what’s already in the news instead of driving its own agenda. After ten years of terrible publicity concerning child abuse and accusations of irrelevancy to the modern age, the PR conversation is changing.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to the Vatican for an image overhaul now underway.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Rather than failing to start your own conversation, join an existing one. For ten years, the PR concerning the Vatican has been focused on four hot button issues: abortion, ordination of women, gay rights, and child sex abuse at the hands of clergy. All polarizing, and all laying the church open to the oft-made claim that it is out of touch and irrelevant. A decade of bad publicity has taken its toll, but with the latest tweets, an important repositioning is taking place. The Vatican is now joining the conversation that everybody else is already in, and as it does so, its relevance increases – along with a Twitterverse of future PR opportunities and listeners.

 

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Mother Jones MagazineMuckraking Mother Jones has done it again. The magazine that broke the infamous “47 Percent” video that broke Mitt Romney’s presidential chances has overturned another ugly political stone. This time, they leaked an audio recording of a meeting between Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and his staff discussing ways to discredit actress Ashley Judd, who was at one time considering an opposing run against him. McConnell blamed the current Democratic administration for bugging his office, but MJ reporters steadfastly refuse to name their source. For a magazine few had ever heard of pre-47gate, Mother Jones is building a reputation as a source of nonpartisan truth.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the President of Malawi for her recent comical spat with Madonna. President Joyce Banda issued a media statement following a visit from Madonna calling her a “bully” and saying she harassed airport officials while trying to queue jump at the airport. (Apparently this sort of behaviour is unheard of in Malawi!). Madonna promptly denied the claim, saying it was nonsensical. The President, who one might have hoped had better things to do, retaliated with another statement that Madge has exaggerated her contribution to the country and wants Malawi be forever chained to “an obligation of gratitude.” We can safely assume President Joyce Banda has never heard of taking the PR high road.

Osteen hoax 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Justin Tribble, the man behind an elaborate Internet hoax aimed at televangelist Joel Osteen. Tribble created a fake web site and Twitter account to proclaim the preacher was renouncing Christianity and closing his ministry. Some outlets fell for it briefly, including the Drudge Report and CNN (which Tribble promptly screengrabbed and posted on the faux sites). Tribble went to a lot of trouble, so he must really hate Osteen, right? Well, no, he’s actually a “big fan,” he says. He just wants the preacher to stop using clichés and talk about more serious issues like genetically modified foods. Huh?

New Pope: Better Than Classic Pope?

 New Pope: Better Than Classic Pope?

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star) for Pope Francis and his PR launch.

And the new pope’s PR machine is off and running. This past Sunday was Pope Francis’s first Easter, and his first opportunity to show the world how he is going to change the image of the papacy. So how did he do?

The headlines were impressive. There was Pope Francis with 12 inmates at a juvenile detention center on the outskirts of Rome for an Easter ceremony. Kneeling before the group, including women and Muslims, he bathed and kissed their feet. The news reverberated around the world with Pope Francis saying, “The one who is highest up must be at the service of others.”

Other news: He has declined to wear the golden cross reserved for popes and has said no to the traditional red papal shoes. He continues to live in modest accommodations instead of the regal papal apartments and is talking of an outward-looking church being of service to others. So far, the Vatican is using these simple, humble tactics to position Pope Francis as a breath of fresh, revitalizing air for the Catholic church. Yet there has been no real change of policy. The new Pope feels different, but the papal message remains unchanged.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Pope Francis and his PR launch turning the media spotlight away from well-worn negative allegations.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Tactics over substance. No one doubts the conservative credentials of the new pope. His doctrinaire views on the traditional hot button issues – abortion, ordination of women, and birth control – are in no way a break from popes past. But tactically, he is changing the conversation about the Catholic Church. With a return to humility and service, he has shifted the focus from doctrinal issues to something less contentious. With no change to policy, this Pope has changed the communication of his message to something far more inclusive and less contentious. Tactical PR battles are often overlooked by the weight of substantive issues, but often it is the tone and emphasis in communication that makes all the difference.  The Republican Party, currently looking to refashion its image and messaging, may want to take note.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the Vatican. The seat of Catholicism gets our top grade – but not without qualifications. Our simple advice to the new Pope? Enjoy the honeymoon. The appointment was a big PR hit, no doubt: Francis, the first Pope from the Americas and a humble man who embraces a vow of poverty, gave the Vatican the forward-thinking PR page it is looking for. But storm clouds are already gathering. His age (76) will inevitably mean his tenure is abbreviated, while rumors are already surfacing about how he allegedly turned a blind eye to torture abuses during Argentina’s military rule. A high grade for a good start, but the challenge will be staying there; just ask Pope Benedict.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the TSA. The Transportation Security Administration continues to stand by their decision to allow small knives and other potentially dangerous tools and devices aboard aircraft, despite rising hue and cry from flight attendants, passengers, and politicians. Their defense? They want to turn attention to finding the hundred larger, deadlier threats – like the stun gun one passenger packed in his carry-on baggage this week (missed by security) or the fake bomb strapped to the leg of a security agent during a test (also missed). They have a point, but it’s blunted by another, oft repeated: the 9/11 attacks were begun by box cutters that would be waved right on through with this order.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Kanye West and Justin Timberlake. Enthralled by their current imbroglio? Yeah…neither are we. For those who missed it: West, in his own inimitable and unprintable way, criticized Timberlake’s single “Suit & Tie” at a concert last month. Timberlake struck back this week while hosting Saturday Night Live by changing a line of the same song, crooning  “My hit’s so sick got rappers actin’ dramatic.” Take that, Kanye! Who knows how the unpredictable West will respond – and does anyone really care? Ho-hum. We’ve come a long way from the East Coast-West Coast rap wars of the 1990s, folks. Maybe they should, too.

Vatican Can’t Stop PR Woes

 Vatican Cant Stop PR Woes

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the Vatican.

What could be in the Vatican dossier? That is the question on the media’s collective mind as rumors continue about the contents of the 300-page dossier complied by Vatican officials into the Vati-leaks scandal. What is already well known is that the report details an underground network of gay clergy, allegedly blackmailed by a rival faction within (or possibly outside) the Vatican. Throw alleged nefarious dealings with the Vatican Bank into the mix, and no wonder the recently resigned Pope has a PR headache larger than his ceremonial headdress.

The upshot? Rumors abound that the Pope resigned not due to failing health, but because the repercussions of the recently complied dossier are so damaging he thought it better to return to a life of isolated prayer. Not true, says a Vatican spokesperson, who has vehemently denied media reports, claiming they are “unverified, unverifiable, or completely false.”

Meanwhile, the Vatican is hurriedly making changes to its top management. It announced a new head of the Vatican Bank and moved one of the bank’s former heads to a new unrelated role. Vatican PR says these changes are unconnected with the dossier and is accusing the media of trying to discredit the church and its government. No one can say for sure, but if the Vatican was a publicly traded company, its stock would now be at all time low.

THE PR VERDICT: “F”(Full Fiasco) for a woeful week for the Vatican.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Start from the beginning. From the moment Pope Benedict said I quit, Vatican PR has been fighting an uphill battle. Conceding that his sudden resignation was a surprise, Vatican PR immediately created fertile ground for rumor and speculation. When a company changes management and chooses a new CEO, there is usually a plan in place to help the transition look seamless and unremarkable to the outside world, no matter what went on behind closed boardroom doors. What happened here, at one of the world’s oldest organizations? That’s as mysterious as the contents of the dossier, but for the Vatican, the problems look set to multiply like loaves and fishes.

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

 

Iraq fashion show 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Iraq’s Labour and Tourism Syndicate for organising the first fashion and beauty show since the U.S.-Iraq war began in 2003. Held in a small Baghdad hotel, the show is one of several events designed to promote a return to normalcy for Iraqi citizens and restore Bahgdad’s reputation as a vibrant Middle Eastern hotspot. It was even more significant because beauticians were targeted by religious militants during the war and forced to conduct their trade in secret. High marks to the syndicate for recognizing that beauty can, indeed, be more than skin deep.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: F (“Full Fiasco”) to John Galliano. Oy vey! What was the controversial fashion designer thinking for his first major public appearance in NYC this week following his scandalous dismissal from the House of Dior? Fired from his perch because of woefully anti-Semitic remarks that were caught on camera, he turned up at NY fashion week in the garb of a Hasidic Jew. Those in the know said the suit was dark blue, not the customary black, and the look was closer to a dandy than one of the faithful. But everything down to the ringlet curls and large hat was just so, and a bit too-too close for comfort. Defenders claim it’s Galliano’s routine attire, while others are outraged. Bottom line, wasn’t there an easier, less controversial wardrobe choice? John, it’s time for damage control, not further damage.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Toni Braxton, who announced earlier this week that she would be retiring from her career as a singer in order to focus on acting. Well forget this ho-hum Pope business! As much as we love La Braxton, PR proclamations such as these are unnecessary, and rather transparent bids for media attention. They also invite sarcastic responses, such as this: The world will likely go on without a new release, especially since “never” statements usually start the clock ticking on a comeback album five years hence.

 

 

Pope’s Retirement a Heaven-Sent PR Opportunity

 Popes Retirement a Heaven Sent PR Opportunity

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for the Vatican’s handling of the announcement that Pope Benedict is retiring.

The Vatican, embattled in recent years with constant allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests and tales of dreadful internal mismanagement, must lately be thanking God. With news of the current Pope’s retirement comes an opportunity to change the course of the Vatican’s poor pr.

Ever-increasing news of child sexual abuse has been altered only by dismissals of church officials who covered up the crimes and hid the criminals – in this case, priests. Additionally, the Pope’s own butler leaked secret, and embarrassing, Vatican documents in a case the media gleefully dubbed Vatileaks. For a long time,news coming out of Rome has been less than positive.

All that could change with Pope Bendict XVI’s announcement on Monday that he will retire – the first Pope in over 600 years to do so. While the Vatican couldn’t stop at least a few whispers that scandal, rather than failing health, was the reason for the Pope’s dramatic decision, most of the media coverage has been speculation about who the new Pope will be.  Anything is possible – including positive press – if the Vatican continues to handle this opportunity wisely and keep the focus on renewal and succession.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for the Vatican’s handling of the announcement that Pope Benedict is retiring.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Shift attention from the “why” to the “who.” With church officials offering near sports-level speculation as to candidates for new Pope, the Vatican has the proverbial ball. It can keep it by gearing up for the nomination, a major religious event filled with ancient process and grandeur that generally has the world holding its breath for signs of white smoke. A resignation can send any organisation into free-fall but on this occasion the Vatican might have the chance to turn a PR page and put some of its most recent embarrassments behind it.