Boy Scouts PR Move: More Talk, Less Action

 Boy Scouts PR Move: More Talk, Less Action

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Boy Scouts of America.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) got a lucky PR break last week. As the Catholic Church prepared for the conclave, the PR spotlight was turned away from the US organization that continues to ban openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders. The conclave inadvertently bought the BSA some breathing space as the Boy Scouts, just like the Catholic Church, grapples with the complex challenge of how to please its diverse constituents while remaining relevant for future generations. The BSA was out of the  PR heat – at least for a week.

The BSA stumbled earlier this year after a press leak, later confirmed, that suggested change was imminent on its policy regarding openly gay members. In fact, the BSA Board was deeply divided. Its solution? It deferred its decision and retreated from the public eye to regroup.

Now, in part to follow up on the recent controversy, the BSA is surveying adult Scouts and their families about the role of gay members and leaders in Scouting. Described as “neutral and not intended … to provide a certain outcome,’” the BSA is at pains to point out that it is now listening to its members. But time will tell whether being in listening mode helps the BSA cure its PR ills.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Boy Scouts of America. Listening to members is fine, but sometimes leadership calls for just that: leadership.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Change the debate to change the crisis. Shifting the terms of the debate is a hallmark of good PR, and it is hard to quibble with asking members for their views; a survey just might identify attitudes and beliefs that can lead to meaningful discussions. In the long run, though, more will be needed. Sometimes leadership requires making a tough decision and taking a public stand. For an organization committed to building the minds, morals, and characters of America’s future leaders, this is one  leadership lesson it can’t afford to ignore.

Petraeus Scandal Sisters Trashed in T&C

 Petraeus Scandal Sisters Trashed in T&C

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Jill Kelley and sister Natalie Khawam (pictured left, with lawyer Gloria Allred).

What happened to the David Petraeus scandal? The temperature surrounding twin sisters Jill Kelley, the famous “Tampa socialite,” and her now equally famous twin sister Natalie Khawam continues to head in the wrong direction. The latest issue of Town & Country Magazine must have both sisters fuming. In a feature called “A Four Star Scandal,” journalist Vicky Ward describes the sisters as nothing short of scandal plagued and “on the make” (which does make for amusing reading).

Jill Kelley is the woman invariably described in media shorthand as the “Tampa socialite” involved in the Petraeus scandal. She was known to give extravagant parties attended by the top military brass, including General David Petraeus, a four-star general and then head of the CIA. Arguably, his affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell only came to light due to e-mails from Broadwell telling Kelley to back off from Petraeus. (Still with us?) The e-mails precipitated the end of Petraeus’s distinguished career.

The gist of T&C’s profile of sisters Jill and Natalie? That they’re social climbers who drop names at every opportunity while running up massive debts and scheming to snare moneyed men. Both sisters have indicated to some media outlets that they are now considering their legal and PR options. (Natalie has already retained notorious lawyer Gloria Allred.) Unfortunately, the horse has already bolted from the stable door.

THE PR VERDICT: ”D” for Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam. This is one social comeback that will be hard to manage.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Find SOMETHING to say, even if it’s via a publicist. The article quotes any number of sources and former acquaintances willing to drive in the stiletto. With both sisters declining to be interviewed, a sober and measured statement from a third party publicist was in order. “No comment” might be a valid choice, but having no voice at all made the twins lose their PR battle from the outset. Next time, make sure there is another voice to counterbalance the slant. An e-mailed statement, for example, can change everything; the sisters, of all people, should have known that.

Lie Strong

 Lie Strong

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Lance Armstrong.

The interview that Oprah Winfrey calls “the biggest” of her career – with Lance Armstrong – hasn’t even aired yet, but the reaction to Armstrong’s apparent admission to doping is already in. However, it may not be what he was hoping for.

Over seven Tour de France wins, Armstrong was repeatedly accused of using performance-enhancing drugs; he denied all. After the US Anti-Doping Agency amassed an incredible amount of evidence against him, much of it from Armstrong’s former teammates, Armstrong relinquished his medals and watched sponsorships and contributions to his LIVESTRONG cancer charity burn. But he never admitted anything.

With his career and foundation in freefall, there seemed to be two courses to take: lay low and wait for the storm to pass, or have a “come to Jesus” moment with the only person who can influence public forgiveness: Oprah Winfrey. That moment came this week on Oprah’s OWN network. (At last, a ratings boost!

However, even Oprah may not be able to save Armstrong. The New York Post‘s front page, above, summed up public reaction at being duped and their sympathies played upon. Morning show pundits brought up a damning point: Armstrong began doping before he contracted testicular cancer, the disease that served as the launching pad for LIVESTRONG. Oprah apparently did not ask Armstrong if he thought the drugs led to the cancer, but if that theory is even hinted at, LIVESTRONG won’t survive the month.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Lance Armstrong. He may come to regret coming clean.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Better to admit to something or everything? Were Armstrong on his own, sure, tell all. But there is the foundation to consider, and should Armstrong not seem repentant enough, the public will turn on him and anything he touches. An admission also lays Armstrong open to lawsuits that will mean repayment of millions of dollars, as well as a suit by the US government for lying. The inevitable tell-all memoir offer may be waiting, but is there anything more the public will want to hear? Confession may be good for the soul, but in this case, it may harm everything Armstrong holds dear.

Murdoch, Think Before You Tweet!

 Murdoch, Think Before You Tweet!

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Rupert Murdoch.

When it comes to controversial tweets or scandalous emails, one of the more predictable cries from the media is to ask, what was this person thinking? Every smarty-pants commentator let’s us know: Nothing is private, all is public. Don’t write it if you don’t want it on the front page.

Apparently, media mogul Rupert Murdoch hasn’t been listening; he just learned his humiliating lesson in the world of social media the hard way. His Twitter followers were presumably puzzled by his Tweet this past Sunday that accused the “Jewish owned press” of favoring Gaza over Israel in news coverage concerning the latest military action. He asked his followers, which number over 360,000, “Why is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?”

Immediately, the commentators were wondering who could Rupert have been referring to. In previous Tweets, Murdoch complained of  “CNN and AP bias to point of embarrassment.” But as neither are “Jewish owned,” the comments seemed genuinely confusing. The wider consensus is that The New York Times, his US foe in the newspaper world, was the target. But the mystery now looks like it will never be solved.  Murdoch apologized unreservedly, describing his Tweet as “awkward and inappropriate,” adding he should not have brought in “irrelevant and incorrect ethnic matters.” Case closed.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for one of the world’s leading media tycoons. However, it’s touching to realize that even a media mogul can get social media wrong.

The PR Takeaway: Press “pause” before “send.” The Murdoch incident is a flash in the PR pan, but it does show that even the most experienced media practitioners can get it very wrong. What’s obvious with the benefit of hindsight is sometimes not obvious at the time. Murdoch might want someone in his entourage to check Tweets before sending them; this is not a one-on-one conversation, after all. Take note, Wendi.

To read more, click here.

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

fiscal cliff 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks PR Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK:  “A” (GOLD STAR!) TO: The Fiscal Cliff. Where was this now-infamous, much-ballyhooed, utterly dreaded fiscal cliff over the interminable electioneering months? The term vanished from the public lexicon then but is now rekindling waves of panic in financial markets and cable news. Before the election this had at best medium celebrity value, but ten days later the media hasn’t stopped talking about going over the cliff and new catastrophic lows for the economy. The “cliff” is the perfect PR package: terror, fear, and and the unwanted leap into the unknown. No wonder both sides of the political debate won’t let this metaphor go. Creating urgency around this means someone has to blink first. Artful PR.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks PR Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO: Guy Fieri, Food Network star and owner of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar. This week, Fieri’s new Times Square establishment got national media attention – for receiving what may be the most scathing restaurant review The New York Times has ever published. Highlights: “Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?” Fieri hit back immediately – ensuring that even more people read the review. Yet one wonders: What did the reviewer really expect from a 500-seat eatery in Times Square, and will the quality of food really matter to visitors trapped in a touristic culinary wasteland?

JILLKELLEY 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks PR Winners & LosersPR BLUNDER OF THE WEEK TO: Jill Kelley’s brother David Khawam. He hit the airwaves hoping to move the dial on the national fascination with his socialite sister Jill Kelley, who is intimately involved in the Petraeus scandal. Springing to her defense, he claims it is ‘ludicrous” to think his sister had an affair with Petraeus. “She has three kids and is a dedicated wife,” he protested. A well-intentioned but awkward PR move. Besides being an unconvincing defense, the question of Kelly having an affair with Petraeus had not been seriously raised before. Was this a case of team Kelley shooting itself in the foot?

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

ROMNEY CONCESSION2 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (GOLD STAR!) TO: Mitt Romney. If the web is to be believed, shortly after midnight on Wednesday morning, Mitt Romney began to draft his concession speech. It apparently took him all of five minutes. Up until then he had not thought it was something he would need to prepare, or ultimately use. The rush notwithstanding, Romney delivered a finely worded speech conceding defeat, congratulating the victor, and calling for unity. Given the marathon he had just endured, Romney crossed a lost finish line with grace and elegance. Classy.

 

0071 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO: Craig… Daniel Craig. No one likes a whiner, and Daniel’s Craig’s much publicized and off-message interview with Rolling Stone Magazine puts 007 in a thoroughly post-modern and tiresome light. While the PR and marketing machine for the latest Bond blockbuster, Skyfall, goes into overdrive, Craig shared his existential angst about playing the iconic secret agent: He claims to have longed to exit the role for some time, despite his seven-figure paycheck. While there may be an easier way to make a living than jumping out of planes and wearing tailored suits, this was a conversation better reserved for the therapist.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO: Kirstie Alley. The former actress,ex-Jenny Craig diet spokeswoman, and Dancing With the Stars contestant took the next step on the tabloid celebrity path and wrote a tell-all memoir. Entitled The Art of Men, Alley’s book reveals past love affairs with John Travolta (“He’s not gay,” she insists) and North and South co-star Patrick Swayze. Alley also says that she and Swayze, both of whom were married to others at the time, did not have an affair but says their affair was real. Huh? A PR coup when you can claim the “nothing” that happened is a candid revelation.

Guest Column: A Wulff at Google’s Door

BettinaWulf2 150x150 Guest Column: A Wulff at Googles Door

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Bettina Wulff.

Bettina Wulff may not be a name known to most Americans, but her claim to fame is that she was the former First Lady of Germany. Her husband, the former German President, Christian Wulff, resigned in early 2012 amidst a scandal involving personal favors from wealthy friends. The couple’s joint demise was particularly hard after the intense media honeymoon they initially enjoyed. The magazines had loved Bettina.

But resignation did not result in obscurity. Gossip recently reached new heights, or lows: prior to her high-profile marriage, Mrs. Wulff is alleged to have been an escort. The rumors spread like wildfire on the Internet – with the alarming result for Frau Wulff that if you typed her name into Google, the search engine’s auto complete function suggested “Bettina Wulff escort.” Google’s helpful service was now a slanderous PR issue.

Mrs. Wulff, formerly in PR, launched an aggressive campaign to clear her name. In September, she published a memoir rebutting speculation about her past. Next, she followed up with a lawsuit against Google Germany, requesting the deletion of 3,000 search results and the suppression of its derogatory auto complete results. Critics said this was a publicity stunt to sell her book, another sign of her craving for media attention – and a counterproductive one that kept the rumor alive. Was it better for Frau Wulff to take her lumps or fight the fight?

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Bettina Wulff. Who says what goes online stays there forever?

The PR Takeaway: To fight the rumor, change the conversation. In spite of endless gossip about her past, Bettina has turned the attention of media experts to another prominent player: Google and the debate about the monopolist’s responsibility for content. The court has temporarily ordered Google to eliminate eight search results. While this has not fully restored public sympathy for Bettina Wulff, it diverted the national conversation from “Was she really?” to a different question about Google and its content polices. Also, Bettina Wulff has changed her online history. Even for a First Lady, that’s something.

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

 

conradblack 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK:  “A” (PR Perfect) to Conrad Black (left). For sheer entertainment value, the former media mogul’s interview with BBC’s Newsnight wins hands down. Black breaks almost every PR rule of thumb for media interviews, yet emerges defiant and singularly unmovable. His first interview in the UK since he was released from prison, Black never gives in and never explains, responding to aggressive questioning with one splendid insult after another. By the end of the Q&A, there is some begrudging admiration for the man. This is Conrad Black unfiltered and unrepentant. Watch the interview here.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Richard Mourdock (at right, with Mitt Romney), the Republican Indiana Senate candidate whose platform includes denial of abortion to rape victims. “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said during this week’s Indiana Senate debate. Mitt Romney did not distance himself from the controversial candidate, giving Democrats ammunition and the PR world further proof that staying on message is key. Saying little keeps the PR options open while being frank creates needless complications.

 

Minniemouse 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” PR AWARD TO: Plus Size activists, who garnered over 120,000 signatures for a petition arguing that the latest marketing campaign from NY retailer Barneys should be dropped. What’s causing offense? A revamped super-skinny Minnie Mouse. Advocates are angry, claiming it sends a disturbing image of body shape, despite the fact that in the campaign, the “new” Minnie briefly walks the runway as a model  in a dream sequence. So the Plus Size movement targets a dream had by a cartoon character; was it really worth the effort? Choose your battles, and your cartoon mice, carefully.

GMA Weather Report: Sunny for Gay Marriage & Ratings

s SAM CHAMPION large300 150x150 GMA Weather Report: Sunny for Gay Marriage & Ratings

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Good Morning America. (Pictured: Rubem Robierb and Sam Champion)

Last Friday, Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion was singled out by his cheering co-hosts as having good news to share: He was engaged. During hearty congratulations from a crew that seems closer than most morning show personnel, it was easy to miss one slightly surprising aspect: Champion was not only engaged, but also coming out.

The announcement of Champion’s engagement fit right in with GMA’s congenial, family-like vibe, and the fact that he will  his marry longtime boyfriend Rubem Robierb did not merit the batting of a single on-air lash. Outside GMA’s studio in Times Square, Champion was met by viewers from all over America who congratulated him like extended members of the GMA family.

The hosts on Good Morning America have been positioning themselves as a family for a while now, especially since co-host Robin Roberts decided to publicly share her battle with MDS, a rare bone marrow disorder. Video segments have been devoted to her bone marrow transplant while co-host George Stephanopoulos has struggled to maintain composure as he reads her blogs to GMA viewers. And the ratings keep on climbing.

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Good Morning America winning ratings with team chemistry, not sensationalism.

The PR Takeaway: Keep it in the family. Gone are the days when GMA could only dream of approaching the ratings of the mighty Today Show. Now, GMA has overtaken Today. In the wake of an uncomfortable public dismissal of Ann Curry and reports that Today host Matt Lauer is losing popularity with viewers, GMA’s folksy, seemingly sincere family approach is winning hearts – and ratings. Team chemistry is the main drawcard here, and sharing the good and the painful is what makes this more than just a slick marketing gimmick. Viewers seem to be liking it, and they keep on coming back for more.

What’s your opinion of GMA’s “family style” approach? Give us your PR Verdict!

Sex and the Single Gurley Brown

 Sex and the Single Gurley Brown

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Helen Gurley Brown.

What is the PR secret to staying “on- message” and in the public eye for over forty years? The death this week of Helen Gurley Brown (HGB), former Editor- in-Chief of Cosmopolitan and author of once scandalous books, provides some clues. Since the 1970s, she never stopped preaching the same message. And women in particular, kept on listening.

Feminists were never quite sure where to place HGB. Some staged a sit-in at her offices in protest during her editorship of Cosmo, while others lambasted her “teenage immaturity.”  She certainly knew how to scandalize, claiming “I’ve never worked anywhere without being sexually involved with somebody in the office.” Did this include her boss? “Why discriminate against him?” was her tart reply. Cheeky!

Having shocked America with her thesis that unmarried women not only had sex but also enjoyed it, the NY Times recently wrote that she spent “the next three decades telling those women precisely how to enjoy it even more.” Bottom line, her aim, she said, was to tell women “How to get everything out of life — the money, recognition, success, men, prestige, authority, dignity — whatever she is looking at through the glass her nose is pressed against.” So it wasn’t just about sex after all.

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for HGB. Her message was simple: Kick off the conversation with headline-grabbing sex, but broaden into “having it all.” No wonder she was still listened to.

The PR Takeaway: Lasting success comes from wrapping a simple message into a wider discourse. Weighing in at 100 pounds all her life, HGB was a socio-political heavyweight, talking about sex in the wider empowered context of “having it all” and being your best. The mistress of the sound bite, HGB was famous for her motto, “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.” Back in 1970, she was already speaking to the Sex & the City zeitgeist, perhaps even helping to create it. Forty years later, her message still resonates; no small achievement for someone who was supposedly just talking about sex and the single girl.

To read more about HGB, click here.

Did Helen Gurley Brown help to objectify or liberate women? Give us your PR Verdict!