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 the teams in the World Cup. Whether they won, lost, or bit opposing team members, they created drama, last-seconds goal tension, and must-see games. Gone was the bad PR facing Brazil in the weeks leading up to the games, all of it replaced by football frenzy the world over—even in the US, where it’s still called soccer.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to United States Speaker of the House John Boehner and Congress, who tied this week for new lows in partisanship. House Speaker Boehner confirmed this week that he intends to sue President Barack Obama for unlawful use of executive order. The announcement was made soon after Congress nearly came to a brawl over an IRS scandal involving missing emails with sensitive information—a perfect opportunity to point fingers and cry “J’accuse!” at the other side. At a time of historically low levels of trust in government, these elected officials should think twice about their choice of focus.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Chen Guanbiao, the Chinese millionaire who took out an ad in The New York Times to tell the world he would treat 300 homeless New Yorkers to a fancy luncheon and give each of them $300 in cash. Chen, a recycling businessman with a penchant for publicity stunts, was asked by his charity liaison for a donation of $90,000 instead, to protect the homeless from using the money for drugs. At the lunch, Chen had homeless people pose for photos of him giving them cash—that they had to return—so he could maintain his business card statement, “Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China.”

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 the Australian online betting company that came up with an outrageous combination of national pride and private commerce. SportsBet.com floated a 150-foot balloon replica of Brazil’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue wearing a jersey that read “#KeepTheFaith.” (Australia was considered a 750-1 long shot in the World Cup.) Reactions ranged from chuckles to cries of blasphemy, but either way the company received worldwide publicity.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Eric Cantor, the second highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, who lost his party’s primary. Cantor was expected to be the next Speaker of the House, but his support of immigration reform was attacked by Tea Party rep David Brat. Cantor’s loss was considered a stunning upset for Republicans and made headlines all week, exacerbated when Cantor resigned from his post.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to David Brat, winner of Virginia’s congressional primary. The media shone brightly on Brat’s Cinderella story and surprising win, but when the victory confetti settled to the floor, Brat revealed himself to be unprepared to face the media. Asked by NBC Washington correspondent Chuck Todd about minimum wage issues and foreign policy, Brat responded, “Hey, Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects.” The weak response supported the theory that Cantor’s stance on immigration reform, rather than the attributes of Brat or the Tea Party, was the deciding factor in Brat’s win.

Sterling Crashes and Burns in CNN Interview

 Sterling Crashes and Burns in CNN Interview

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Donald Sterling.

If ever you’re compared to the Hindenberg, it’s a safe bet to assume something went terribly, terribly wrong.

That was how one CNN anchor described his network’s exclusive interview with Donald Sterling, the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Last month, Sterling was banned for life from the National Basketball Association, including his own team’s games, after audio recordings surfaced of him making racist statements. After weeks of silence, Sterling agreed to be interviewed by Anderson Cooper on Monday.

As he sat with Cooper sans handlers, the 80-year-old Sterling seemed unaware he was plummeting from frying pan to fire. He tried to blame his woes on Magic Johnson, the NBA hall-of-famer he insulted in the first place and who, Sterling said, told him everything would be all right. He admitted that his original comments were made in pursuit of sex with a woman 50 years his junior. Worst, he made another seemingly racist statement about African Americans’ philanthropic efforts, or lack thereof.

“What this was to PR, the Hindenberg was to blimps,” CNN’s Bill Weir said, while The Washington Post grimly noted it was “a study in damage control gone wrong.” Variety said Sterling  “gave the impression of somebody who was not mentally clicking on all cylinders” and that “the erratic, strange performance…will be studied in crisis public-relations classes for years to come.”

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Donald Sterling, who may be long in the tooth but who still hasn’t learned to keep his mouth shut.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: “No Comment” is a PR strategy.  Sometimes a situation is so incendiary that the only recourse is to lie low until the heat dies down. There are (at least) two hard-and-fast criteria for walking into the flames: be absolutely certain that your messages will clarify or put the crisis in context, and be able to deliver them expertly. In Sterling’s case, he failed on both counts.

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 Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. After weeks of bad press for the National Basketball Association, attention was gratefully turned to Durant’s MVP speech, which alone could have won him an award. Durant gave emotional thanks to his mother, Wanda Pratt, who raised two boys on her own and sometimes went without even food so that her sons wouldn’t feel the pain of want. Durant credits his mother’s determination for his championship-winning skills on the court and called her “the real MVP.” A happy Mother’s Day for Pratt, and some relief for the beleaguered NBA.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the Nigerian government, whose weak response to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls has brought international condemnation on the African nation as it prepared to host the World Economic Forum on Africa. The girls were kidnapped on April 15 by the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Boko Haram, whose leader has said he plans to sell them into slavery. Finally bowing to pressure, the Nigerian government this week offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to the girls’ whereabouts. Meanwhile, Boko Haram raged into another village and scooped up eight more girls. As the Voice of America noted, “[Nigeria] is the biggest economy in Africa, but authorities cannot even keep children safe in their schools.”

treygowdy The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Republican Congressional officeseekers, who chose to ignore recommendations from one of their own to stop fundraising off the 2012 attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. US Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) who is heading a new (and quite partisan) House Select Committee that will review the matter yet again, urged his colleagues last week not to undermine the committee’s work with partisan appeals for funds that hype the issue. Minutes before, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a fundraising email doing just that.  “Help fight liberals by donating today,” it asked, and other appeals followed. So much for the Committee’s integrity.

NBA Fallout Continues As NAACP Head Resigns

 NBA Fallout Continues As NAACP Head Resigns

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NAACP. (Pictured: former NAACP LA President Leon Jenkins.)

Even when public relations scandals are properly handled, they can continue to thrive when an event triggers a national conversation. Last week, the National Basketball Association banned Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, from the NBA for life after racist statements he allegedly made went public. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pointed out that Sterling’s racism had been known about for years; action was taken after bad press went viral. Spurred by the larger issue of racism in America, the media continued to look for a story – and found one, in Sterling’s association with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins resigned last Friday after reports that Sterling was to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP. This would make two NAACP awards for Sterling. The first, for promoting civil rights, was given in 2009, the year Sterling agreed to pay a $2.7 million settlement after the US Justice Department sued him for allegedly refusing to rent apartments he owned to African Americans and Hispanics.

“In order to separate the Los Angeles NAACP and the NAACP from the negative exposure I have caused,” Jenkins said, “I respectfully resign my position.” Appropriate action, but again, it may not stop more negative fallout.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NAACP.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Internal review of public decisions is a must. Lifetime achievement and other awards, especially those given to public figures, will be featured in the media. As such, they should be carefully reviewed by the organization that will be represented by these figures. Jenkins is at fault for giving Sterling, a known racist, these awards, but did he act independently? Surely higher-ups must have known. They’re now likely shaking in their corner offices.

 

NBA’s Silver Is a PR Game Changer

 NBAs Silver Is a PR Game Changer

THE PR VERDICT: A (PR PERFECT) for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Just three months into his tenure as commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Adam Silver was confronted with a situation that could make or break his career: how to handle leaked audio recordings of Don Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, making racist statements.

Silver’s response was pure PR gold. On Tuesday, he shocked the sports world by imposing the maximum fine on Sterling ($2.5 million) and banning him for life from the NBA. Sterling cannot attend any NBA basketball game or appear at any Clippers facility, nor can he participate any business decision regarding the team.

At the press conference, Silver’s voice shook with emotion. “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage,” he fumed at the microphone. He also said he “wiill do everything in my power” to force Sterling to sell his interest in the team.

The punishment was swift and harsh–and universally lauded. “The conversation transcended sports,” wrote USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan [no relation to the author of this blog]. ESPN’s J.A. Adande opined, “He took bold strides down his own path, showed an unwillingness to allow the sore of Sterling to fester. It’s a new era.”

The magnitude of Silver’s decision, quick action, and unvarnished disgust conspire to make this one of the most significant moments in basketball history.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR PERFECT) for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has cemented his legacy just three months into the job.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  A good decision goes a long way. Silver’s unprecedented actions are important not just for managing the current situation, but for what they suggest about the new commissioner: this is a strong individual with a low tolerance for bad behavior, someone who will bring stability to the league. The press conference left no doubt: Adam Silver is a game changer.

NBA Head Calls Time Out in Responding to Racist Remarks

silver NBA Head Calls Time Out in Responding to Racist Remarks

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

The recent racist rant of Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, has drawn universal condemnation and outrage – from his own players right up to President Obama. Advertisers, including Mercedes Benz and Virgin America, quickly withdrew sponsorship. The ravings appear to be less of headache for Sterling, who the New York Times referred to as the “worst owner in professional sports,” than for the NBA and its rookie commissioner, Adam Silver.

A tape recording emerged last weekend of Sterling telling his mistress over the phone not to bring black people to his team’s games. Numerous media were quick to inventory Sterling’s history of racist pronouncements. PR then, for such an inveterate bigot, is not much of a concern.

Not so for Silver, a lawyer who has been with the NBA for over 20 years but became commissioner only in February. He called the recording “truly offensive and disturbing” and promised swift action, but then retreated to lawyerly restraint, citing the need for due process. Faced with a volatile situation with ramifications for all of sports (if not beyond), Silver was right to call time out.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who needs to run the clock out a little before taking his shot.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Take time to breathe in a crisis. What is important is not necessarily urgent, and vice versa. The ball is in Silver’s court now, which means he controls the clock. Acting rashly could lead to a costly turnover. Amid uniform denunciation and calls to separate Sterling permanently from professional basketball, Silver is facing an unprecedented predicament and needs time both to build a case for action and let the dust settle. Sterling has sued the NBA before and most certainly will again in the face of any disciplinary action from the league. Silver, with owners, players and fans among his constituencies, needs time to set up the final play of the game.

Lance Armstrong’s Road to Redemption?

 Lance Armstrongs Road to Redemption?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Lance Armstrong.

This Easter week, Christians around the world  celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Disgraced professional cyclist Lance Armstrong is apparently trying to resurrect his career. Armstrong popped up this week  in a rather strange place: a two-minute instructional video on OutsideOnline.com.

Dressed in a cap and bike mechanic’s apron, he introduces himself as  “Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France” before quipping “Hey, I didn’t write the script.”  Trying to be both humble and humorous, he shows viewers how to fix a flat tire: stripping the rim of a deflated inner tube, replacing it and ending with “And off you go,” saying under his breath “I broke a sweat doing that.”

Armstrong, of course, was himself stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned for life from the sport after evidence showed he had used performance-enhancing drugs. After years of denials, he eventually admitted his drug use.

Media coverage is almost universally harsh. The Bleacher Report calls the video “a drop in the bucket of some egregiously foul substance,” while Sports Illustrated sees “a blend of smugness and faux-humility” and  “[a] subtle play for all the American hearts he broke.” But he got a much better reception on Facebook, where he posted the video. As of this writing, the simple how-to film earned him nearly 9,000 “likes” and legions of fans expressing their unwavering support.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Lance Armstrong, cycling slowly uphill toward a better image.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When all is lost, there’s nothing to lose. Lance Armstrong’s legacy will always be tarnished. But with public figures admitting transgressions almost daily, hope springs eternal for those who want an asterisk next to their names in the history books.  The  media may not be inclined to give Armstrong a pass, but his fan base seems a lot more forgiving. Whatever Armstrong’s motivations and goals, this video of him performing a prosaic task just may be a start down the road to redemption.    

Sports Team Owner Fumbles on PR Front

 Sports Team Owner Fumbles on PR Front

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

Take bad PR, add a heaping cup of tone-deaf obstinacy and voila, you have Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins football team.

Despite worsening public opinion, Snyder continues his fight to keep the word “redskin” in the team name even though it’s seen by many as an ethnic slur against Native Americans. This week, he announced the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, whose mission is “to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities.” He came up with the idea, he said, after visiting more than two dozen Native American reservations across the US.

The Oneida Indian Nation was scathing, saying they hope that ”in his new initiative to honor Native Americans’ struggle, Mr. Snyder makes sure people do not forget that he and his predecessor … have made our people’s lives so much more difficult by using a racial slur as Washington’s team’s name.”  The media also see a slap in the face in the foundation’s name: Slate Executive Editor Josh Levin opined, “This is perhaps the most uncharitable name ever conceived for a charitable group, something akin to calling your organization “Kikes United Against Anti-Semitism.”

It won’t be the first time a company has tried to create PR goodwill by saying it will serve the people it has wronged. Snyder’s ill-advised effort, however, has fumbled badly.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Daniel Snyder, who, despite his crusade for the Washington Redskins football team name, oddly never uses the word “redskin” as a synonym for “Native American” in his communications.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Perception rules. Snyder may think he is on a righteous path because some Native Americans have assured him they don’t find the term offensive. But he chooses to ignore the ones who do — and they are the ones making the headlines. By naming the foundation so, Snyder has only created even more controversy and further divided the very community he is hoping to assuage.

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.