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 security firm Codenomicon and Google researcher Neel Mehta, both of whom discovered the web security bug known as Heartbleed. The bug, a flaw that allows access to user information on what was thought to be safely encrypted websites and search engines, has been around for a while, but was found simultaneously by vigilant researchers Mehta and Codenomicon. All sounded the alarm, which may have circumvented breaches in the millions.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Katherine Heigl, who perpetuated her image as a cranky prima donna with a lawsuit against drugstore chain Duane Reade. The store’s transgression? Tweeting a photo of her walking with two of their shopping bags. Heigl is a “highly recognized celebrity… When plaintiff chooses to endorse a product or service, she is highly selective and well compensated,” the lawsuit sniffed. In other words, as one gossip web site snarked, “Basically: Katherine Heigl don’t do no free advertising. She can’t just have her grumpy, exhausted face freely associated with some drugstore FOR FREE..” Perhaps Heigl should invest in a good mirror. Duane Reade carries them, we hear…

kimjongun The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO the North Korean Parliament, who this week re-elected, to no one’s surprise, dictator Kim Jong-un as head the country’s top governing agency, the National Defense Commission. Kim’s election (if that really is the right word) means he is still in control despite political turmoil in the regime and can work to consolidate power by filling leadership posts left vacant by – you guessed it – his purges. The government-run news agency called his re-election a sign of  “the unchanged will of the military and the people” to support him.

And the Academy Award Goes to… Embedded Ads

 And the Academy Award Goes to... Embedded Ads

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Ellen DeGeneres and the Academy Awards.

This past Sunday’s Academy Awards were long at over three and a half hours, but by all accounts most people came away satisfied – notably, advertisers, fans of host Ellen DeGeneres, who was a marketer’s dream pitch person, and the network, which enjoyed higher than usual ratings.

DeGeneres quickly established that this year’s awards would be less like the usual ceremony and more like a star-studded version of her talk show. She took selfies with celebs, ordered pizza to be distributed among them – there was fun spontaneity.

Or fun product integration, more like. The star-filled selfie was taken with a smartphone made by Samsung, one of the show’s sponsors. Mild oops when Ellen used an iPhone for later selfies backstage, and when Coke came with the pizza – sponsor Pepsi was not amused. But overall, the free-for-all worked: This year’s Academy Awards pulled in a higher viewership of 43.7 million, and sponsors love those eyeballs.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Ellen DeGeneres and the Academy Awards.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep both sponsors and viewers in mind. At what point does embedded marketing become obvious, even obnoxious? When it’s not fun. Show producers worked well with advertisers to come up with seemingly impromptu, entertaining ways to spotlight brand names. Not that viewers may even have noticed: A recent Frontline segment showed that young social media users have no idea what the term “selling out” means. Advertisers are moving away from the clunky early days of obvious product integration in movies and TV shows and into an age of clever brand spotlighting.

Yet Another Tech CEO’s Filter Error

gopman Yet Another Tech CEOs Filter Error

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Greg Gopman of AngelHack.

In San Francisco, the backlash against privileged, self-absorbed Titans of Tech is rising faster than city rents – themselves cresting to new heights on the buying power of civic-blinded techies. With a round-the-clock public platform but no internal filter, these kids keep saying the darnedest things. The latest Marie Antoinette moment comes from Greg Gopman of AngelHack, a start up for start ups, who’s apparently tired of stepping over – or is it trampling? – homeless people to get to work.

The rant on his Facebook page was astonishing. “Why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue,” he wrote.  In other cities, he wistfully noted, the less fortunate “keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realize it’s a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests… There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us.”

Gopman deleted the post and apologized the next day. AngelHack disavowed him a day later, saying he had officially left the firm in October –  they just hadn’t announced it yet – and channelling a more beneficent attitude. No surprise that the apologia drew far less press than the gaffe that prompted it.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Greg Gopman, for embarrassing himself, his company and his entire industry in a city that is starting to profoundly resent it.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: In PR, no one is an island. The saying is especially inviolate for anyone whose celebrity derives from business prominence. Unleashed on social media’s open seas, your late-night brainstorm could produce a storm of quite another type. Interactions with the have-not class are inevitable for most city dwellers, but not everyone turns that into a 300-word screed. Develop a fiilter that asks: Does this need to be said, by me, right now? If in doubt, ask someone else.

Twitter CEO Won’t Duck Challenge (But Should)

costolo11 Twitter CEO Wont Duck Challenge (But Should)

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.

Feisty Twitter CEO Dick Costolo never shies away from a flame war, slugging it out in 140 characters or less with all comers. His firm’s forthcoming IPO was apparently no occasion for him to consider toning it down. This time, he’s taken to task critics of Twitter’s virtually all-white, all-male leadership.

Going into its IPO, Twitter, as the New York Timenoted last week, has no female investors, no female board members, and only one woman among its top executives. And she was hired just five weeks ago. Those numbers aren’t rare in Silicon Valley, but that’s hardly cause to forgive the oversight, as Twitter’s critics noted. “The fact that they went to the IPO without a single woman on the board, how dare they?” said Vivek Wadhwa, a Stanford professor.

Twitter declined comment on the matter, but not Costolo. In a tweet, he reverted to name-calling, comparing Wadhwa to Carrot Top, an outlandish, hyperbolic comic. The battle was quickly joined, and while Costolo might have a point, is this really the story his company needs right now as its IPO filing comes under scrutiny?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Twitter’s Dick Costolo, for letting his ego get the better of him at a critical time for his company.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Choose your battles, and your timing. For one, Twitter’s corporate demurral on the subject looks a little silly next to Costolo’s tweeted tirade. For two, why create needless distraction right now? Sure it’s not likely the kerfluffle will adversely affect the IPO share price, but what was gained? A more mature response might have given the opportunity to engage constructively on an important tech industry issue – the dearth of women in leadership roles. More generally, though Costolo has won praise for corralling an unfocused, wayward company, shouldn’t a CEO be striving consistently to raise the bar on level of discourse instead of knocking it down a few notches? One hundred and forty characters can be used for good, but it’s surprising how much damage can be done by one character’s bad attitude.

Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” Is a Recipe for Marketing Success

  Chipotles Scarecrow Is a Recipe for Marketing Success

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Chipotle for spicing up the fast-food wars with creative marketing.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Moonbot Studios have wowed consumers and advertising critics with “The Scarecrow,” a beautifully produced animated short film accompanying  Chipotle’s new anti-Big Food game.

The three-minute film, backed by a Fiona Apple track and described more than once as “haunting,” looks at a bleak world where people mindlessly ingest edible products supplied by “Crow Foods,” an industrial farming giant that secretly pumps up its chickens with hormones and stuffs its cows in tiny cages. The film’s hero is a scarecrow who realizes the injustice to all animals – both two- and four-legged – and establishes his own fresh food business, David to Crow’s Goliath.

Already hailed as “Oscar-worthy,” the short is a tremendous PR win for Chipotle – despite the fact that it shows the company’s name only once, at the very end. That’s very intentional, Chipotle Chief Marketing Officer Mark Crumpacker told USA Today, because the company sees its target diners as young adults who “are skeptical of brands that perpetuate themselves too much.” For that reason, Chipotle has generally avoided TV advertising and focused instead on more creative hooks, like this film and the game that is played on Apple products, to grab customer attention. With this campaign Chipotle has positioned itself as not only the thinking man’s Taco Bell but the healthier and more morally comfortable alternative to most fast-food options.

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) to Chipotle for spicing up the fast-food wars, too long the domain of gray hamburgers, factory farming, and boring commercials.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know what your customers want – and what they don’t. Chipotle’s campaign may seem unorthodox, but the company didn’t blindly speculate about what their patrons might like. They expertly blended their target demographic’s entertainment, idealogical, and tech preferences with the company’s well-established core message: our food is fresh and from sustainable sources. Where they took chances was in creative expression, and for that they partnered with an award-winning graphics studio and singer to tell their story. For Chipotle, “The Scarecrow” is a recipe for successful marketing.

The PRV Report Card: Winners & Losers

Screen Shot 2013 05 16 at 7.16.52 PM 150x150 The PRV Report Card: Winners & LosersPR Winner: “A” (PR Perfect) for the Republicans who have turned up the heat on the Obama’s second term. If true that life comes at you in threes, then this week was the triumvirate of PR gifts. Obama found himself on the back foot regarding the IRS/ Tea Party scandal, the Justice Department/AP phone record snooping, and finally the ongoing thorn in the side of the Administration that is Benghazi. No matter the merits, the concerted drum beating has been an effective PR attack. Objective one: change the news agenda and place the Administration on the defensive, unable to talk about what it wants to talk about. For this week at least, mission accomplished.

Screen Shot 2013 05 16 at 7.17.58 PM 150x150 The PRV Report Card: Winners & LosersPR Loser: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Barbara Walters and the media reaction to her announcement that she is stepping down. In what will be her long goodbye to broadcasting, America’s famous interviewer announced that she would be phasing herself out during a series of programmed appearances and TV specials over the next twelve months. Online and columnist reactions to her career were astonishingly scathing. Slammed as lightweight, fawning and inconsequential the reaction could have only made unhappy bedtime reading for Babs’ PR team. A couple more glowing endorsements from journalists who think Babs paved the way for other women might have given the coverage some more balance. For Babs and her team, this might be a tough twelve months.

Screen Shot 2013 05 16 at 7.19.58 PM 150x150 The PRV Report Card: Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Kylie Busutti, a former Victoria’s Secret model currently touting her book I’m No Angel. In her sad tale, Ms. Busutti recounts being shocked – shocked! – to find out that models are required to be absurdly thin and that Victoria’s Secret apparel is sexy, apparently too sexy for Busutti’s Christian faith. We’re not sure what deserted island this young woman grew up on, but these are hardly revelations. There is something rank, too, about claiming a moral high ground that wouldn’t let her continue in such a tawdry profession but does, apparently, permit trying to capitalize on it.

Vogue Fashions a (Too) Perfect First Family

 Vogue Fashions a (Too) Perfect First Family

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Vogue’s cover feature on the First Family. (Pictured: First Lady Michelle and President Barack Obama.)

Can planned PR be too effective? That might be the inevitable question when reading the latest edition of American Vogue, featuring First Lady Michelle Obama on the cover.  Photographed elegantly by Annie Liebowitz, the magazine offers an interview with the Obamas at home in the White House, with a particular focus on the First Lady’s views on raising a family. To the Obamas’ supporters, it’s inspiring; to the cynical, it makes for decidedly unedifying reading.

In the article, America’s First Couple talk about “their life as parents, their marriage, and their vision for America’s families.” This is an article that details the rigors of running a household just like any other and the stresses a demanding job can have on any parent. While most working couples find it hard to have an evening meal with their children, Mrs. Obama tells Vogue that the President is home by 6:30 pm to have dinner with her and their two daughters.

The article goes on to emphasize the importance of family, grandparents, and discipline, and the Obamas talk in a good-natured way about coming to terms with technology that teenagers understand as second nature. The PR sound-bite that sums up the article?  This is not the First Family, but rather the “Family First Family.”

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK ) for the Obamas and their Vogue profile. The ring of authenticity may have sounded a bit tinny coming from this very Obama-friendly publication.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Authenticity gives credibility. This article has all the hallmarks of being quote checked, pre-approved, and negotiated every step of the way. (Important to mention: Vogue editor Anna Wintour raised funds for the Obama campaign and was rumored to be in the running for an ambassadorship.) The result? Some of it just doesn’t ring comfortably true. Though the Obamas may be, in some respects, like ordinary Americans, the magazine’s description of the family sitting down to dinner together seems almost perfectly scripted. The end result is that the reader feels vaguely manipulated. Next time, opt for telling a less 1950’s version of suburban family bliss and opt for something more modern. Sometimes it’s better if PR gets out of its own way.

To read the article, click here.

THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 

TOM CRUISE 6 SEPT1 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & LosersMICHELLEOBAMA6spet1 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losers

What a week: Tom Cruise allegedly auditioning candidates for wifely duties, DNC firepower in Charlotte and Katie Holmes tells us why she is not afraid of make-up. 

Who are this week’s PRV winner and Losers?

LOSER OF THE WEEK:  The PR Verdict: F (Full Fiasco) to Tom Cruise and Scientology.  Vanity Fair charges that Scientology held auditions for the role of Mrs. Tom Cruise. Church denials are to be expected but the problem is the source is respected publication Vanity Fair, owned by Condé “We Don’t Like Being Sued So We Pay Our Fact-checkers Well” Nast. This may be tough to disprove. It might be better to concede that Tom prefers to marry within his religion but add that there was no audition process. Sometimes it’s better to lower the temperatutre than fight the fire.

WINNER OF THE WEEKThe PR Verdict: A (PR Perfect) for Michelle Obama.  Style met substance and  captured the pundits and the public imagination. Huffington Post and others hailed Michelle Obama at the DNC, but when Dem-adversarial Fox News gives you the high-five, you’ve done your job well. And those arms! We couldn’t take our eyes off them.

And finally:

KATIEHOLMES2 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHERE’S-NO-“THERE” -THERE PR: Katie Holmes talks exclusively to People TV about why “she is not afraid of makeup.” Nearly two minutes of content-free product placement by cosmetic company Bobbi Brown. Why does Katie love makeup, how did she get over her make-up fears, and what secrets did her mother tell her the about hidden world of foundation? We’re astonished (truly).

(Editor’s note – a previous mention regarding Julian Assange has been withdrawn due to an editing error. Please disregard).


Would You Call Yourself a Close Friend of Rajat Gupta?

rajat gupta Would You Call Yourself a Close Friend of Rajat Gupta?

The PR Verdict: “B” for Rajat Gupta and friends

For those who missed it, yesterday was day one of the trial of Rajat Gupta the former managing director of McKinsey & Company and former board member of Goldman Sachs.  He is charged with passing on secret tips to convicted hedge funder Raj Rajaratnam who is now serving a lengthy sentence for insider dealing.  Gupta is accused of leaking price sensitive information to Rajaratnam about Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble.

Not everyone agrees.  Gupta’s attorneys describe him as a man of “great integrity,” a philanthropist and a victim of prosecutorial overreach.  As part of his PR campaign Gupta’s friends have rallied a high flying list of supporters who point to his social, civic and business record.  Author Deepak Chopra and one of India’s richest men are among those who have signed an open letter defending Gupta’s record at a website simply called www.friendsofrajat.com,

“He’s like a dolphin caught up in a tuna net,” says a high powered friend who manages the website. “The government refuses to admit it’s a dolphin and not a big fat tuna, and they’re not going to give up. That’s what my website is trying to do, tell the story about the other Rajat.”  Friends have turned out in force but are they the right ones?

The PR Verdict: “B” for Rajat Gupta and his friends.  They have made their case well, arguing they want to counterbalance negative prejudicial coverage by presenting a fuller version of Gupta’s business pedigree.  Next time why not find a move diverse group of supporters?

The PR Takeaway:  Diversity broadens reach and lowers risk.  For a man steeped in the business affairs of corporate America it is surprising how few non-south Asian names have signed the letter.  The insider-dealing network of convicted Raj Rajaratnam was partly based on a series of close ties with people who shared the same cultural background.  A few more non-Indian names from big-shot corporate America might have improved the chances of providing Gupta the air cover and distance from the Rajaratnam case that his well meaning friends have stepped in to provide.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving

The PRVerdict is celebrating Thanksgiving today. We hope you are too.

All the very best to our readers.