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 Malala Yousafzai, for drawing international attention back to the nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped three months ago by militant group Boko Haram. Though President Goodluck Jonathan said the Nigerian government is working hard to find the girls, there seems to be little progress. In addition to having a press conference during which Yousafzai appealed directly to the militants to “release my sisters,” she met with some of the parents of the girls—something President Jonathan has yet to do.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Oscar Pistorius, who was involved in an altercation in a nightclub last weekend. Pistorius claimed that a drunken patron verbally attacked him about his trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The patron alleges otherwise. The real question: Does Pistorius have no one in his entourage who might clue him in to the fact that hitting the nightclub for a pint, while one is on trial for murder, is inadvisable from a PR standpoint?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Comcast for their limp response to an incredibly bad customer service interaction that promptly went viral. Ryan Block posted eight of the 20 minutes he spent arguing with a Comcast rep who refused to disconnect his service as requested. Social media, which eats this kind of thing with a large spoon, spread the clip like wildfire. Comcast merely said the employee’s behavior was unacceptable and that they would contact Block to apologize. No word as to whether they’ll honor Block’s request and disconnect him, though.

The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity Edition

 The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity EditionPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Joan Rivers, who stormed out of a CNN interview while on a publicity tour. Rivers might have expected questions about her latest book, Diary of a Mad Diva, but host Fredricka Whitfield asked instead if Rivers felt she was being mean on her celeb fashion critique show Fashion Police, and why Rivers, an animal rights activist, wore fur on her book cover. Rivers answered for a few minutes before snapping, “You’re not the one to interview a person who does humor!” and walking off set. A stunned Whitfield later suggested the walkout was a publicity stunt; the video suggests otherwise. Calculated or not, Rivers won more buzz than she would have for any normal interview.

 The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity EditionPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to The Daily Mail, which crossed a celebrity gossip line by reporting that George Clooney’s future mother-in-law opposed his marriage to Amal Alamuddin on religious grounds. Clooney struck back in an editorial printed by USA Today, saying that the article could inflame religious sentiment against his family. The MailOnline apologized and removed the story from the website, said to average 52 million visitors a month, but not without drawing criticism for the story.

 The PRV Report Card: Special Celebrity EditionTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Robin Thicke, who last week was the subject of embarrassing media attention about a Twitter PR stunt gone awry. #AskThick resulted in a slew of scathing tweets regarding the lyrics to “Blurred Lines,” Thicke’s worldwide hit regarded by many as misogynistic. The attention continued this week as a humbled, vulnerable Thicke tried to explain his latest album, Paula, an undisguised attempt to win back his estranged wife. Public meltdown, or PR gold? Either way, Thicke is reaping the level of media attention required to support a new album and tour, even if it’s the Train Wreck method of PR.

Times, Le Monde Defend Against Accusations of Sexism

 Times, Le Monde Defend Against Accusations of Sexism

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Times and Le Monde (pictured: Natalie Nougayrede and Jill Abramson).

Last week was not a good one for women in media. Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, was fired, and Natalie Nougayrède, editor of Le Monde, France’s leading newspaper, resigned. Both were the first women to hold their respective posts.

While both departures were shocking, neither was particularly surprising, given weeks of leaked news of discontent on both editorial floors. Most of the stories focused on managerial styles: Abramson was characterized as polarizing and mercurial, while Nougayrède’s management was described as authoritarian and “Putin-like.”

Accusations of sexism were inevitable, as women in media wondered if the same adjectives, applied to men, would have been pejoratives (“Putin-like” aside). The specifics in Nougayrède’s case, among them that she butted heads with editors over her attempts to put more emphasis on the digital version of the paper, could be used on either side of the argument. However, Abramson’s pay being lower than that of her male predecessor supported the accusations. On Saturday, Times owner Arthur Sulzberger Jr. released a statement saying that Abramson’s management style was the sole reason for her termination, and that her total pay package was similar to that of her predecessor – which turned out not to entirely add up. As of press time, Abramson was expected to tell her side of the story Monday morning.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for The Times and Le Monde.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Be prepared to present facts. All business entities want bad PR to fade away quickly, but in the event that questions make it linger, facts dampen speculation. The difficulty in transitioning from print to digital is being emphasized as the conflict between Nougayrède and her staff; Abramson’s reaction to the salary discrepancy was hiring a lawyer, a move that ruffled her superiors’ feathers irreparably. The reason for her needing to do so, however, is something that keeps this story alive, and Times owners on the defensive.

Saying Almost Nothing Can Be Everything

3c0bfc70047cd9211fdfddb22528f6d3 300x2251 150x150 Saying Almost Nothing Can Be Everything

PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Terri Lynn Land.

Turning the tables on one’s opponent can also work in PR. That’s what Republican US Senate hopeful Terri Lynn Land of Michigan has done with her first campaign ad, a 30-second spot entitled “Really? that  pokes fun at her rival, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters.

Peters asserts that Land, a former secretary of state in Michigan, is part of a “war on women.” It’s an accusation in the vein of that old leading question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Say “yes” and you cop to the transgression, but saying “no” implies it’s still going on — and trying to explain yourself just keeps the issue alive. In her ad, Land appears on screen and says Peters “want[s] you to believe I’m waging a war on women. Really? Think about that for a moment.” As campy music starts up, Land sips her coffee, shakes her head and checks her watch before the ad concludes with an overtone of her saying “I’m Terri Lynn Land and I approve this message because, as a woman, I might know a little more about women than Gary Peters.”

Simple and amusing, the ad hit its mark. “It seems to work,” The Daily Caller says. “It’s tough, but also fun.” The clever commercial also caught the attention of the big media guns like Time magazine, The Washington Post and National Public Radio. Talk about bang for your ad-buying buck.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Terri Lynn Land, a relative unknown whose ad put her on the national radar.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: It takes two to tango. When a damaging accusation is made, take a deep breath and try to figure out how to bat it down without directly engaging. Land’s execution was flawless. The gauntlet was thrown so she had to act, but she did so in a mocking way that makes her look smart and her opponent look aggressive and silly. It’s also a nice departure from the relentlessly negative political ads that permeate the airwaves. For Land, saying almost nothing said everything.

Elizabeth Warren: Champion of US’ Disappearing Middle Class

 Elizabeth Warren: Champion of US’ Disappearing Middle Class

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

You know your PR is on the “stun” setting when the question about the presidential election goes from whether Hillary Clinton will run to whether you’ll run with her. Welcome to Elizabeth Warren’s new world.

Warren, the Democratic Senator of Massachusetts who chaired the government oversight panel on the 2008 bailout, released her latest book, A Fighting Chance, this week. The book is part memoir of her childhood in rural Oklahoma, part commentary on the plight of America’s middle class. (An article in The New York Times about America’s middle class no longer being the richest in the world could not be better timed.) Warren’s plainspoken indictments of political and corporate actions that led up to the financial collapse will likely be read raptly by many a disenchanted American.

Now Warren’s is one of the names being bandied about for 2016. She says she has no intention of running for president herself, nor has Hillary Clinton committed to a run. But Warren is already taking another step in her role as champion of America’s ailing middle class.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Check the weather and step out accordingly. Since the economic collapse that still has the US (and the world) reeling, Americans have grown mistrustful of politicians and banks. Enter Warren, daughter of a janitor and a minimum-wage earner who became a Harvard law professor, who seems to speak the same fed-up language that average people do, basher of big banks and crusader for the little guy. The 2016 election is a while away, but Elizabeth Warren’s message is right on time.

US Health & Human Services Secretary Resigns

 US Health & Human Services Secretary Resigns

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Affordable Care Act. (Pictured: President Obama, former US Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius)

After a mortifying rollout, the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is finally in place. Over 7 million Americans have signed up, a number higher than the original goal, and President Obama’s legacy – healthcare for all – seems underway. The act narrowly survived constant attack by Republicans, not to mention its own faulty website. However, one casualty that no amount of healthcare could fix was the reputation of US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and its effect on the ACA.

Obamacare was under Sebelius’s watch, and she largely took the fall, rightly or not, willingly or not, for the severely flawed rollout. It was Sebelius, facing an angry mob of senators, who had to admit that Healthcare.gov, the ACA website where most Americans were to sign up, had barely been tested before going live. Damage control appearances caused even more damage, especially an uncomfortable appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. All of it was fuel for Republicans determined to repeal the ACA.

Sebelius, a former governor of Kansas who was once a contender for vice president in 2008, was a likely candidate for termination after the ACA rollout fiasco. The question is now whether the falling ax will do further harm to an already tarnished initiative.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Affordable Care Act.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know when to let sleeping dogs lie, especially when they’re vicious. Letting Sebelius go during the worst of the ACA’s rollout would have caused even more turmoil for Obamacare. Her resignation comes on a high note of above-goal enrollment; the best timing for a bad situation. Now Sylvia Mathews Burwell, formerly director of the Office of Management and Budget, suits up against Republicans bent on finding chinks in the armor of the ACA. It’s a tough job; just ask Kathleen Sebelius.

Times Gives Credit Where It’s Due (ie, Not to Gwyneth)

 Times Gives Credit Where Its Due (ie, Not to Gwyneth)

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Katherine Woodward Thomas, who owes the NY Times big time.

Though the “paper of record” has suffered a few black eyes in the last decade, the New York Times does its due diligence. In an article about the hot new catchphrase “conscious uncoupling” used by Gwyneth Paltrow last week to announce her separation from husband Chris Martin, the Times discovered the person who really launched the phrase: psychotherapist, relationship expert and author Katherine Woodward Thomas.

Thanks to the Times, Thomas is now enjoying renewed fame. Thomas is the author of Calling In The One, a self-help book that described how Thomas found her husband. Years later, after the couple parted, Thomas created a “conscious uncoupling” workshop.

Though Paltrow failed to cite Thomas as the source of the phrase in her now-famous divorce announcement –  a blog post on her website Goop – Thomas does in the Times. She attributes it to a friend who used it to describe his drama-free divorce, and Thomas asked if she could use it. Thomas also mentions that she’d been in talks with her publisher, Crown, about a book on the subject. After this article, it’s likely that Crown will be consciously rushing this one to the printer.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Katherine Woodward Thomas, who owes the NY Times big time.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Make sure credit is given where it’s due. It’s unclear from the Times article whether Crown alerted the Times to the true source of the catchphrase, or whether this was the result of a reporter doing extra digging. If it’s the former, good work. Though the term conscious uncoupling is mostly being made fun of, it’s of the moment and in the media. The originator can now ride the wave to sales. If, however, the truth was revealed not by a diligent flak but a curious reporter, someone at Crown has some explaining to do.

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.

She Said What? Celebs Are Uncensored Again

 She Said What? Celebs Are Uncensored Again

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Lena Dunham (above) and Elisabeth Moss (below).

Blame – or credit – for the sterility of celebrity interviews and quotes goes to Pat Kingsley, the legendary publicist who allegedly controlled questions and answers for Tom Cruise at the height of his fame. Since then, only stars willing to take risks might speak off the cuff about failed romances or to make an unscripted quip. Lately, things are changing, and thanks – or blame – can be given to Girls star Lena Dunham and Mad Men actress Elisabeth Moss.

Dunham’s star has been on the rise since Girls, now in its third season, debuted on HBO. This past weekend, she hosted Saturday Night Live. The show featured a skit about Adam and Eve, during which the 27-year-old Dunham got naked; nothing new for her, as Girls features many a nude scene. When someone tweeted to Dunham, “You don’t always have to get naked!”, Dunham replied, “Please tell that to my uncle, mister. He’s been making me!” After a slew of criticism that molestation jokes aren’t funny, Dunham took the tweets down and apologized. 

 She Said What? Celebs Are Uncensored AgainMoss got naked in a different way, dishing to New York Magazine about her eight-month long marriage to Portlandia star and writer Fred Armisen. “It was extremely traumatic and awful and horrible,” Moss says. “I’m glad I didn’t have kids.” She takes tabloids to task for making up things about her while admitting she reads them and trashes celebrities who want fame and awards while asserting that her own level of fame means “If I do the movie, it will get made, and if I don’t do it, the movie won’t get made.”

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for both Lena Dunham and Elisabeth Moss.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Get people talking about you, not against you. It’s hard for celebrities to stand out in this under-interesting time of overexposure, but being crass isn’t the way to go. Be funny and self-effacing, but don’t make fun of taboo subjects, and don’t talk smack about other celebs. No matter what anyone says, there is such a thing as bad PR.