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 & 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.

Bieber Quote: Abort! Abort!

tumblr lgryigv3ab1qd9cy2o1 500 300x271 Bieber Quote: Abort! Abort!

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Justin Bieber and his publicist.

Does anyone care what teenage heart-throb Justin Bieber thinks about abortion? Who knew he even had an opinion? An incendiary quote provides a cautionary tale as to why a PR flak should sit in on most interviews.

Last week, Rolling Stone published an excerpt of its cover story with the teenage singer. As excerpts go, it was certainly the raciest part of an otherwise dull interview. Bieber was asked how he feels about abortion. He said he was against it. The interviewer then asked if Bieber believed in terminating pregnancies in cases of rape. Bieber was quoted as saying, “Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason.” Cue cyber outrage.

As the Internet burned with the quote, and the indictment pictured above, Rolling Stone then amended the comment–presumably following pressure from Bieber’s PR–adding a previously omitted sentence. The boy wonder from Ontario apparently said, “Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don’t know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.” (Italics ours to show addition.) Not much better, still problematic. Next time, how about avoiding the topic altogether?

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Justin Bieber and his publicist. No need to answer a difficult, controversial question. Either take a pass or let the PR flak take the heat.

The PR Takeaway: Count on being ambushed in interviews, especially by potentially unfriendly media outlets. Unless Bieber genuinely wants to campaign on the incendiary issue of abortion, coach him on how to politely decline to answer the question. If the interviewer presses, it’s up to the PR Flak to bring the conversation back on track and on brand. While undoubtedly annoying to the journalist, it’s certainly easier than clearing up the later inevitable cyber mess.

Did Rolling Stone have a right to edit Bieber’s comment to make it more controversial, or should Bieber’s publicity team have coached him to avoid topics like these? Give us your PR Verdict, below.