Anna Wintour’s Game of Thrones

 Anna Wintours Game of Thrones

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Anna Wintour, for getting her perfectly coiffed head off the chopping block and fitted for a new tiara.

In the Game of Thrones that is magazine publishing, there is a cryptic new saying: Wintour is coming. That would be Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of Vogue, and now Artistic Director of Condé Nast. Only five years ago, rumors were swirling that Anna had reached the end of her reign; Carine Roitfeld, then Editor in Chief of French Vogue, was rumored to be the new queen. How things have changed.

Since taking over fashion’s biggest publication, part of Wintour’s work has been becoming a legend as notorious as she is famous. Runway shows did not start without her sitting front and center. She could make or break designers. She hardly bothered to brush off the outrageous allegations made in a former assistant’s novel, The Devil Wears Prada. Then, with the Recession and every magazine including Vogue taking deep hits, the speculation began: Was Wintour over?

Not by a long shot. Through a series of strategic moves, including allowing a cooly chic documentary, The September Issue, to record her quietly brutal taste-making process, Wintour has  strengthened her position as the premiere mover and shaker in the fashion universe. A New York Times article described Wintour’s influence as her publisher’s new artistic director, placing her gilded touch – or iron fist – on every magazine. Condé Nast Chief Executive Charles Townsend said, “Anna is the biggest talent we have, maybe the biggest in the business, and I am going to play that card for all it’s worth.”

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Anna Wintour, for getting her perfectly coiffed head off the chopping block and fitted for a new tiara.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: You don’t always need to play dirty, but you do need to play hard. When rumors began circulating that Condé Nast was considering a replacement for Wintour, she fought back. How? By doing what she does best: being Anna Wintour. She gained media space by contributing to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, creating new rumors of being rewarded with an ambassador position. She let the world have a peek inside her process at Vogue in a film that showed her as talking softly, yet carrying a large stick of influence. Now, Anna reigns supreme, and whether Condé Nasties like it or not, it’s going to be a very long Wintour indeed.

The 5 Toughest PR Assignments of 2013

This week, we’ve been looking back over some of the more challenging moments in public relations, yet they seem simple in comparison to the PR assignments for 2013. We invite our readers to pitch strategies for the following assignments; any takers?

 The 5 Toughest PR Assignments of 2013DEFENDING THE NRA: With the Newtown killings, American public opinion appears to have reached the proverbial tipping point. Public discourse now is less about freedom and the constitutional right to bear arms and more about child safety and the appalling level of gun deaths in the world’s largest and most modern society. With over 10,000 gun-related deaths a year, this PR brief is going to need some very creative thinking. The well-worn PR positioning that an armed society is a polite society won’t cut it – nor will the old saw that “guns don’t kill people.”

 

 

 The 5 Toughest PR Assignments of 2013REBEKAH BROOKS’S IMAGE REHAB: With Rebekah Brooks standing trial along with a number of other Murdoch employees in 2013, on multiple charges including attempting to pervert the course of justice, getting her image right will be job for Super PR. Continuing to claim that she was blissfully unaware of phone hacking won’t work, as her employer has already compensated numerous victims; her previous protests of innocence will come unstuck if the jury fails to be won over. If that happens, many other questions will be raised about what has been said previously by Murdoch management. Some elegant backtracking may be required; just saying.

 

 

 The 5 Toughest PR Assignments of 2013MAKE WALL STREET LOVEABLE: Liborgate, money laundering, financial fraud, trading losses… Making the public like, or even tolerate, the world’s leading investment banks is a constant uphill battle. Just as Wall Street thought it was over the worst, it has been newly dragged into fresh cesspools of scandal and vice. A PR offensive will be needed to fight its corner, resisting calls for reduced bonuses and reining in a risk-taking culture. Given the latest scandals, this is one campaign likely to fall on deaf ears. Good luck.

 

 

 The 5 Toughest PR Assignments of 2013AUSTERITY IS GOOD FOR YOU: No one likes being poor, whether government or private citizens. Europe has been told repeatedly that swallowing the equivalent of castor oil is for the greater good, but national patience with “slash and burn” economics is thin to nil. The stagnant economy and economic hardships look set to continue; four years after the financial crisis, European countries are still languishing. If the prescribed medicine continues, it will need some better PR sugar.

 

 

 The 5 Toughest PR Assignments of 2013ANNA WINTOUR FOR SECRETARY OF STATE:  The current editor of US Vogue is rumored to be a potential US ambassador to France, or her home country, the UK. A powerful Democratic fund-raiser, the appointment of Wintour, not a politician, would not be without precedent – just look at Pamela Harriman. Wintour’s supporters say she’d find the job “dull”; pal Oscar de la Renta suggested the ONLY official office that would suit Wintour would be Secretary of State. If that’s the case, Anna will need some clever PR to get through the rigorous approval hearings. Our humble PR tip?  Start by removing the sunglasses when indoors.

 

We at the PRV wish our readers a happy holiday season.

We will be back on 7 January 2013. Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Joan Juliet Passes the Buck on Vogue

 Joan Juliet Passes the Buck on Vogue

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Joan Juliet Buck.

Pity poor Joan Juliet Buck, Vogue stalwart and roving editor, who has come under intense scrutiny following her now infamous Vogue article on Asma Assad, wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. Written and published shortly before civil war broke out, Buck’s glowing profile, entitled “A Rose in the Desert,”  now looks impossibly ill judged. History will remember Asma as the consort of a ruthless dictator, and Vogue as being on the wrong side of the story.

But now Buck is fighting back. Sick and tired of having her name ridiculed as the author of the ultimate PR puff piece, she has broken her silence and given her version of how the article came about. It seems her editors at Vogue  misinterpreted the Arab spring as a storm in a teacup, as did the rest of the world. Buck’s explanation makes compelling reading. Published on The DailyBeast with an accompanying broadcast interview, Buck portrays herself as a writer uneasy with what she has been tasked to do but who went on regardless.

The blame, it seems, lies in equal parts. Buck is very clear that politics and foreign relations were not her area of expertise. She writes that she visited Syria “and understood nothing.” Though not entirely seduced by her hosts and wary of phone taps and hacks into her laptop, she was more concerned with filing her story than exploring simmering discontent. Buck paid the price, with Vogue severing relations with her after more than twenty years.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) to Joan Juliet Buck for an insightful and fascinating read. She lets the facts speak for themselves. No one is covered in glory.

The PR Takeaway: In matters of setting the record straight, focus less on blame and more on letting facts speak for themselves. Buck has endured substantial personal and professional ridicule since her article was published. Her version of events is a thrilling read. She portions little blame but makes the point that it’s easy to be wise after the event. The Assads were visited by Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Sting, Angelina and Brad, and Francis Ford Coppola during their PR push. Hindsight is a wonderful thing; Buck’s reputation may not be so damaged after all.

 

UN Secretary Moon Eclipsed at Olympics?

 UN Secretary Moon Eclipsed at Olympics?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Ban Ki Moon.

Should the Secretary General of the United Nations take PR lessons from the world of celebrity publicists? The head of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon (BKM), arguably the figurehead for the global community, made a puzzling appearance at the Olympic opening.  Was it good for the UN brand?

First up, BKM carried the Olympic flame through central London, wearing a white tracksuit, smiling and waving pleasantly to the crowds. He then surfaced again on Friday with a small cadre of team members carrying the Olympic flag to mark  the end of the ceremony. News reports said he was participating to promote an Olympic truce between warring countries during the games.

He stood second in line, carrying the flag and sharing the limelight with the founder of UK civil liberties group Liberty, Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebrselassie, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, and Brazilian environmentalist Marina Silva. Impressive company, to be sure, but shouldn’t the office of the Secretary General of the United Nations be afforded higher status?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Ban Ki Moon. Let’s face it the rules of the maitre d’ apply: Where you sit and who you sit next to are key. It shows how important–or not–you are.

The PR Takeaway: Visuals really matter when that’s all you have. Editors of major fashion magazines are notorious for insisting on front row seating for the runway shows. If not, it’s a no-show from them, on the basis that any other placement devalues the magazine’s brand. Tough talk, but an effective policy that invariably gets them the right positioning. For the sake of the UN brand and its global influence, why not insist that Ban Ki Moon be placed, at the very least, next to the UK Prime Minister and the Mayor of London? Or how about with the head of the Olympic federation–two organizations with shared ideals? With the world watching, BKM’s rightful place was up on the podium, not in the trenches. BKM might want to speed dial Vogue front-row-center editor Anna Wintour before accepting the next invitation.

Vogue’s Syrian Faux Pas

 Vogues Syrian Faux Pas

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anna Wintour and Vogue.

The high priestess of fashion has (finally) spoken. After what seemed like months, Anna Wintour, Editor of American Vogue, uttered her first words of explanation about the fashion bible’s notoriously glowing profile about Asma Assad, wife of the Syrian dictator. Hailed as the modern face of reform in the Arab World, Assad was described by Vogue as “the “freshest and most magnetic of first ladies . . . a rose in the desert.” Not long after publication, the Syrian tanks started rolling and government-sanctioned executions of dissenters began.

Vogue writer Joan Juliet Buck initially seemed embarrassed to have written the article but was later oddly unrepentant.  When questioned about the piece, her startling reply was that Asma Assad  was “extremely thin and very well dressed, and therefore qualified to be in Vogue.”

Ice Queen Wintour finally caved in to a rumbling chorus from pressure groups asking what Vogue could have been thinking?  Issuing a full statement on Sunday, she said in part, “Like many at the time, we were hopeful that the Assad regime would be open to a more progressive society…  We deplore the actions of the Assad regime in the strongest possible terms.”

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anna Wintour and Vogue, who turned the page on their faux pas. As the situation in Syria worsens, this was not going to go away.

PR Takeaway: Hindsight gives ample cover, and it’s always in fashion as a PR explanation. Why be embarrassed? Dictator Assad and his attractive, educated, investment banker wife were known to have actively pursued a PR profile in the West. Wintour and Vogue can hardly be blamed when much of the West was participating in the very same love-in. But in order to maintain credibility, it’s best to say “Oops” and move on. Vogue, along with many others, had the cashmere pulled over their eyes. Wintour says the “priorities and values”’ of the Assads are completely at odds with the values of Vogue. At least now, Vogue is on the right side of the debate.