Pistorius Takes the Stand

oscar pistorius court day seven his murder trial heard lawyer barry roux question testimony 150x150 Pistorius Takes the Stand

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Oscar Pistorius.

There’s rarely any discussion of good or bad PR associated with murder trials; the defendant is declared innocent or guilty, and the case is closed. Things may be different in the case of South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, currently on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius says he awoke during the night of February 14, 2013, hearing sounds. He told police he shot towards where he thought an intruder was hiding, only to find Steenkamp his victim. The prosecution has so far done a persuasive job of presenting an ex-girlfriend who told of Pistorius randomly shooting guns, a text message from Steenkamp saying she was afraid of him, and neighbors who heard angry shouts and terrified screams.

While listening to testimony, Pistorius has hardly been stoic. He has wept, held his head in his hands, been violently ill. But would he take the stand? His lawyers apparently thought it best. Yesterday, Pistorius – not shown on camera, but audible – gave a shaken testimony that halted proceedings when he eventually broke down.

Will it spare him from a 25 year prison term? It’s possible. The gun-carrying, temperamental boyfriend image was replaced by the trembling voice of a shattered man. Should Pistorius be declared innocent, his emotional testimony may also exonerate him in the court of public opinion.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Oscar Pistorius.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When all seems lost, that’s the time to take a risk. Most lawyers are wary of putting clients on the stand; not only can they be torn apart by the prosecution, but they may not show enough emotion, of the appropriate kind, for the jury’s liking. Pistorius, however, has been doing nothing but demonstrating remorse. His lawyers, facing the prosecution’s construction of a monster, put on the stand a man weeping and overcome with grief. The monster image has taken a hit.

Nike’s Risky PR Move?

 Nikes Risky PR Move?

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

Everyone loves a winner – especially Nike. The company has just launched a PR campaign via social media after Tiger Woods recently won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The campaign includes a photo of Woods with his quote, “Winning takes care of everything.” Cheeky! Especially since it was Woods’ original retort when asked by the press about his extramarital affairs with prostitutes.

That rather public scandal, which came after the death of his beloved father and which resulted in divorce from his wife, led to Woods’ downfall. Previously a golfer who couldn’t be beaten, he had a fall from both grace and rankings. His sponsors, all but Nike, left him.

The world-famous sportswear brand has had a tough time with its athlete representatives. When Lance Armstrong admitted that he’d cheated to win all his Tours de France, Nike raced to drop him as it did with Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius who shot and killed his girlfriend. But in the case of Tiger Woods, Nike’s market research must have shown Woods was still resonating and worth spending the $20 million a year. The reaction so far? Media and online responses seems to be suggesting that Nike is more in love with its representative than the general public, particularly the female half.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nike. Is this latest controversy on-brand?

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Consider language in its broadest context. Yes, everyone loves a winner, and while it’s well known that winning does, in fact, take care of everything, some female customers buying Nike products may not be on the same page. Perhaps, in consideration of Woods’ transgressions, it might have been better if Nike had simply congratulated Woods using the single word by their swoosh – VICTORY – and allowed the public to be happy about a sports legend’s return. Instead, Nike may have inadvertently sent a message to female customers who don’t see it Tiger’s way. The right wording, more than winning, really does take care of everything.