Obama’s Commander-In-Chief Moment

 Obamas Commander In Chief Moment

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Commander In Chief Barack Obama’s address to the nation on the Boston terrorist attacks.

He’s had to address the nation during four mass shootings and one major natural disaster, but President Obama has never had to deal with a suspected act of terrorism. But when two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon this past Monday, Obama had to go from President to Commander in Chief.

The attacks in Boston took on another level of depth when the media announced that the President would be addressing the nation. Clearly his speech had been prepared, but it was without the gloss the campaigning orator is accustomed to – rightly so.

President Obama appeared before a shocked nation wearing an expression of stern concern. His voice was forthright, his delivery serious but not emotional. In the brief address, he made sure to say that he and Speaker John Boehner, usually his arch rival, were communicating and that on this issue, there were no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans. With no information to share he stated unequivocally that justice would be served. His delivery reassured a nation that in shock and proved the key crisis communications principle: Keep communicating, calmly, even if there is no news to be shared.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Commander In Chief Barack Obama’s address to the nation on the Boston bombing.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: In times of crisis, what you say is nearly secondary to how you say it. Study carefully Obama’s face and tone of voice in this address and you will see a President in command. Even while conceding there was no information, Obama’s demeanor said that was only a matter of time. He asserted union of parties, gave a patriotic nod to Boston’s resilience, and wisely took no questions. If the antidote to chaos is control, the nation may have felt that the crisis was under control after this speech.

Murdoch, Think Before You Tweet!

 Murdoch, Think Before You Tweet!

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Rupert Murdoch.

When it comes to controversial tweets or scandalous emails, one of the more predictable cries from the media is to ask, what was this person thinking? Every smarty-pants commentator let’s us know: Nothing is private, all is public. Don’t write it if you don’t want it on the front page.

Apparently, media mogul Rupert Murdoch hasn’t been listening; he just learned his humiliating lesson in the world of social media the hard way. His Twitter followers were presumably puzzled by his Tweet this past Sunday that accused the “Jewish owned press” of favoring Gaza over Israel in news coverage concerning the latest military action. He asked his followers, which number over 360,000, “Why is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?”

Immediately, the commentators were wondering who could Rupert have been referring to. In previous Tweets, Murdoch complained of  “CNN and AP bias to point of embarrassment.” But as neither are “Jewish owned,” the comments seemed genuinely confusing. The wider consensus is that The New York Times, his US foe in the newspaper world, was the target. But the mystery now looks like it will never be solved.  Murdoch apologized unreservedly, describing his Tweet as “awkward and inappropriate,” adding he should not have brought in “irrelevant and incorrect ethnic matters.” Case closed.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for one of the world’s leading media tycoons. However, it’s touching to realize that even a media mogul can get social media wrong.

The PR Takeaway: Press “pause” before “send.” The Murdoch incident is a flash in the PR pan, but it does show that even the most experienced media practitioners can get it very wrong. What’s obvious with the benefit of hindsight is sometimes not obvious at the time. Murdoch might want someone in his entourage to check Tweets before sending them; this is not a one-on-one conversation, after all. Take note, Wendi.

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State Dept. vs. CNN: War of the Words

 State Dept. vs. CNN: War of the Words

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the State Dept. for its unusually aggressive language. CNN is facing full PR heat.

The State Department and CNN are embroiled in a an ugly fight over the recovered journal of Chris Stevens, the late Ambassador to Libya, who was killed in a deadly attack on the US embassy. Using unusually strong language, State Dept. spokesman Philippe Reines said that when it comes to airing the contents of the journal, “CNN patting themselves on the back is disgusting” and that the cable news network “needed to be convinced to do the right thing.” CNN is now on the defensive. Has it been ethically caught out?

While the sequence of events is unclear, what is known is that CNN got hold of Stevens’ journal and used it in its reporting. Explaining that the journal was found four days after the attack, CNN says it notified Stevens’ family “within hours after it was discovered.” From there, the story gets messy.

The State Dept. says the network “completely ignored the wishes of the family” and reported on the contents of the journal before returning it to the family, despite the family’s repeated requests that nothing be used until they had a chance to review its contents. CNN went ahead with its story, saying it “felt there were issues raised in the journal which required full reporting.”

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the State Dept. for its unusually aggressive language. CNN is facing full PR heat.

The PR Takeaway: Self-interest rarely wins the PR battle. Having passed the journal’s contents around a newsroom and only then asking the family for permission for its use puts CNN in a ethically challenging spot. Unless CNN can get some ringing endorsement from the Stevens family, it has lost this PR battle. The State Dept. has the clear upper hand in this case, speaking on behalf of the family of the slain ambassador. Meanwhile, CNN is left looking like it might benefit from a refresher course in ethics and common decency.

Was Stevens’ journal fair game for journalistic reporting, or should CNN have abided by his family’s wishes? Give us your PR Verdict!