Anderson Cooper: PR Perfect

 Anderson Cooper: PR Perfect

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anderson Cooper and his PR regarding his coming out.

So Anderson Cooper, CNN’s biggest “name” anchor, has confirmed he is gay. Cooper hit the headlines earlier this week with his e-mail correspondence to journalist and blogger  Andrew Sullivan, which included the unequivocal message, “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be.” The phrase was reprinted endlessly over the next three days. The media wondered if anyone was shocked or scandalized. The definitive response: No.

From a PR point of view, this was handled perfectly. Cooper had never publicly indicated if he was–or wasn’t. That changed when a recent feature in Entertainment Weekly examined how celebrities handle coming out. Andrew Sullivan approached Cooper for comment, and Cooper’s response made headlines.

Cooper crafted a number of well-worded, thoughtful paragraphs explaining his reasons for coming out now and his previous reticence. He sent them to Sullivan who republished it in full, with Cooper’s permission. Next step: Cooper was unavailable for any interviews due to being on assignment. The void was filled with praise and endorsements from friends and colleagues. Nicely handled.

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anderson Cooper and his PR regarding his coming out.  Simple message, no details, well expressed, STOP.

The PR Takeaway: This was an elegant PR exercise. Closeted celebrities, take note: Keep the message and the delivery simple. Make your point clearly. Say what you have to say and make sure it is unedited (therefore, stay away  from lengthy sit-down TV interviews). Place it with a friendly media source, and then be unavailable. Nothing more to add. Nothing more to explain. And, in Cooper’s case, get back to saving the world.

Will Anderson Cooper’s self-outing have any repercussions? Should he have come out, or kept himself out of the limelight? Give us your PR Verdict!

Coke: Don’t Sugar-coat the Issue

RhonaApplebaum 28750 011 300x200 Coke: Dont Sugar coat the Issue

The PR Verdict: “F” for Coke and Rhona Applebaum.

Pity Dr. Rhona Applebaum, Coca-Cola’s vice president of science and regulatory affairs.  She has the uphill battle of giving Coke’s response to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to ban the sale of sodas in containers larger than 16 oz.  The ban, which would apply only to places other than grocery or convenience stores, has the food and drink lobby agitated. So what does Coca-Cola think?

Applebaum says the issue is about public health.  Appearing on CNN and talking in confusing metaphors, she said “Being gusty does not mean being right,” and “Stepping into traffic is not a leadership moment.”  Whatever that means, bottom line, Coke’s PR message is that obesity is about physical activity and a balanced diet.

With a long list of celebrities and opinion formers coming out in favor of the ban, Coca-Cola might be on a losing streak.  No one disagrees that smaller portions are part of a logical solution to obesity.  The smarter tactical move for Coke would be to make a conciliatory gesture and get on board.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Coca-Cola.  Claiming you are as concerned about diabetes and obesity as the next person while advocating the sale of jumbo sodas is a hard sell.  Why resist the flow toward health for consumers?

PR Takeaway:  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. In any PR issue, it’s important to follow the groundswell of public opinion.  On this one, despite some nanny state concerns, Bloomberg seems to be winning the day.  Applebaum’s comments might have sounded so much more convincing if she had simply conceded that this was an interesting first step.  The ban, after all, is limited in scope.  Why not agree with it, and then move the conversation onto the broader issues that ultimately take soda drinks out of the direct firing line?

To read more and see the interview, click here.

Did The Dalai Lama Really Want To Share That?

dalai lama21 Did The Dalai Lama Really Want To Share That?

The PR Verdict: “D” for the Dalai Lama

Does the Dalai Lama have a PR? Watching his interview on CNN, the most likely response is no.  Or if he does, is there some deliberate policy afoot to connect with the public in a different way?  Wednesday’s interview with host Piers Morgan was affable enough but may have left some of his admirers and followers wondering.

In a wide-ranging interview he discussed China, free speech, and ongoing protests by Tibetans.  Describing the death of recent protestors as “very sad” he urged China to be more realistic when addressing issues of civil unrest.  He also praised the Arab spring in principle, saying it was “very good”.  Fine so far.

Then came the more personal questions asked of His Holiness.  While celibate, he conceded he looks at women and thinks, “that’s very nice”.   If tempted, he reminds himself, “I am a monk – I am always a monk.”   Surprisingly, among the people he admires most, is George W. Bush.  “Some of his policies may not be very successful,” the Dalai Lama conceded, “but as a person, as a human being, very nice person. I love him.”  Who knew?

The PR Verdict: “D” for the Dalai Lama and the mystique of a spiritual leader.  Accessibility and everyday observations, while making him approachable, inevitably distract from solemnity and gravitas.

PR Takeaway:  Gravitas depends on a certain level of inaccessibility.  It’s a tough call to be a spiritual leader while also being available for a lengthy friendly interview.  The Pope and Queen Elizabeth learnt this long ago.  Disclose little about oneself, and then only rarely.  Above all keep it high level.  As soon as a chatty interview strays into “loving” a still-polarizing former US president, the relationship between His Holiness’s followers and who they might imagine him to be,  inevitably changes.  What would the Pope and the Queen tell Piers in their interview?

To read and see parts of the interview click here.

What’s your PR Verdict on the interview?

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Is It Wise to Mess With A Mother Of Five?

Annromney Is It Wise to Mess With A Mother Of Five?

The PR Verdict: “A” to Ann Romney and the Republicans for milking a relatively harmless comment.

Who would have thought?  Mild mannered Ann Romney moves with lightning speed?  The wife of Republican front-runner Mitt,  had the Democrats springing into damage control mode yesterday, after one of their own handed Republican strategists a PR gift.

It all started when Hilary Rosen a well-known Democratic strategist opined on CNN that Ann Romney is unlikely to connect with female voters.  “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life,”  Rosen said.  “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.”

Cue collective outrage!  Instantly! Anti stay at home mom!   Ann Romney tweeted in seconds “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”   From then on it was a no brainer for the Republicans who cashed in on the same drumbeat from years ago, when Hilary Clinton said she is not the sort of woman who bakes cookies.  No wonder the Democrats were running scared.

The PR Verdict:  “A” to Ann Romney and the Republicans for milking a relatively harmless comment and turning it into a media event.  Getting the Democrats on the defensive when up until now they have been in a lead position in the polls with female voters was a PR victory in any book.

PR Takeaway:  Speed is of the essence.  Ann Romney jumped in and talked of her record as a mother instantly before Rosen or Democrats could explain and contextualise.   Within a matter of hours Ann Romney was all over Fox and other media outlets.  Suddenly Democrats had no choice but to distance themselves from their own strategist (who ironically has children of her own).  Justified or not, this was opportunistic PR at its best.   Don’t mess with a mother of five.

To read more about this click here and here.

What’s your PR Verdict? How did Ann Romney do?

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How Do You Get To Be President And Be Yourself?

Breakthrough with Tony Robbins1 300x300 How Do You Get To Be President And Be Yourself?

The PR Verdict: “C” for disappointingly average advice.

Tony Robbins, America’s most impressive self help guru told CNN yesterday that Mitt Romney needs to be more himself and stop worrying what other people think.  According to Robbins, Romney is a passionate person whose authenticity and energy is not shining through. Be more real!  Less robotic!  Show you don’t give a damn!

PR and presentation advice of this type is now very much in vogue.  While hard to disagree with on a personal level it is however of little practical help when seeking high office.

Being yourself is sometimes less important than the right environment.  The venue/crowd where the candidate feels most comfortable is the key to unlocking authenticity.  Seek out those occasions and the rest will follow.

The PR Verdict: “C” for disappointingly average advice from the country’s leading self help guru.  Sensible advice to be elected to the Student Council but running for high office requires more planning and strategy.

Sarah Palin came alive when talking to convention centres packed with her tea party constituency.  Hilary Clinton is most energized when talking at international forums.  What is Romney’s favorite venue? Romney’s minders would be better advised to identify forums in which he demonstrates qualities that appeal most to the electorate.  And what are those qualities?  What qualites does he want to be known for?   Just “being yourself”  is rarely enough and an insufficient  strategy when running for high office.  Just ask Sarah Palin.

To see Tony Robbins giving advice click here.

What is your verdict on Tony Robbin’s PR advice?

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The Truth About Whitney By People Who Didn’t Know Her.

DAILYXPRESS2 300x161 The Truth About Whitney By People Who Didnt Know Her.

The PR Verdict : "F" for Shelley Ross and Daily Xpress

Blanket media coverage over the death of Whitney Houston continues. The airwaves are saturated with experts talking about the singer’s final moments, proffering unsolicited advice to bereaved fans and Houston’s family.

Enter Shelley Ross from the website Daily Xpress who in sincere and emphatic tones told CNN that “ultimately Whitney Houston gets the responsibility for what happened to her…Whitney was a junkie”…She adds with conviction, that the singer was “suffering the ravages of cocaine abuse.”

Commenting emphatically on the cause of death before the finding, let alone burial, is not only in questionable taste but also risks being wrong. This interviewee was unable to confirm anything substantive directly. When that is the case, being less emphatic and more circumspect is always the preferred route.

The PR Verdict: “F” for Shelley Ross and the  ‘expert” opinion of Xpress. There was nothing expert about it. That was the problem.

Ross shoots herself in the foot in this interview by stating “ I am not saying I knew her but I knew people who worked with her and other well meaning people.” Nice try. But without direct first hand knowledge, commenting on Houston’s death seems nothing more than a craven search for publicity. This would have been a better interview to decline.

To see the interview click below.

Daily Xpress calls Whitney Houston a “junkie”.

If you were Shelley Ross would you have done this interview?   [polldaddy poll=5948403]