The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Cory Booker, the charismatic Democratic mayor of Newark, NJ, who this week became the state’s first African American US senator. True, he was unlikely to lose; New Jersey hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate in 40 years. Still, the media-savvy 44-year-old ran a carefully calibrated race. Early on, he laid low and campaigned via his Twitter feed and Instagram videos. He artfully handled shrill questions about sexuality and his communications with a West Coast stripper. When opponent Steve Lonegan turned up the heat, Booker came out swinging with an aggressive TV ad (but still spent less than $1 million on television). Booker’s next challenge will be navigating the US Senate where, as The New York Times put it, “show horses tend to stumble.”

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the man behind the ban on large-sized sugary drinks and increasingly limited public smoking areas. While those “nanny state” actions could be called beneficial, this week the mayor directed NYC police to find and arrest the artist known as Banksy, who is currently “defacing” the buildings of Bloomie’s burg. Banksy’s art routinely sells for millions, and other cities have treated his graffiti-style work as valuable contributions. Nevertheless, in a town that has recently suffered a spate of violent attacks on gay men, cops are being ordered by Hizzonor to focus on apprehending this hooded painting bandit. That’s a Big Gulp of nerve.

bachmanncruz The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO any number of US Congressional Republicans, for statements during the 16-day government shutdown crisis that gave “spin” a bad name, even after the crisis ended. When it did, the meekly even-handed media coverage broke decidedly against the Republicans, but that didn’t end their attempts to save face and subvert reality. Thus we have statements like House Speaker John Boehner’s “We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win,” Sen. Ted Cruz’s “Washington is not listening to the people,” and Rep. Michele Bachmann’s “This was a fight worth having.” After setting out on an obviously dead-ending path, they followed to its natural conclusion and somehow kept going, perhaps walking their party right into the political wilderness.

Senate Wonder Women Save the Nation

 Senate Wonder Women Save the Nation

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to the sisterhood of the Senate. (From left, Rev. Jim Wallis with Sens. Ayotte, Murkowski, and Collins.)

As hard as it is to give anyone credit in the embarrassing spectacle that is the US government shutdown, a group of female senators including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), who crafted the framework of a compromise, deserve their day in the sun.

The shutdown entered its third week after Congress failed to pass a spending bill that would restore shuttered government services. Tensions increased as a deadline permitting the US to borrow money to pay its obligations loomed.

As factions within Congress continued wage war, women came to the rescue. Led by  Sen. Collins, a group of six of the Senate’s 20 female senators united to produce a compromise to break the impasse. The agreement served as the foundation of a proposal endorsed by bipartisan leaders in the Senate, prompting their male colleagues to almost begrudgingly acknowledge that the times, they are a’changing. As veteran Sen. John McCain put it, “Leadership, I must fully admit, was provided primarily by the women in the Senate.”

The women could have rejected the notion that their reproductive equipment played a role in the compromise, perhaps even been insulted by the suggestion. Instead, Collins and the other senators embraced their feminine attributes. “I find that, with all due deference to our male colleagues, women’s styles tend to be more collaborative,” she told ABC News. Indeed, Collins and her crew have positioned themselves nicely as a group that gets things done and, potentially, a force to be reckoned with on future issues.

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) to the sisterhood of the Senate.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Play up your strengths – and keep playing them up. This unusual alliance captured the media’s attention; once the press was focused on them, the senators kept the headlines coming by elaborating on the qualities that helped them achieve their goals. Promoting the attributes of one sex over another is a tricky business, but the senators played their hand nicely. Brava, ladies!

Shutdown, Tragedy, Looming Default: Welcome to Washington

 Shutdown, Tragedy, Looming Default: Welcome to Washington

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the United States government.

The fictional town of Sunnydale was the site of the Hellmouth in the popular TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but it’s starting to feel like the true location of the portal to Hades is Washington, DC. Look at the events of the past week alone. First, the government shut down. A few days later, a delusional woman went on an automotive rampage near the Capitol and was shot and killed by Capitol police – who were receiving no pay at the time due to the shutdown. Earlier this week, a man self-immolated on the Washington Mall, motives unknown. And next week, should Congress fail to come to terms, America will hit its debt ceiling and go into default. End times, or what?

The game of high-stakes poker between Congress and President Obama saw much sweat on the Republican side and no blinking from the Oval Office. As of yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner said “I’m not drawing any lines in the sand” about budget issues – a far softer message than was broadcast merely one day ago.

Meanwhile, Congress and the government in general are coming under increasing pressure to get past this problem. Citizens are shouting at their representatives. Petitions to put Congressional paychecks on the same freeze as those of government workers are gaining signatures. And the stock market is flattening as a result of the impending default. How deeply will Washington peer into this abyss?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the United States government. They would have earned an “F,” but we’re saving that for next week.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Remember who you’re fighting for. While Democrats say they’re trying to give Americans affordable health care, and Republicans are saying Americans don’t want it, both sides are receiving substantial paychecks, unlike some of their constituents. The longer the standoff, the more Americans become united – in their increasing ire at their own elected officials. Seems likely that, come voting time, Congresspeople will have hell to pay.

The Obamacare Show Must Go On

 The Obamacare Show Must Go On

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the launch the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday, the Affordable Care Act – the long-awaited and controversial US health care program also known as “Obamacare” – launched amid a US government shutdown and a host of technical glitches. A bungling of presidential proportions? Not necessarily.

The federally-mandated marketplaces that are the cornerstone of the new US health system opened for business on October 1. That’s the same day a Congressionally-led shutdown, sparked by the program’s opponents, closed iconic American memorials and national parks and furloughed more than 800,000 workers. As if that weren’t inauspicious enough, millions of Americans were met with error messages when they tried to check out their state’s exchanges, many of which are managed by the federal government through its healthcare.gov portal.

But these factors didn’t cast a PR pall over the program – at least not initially. The fact that the health care exchanges opened on time, despite a government shutdown, was a PR coup. It also seemed to elevate the program above the Congressional bickering that has come off as childish and impotent. As for the technical problems, they’re being met with a shrug. These days, inability to immediately access the latest technology platform has become almost de rigueur; opening-day delays imply overwhelming demand. For Obamacare, there will be a short grace period for the program to get its act together and start signing people up. After that, though, all bets are off.

THE PR VERDICT:  “C” (Distinctly OK) for the launch of the Affordable Care Act, debuting in a timely manner and piquing the interest of millions of Americans.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The show must go on. Having come this far, President Obama would have invited a PR disaster had he given in to demands to delay the launch of the health insurance exchanges. If the product is useful, intriguing, or novel enough, consumers are willing to endure a few headaches at the outset. All that said, the countdown has begun: Obamacare needs happy customers, and soon, if its going to establish itself as the viable solution to America’s health care woes.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to actor Mark Wahlberg, who announced that, after a year of secretly taking online classes, he has earned his high school diploma. Growing up in a tough neighborhood in Boston, a young Wahlberg started doing drugs and ran afoul of the law multiple times before being arrested and tried for assault at 16. Emerging from prison with an attitude adjustment, Wahlberg found fame in the band New Kids on the Block and in a series of provocative underwear ads for Calvin Klein. Two Oscar nominations later, the 42-year-old said that getting his diploma was an important personal achievement. The perfect PR tale of redemption and a personal turnaround. Will someone make a movie about this?

boehner The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to John Boehner, Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, who again showed powerlessness to corral his caucus and keep its more intransigent members from stampeding the entire herd off a cliff. Boehner gave in this week to the Tea Party faction of his caucus and vowed to proceed with another effort to defund Obamacare, President Obama’s signature health care reform initiative, or shut down the government. Even Senate Republicans, as well as GOP commentators and other Obamacare opponents outside government, have decried the Republican House strategy as futile and self-destructive. Boehner previously has argued much the same but reversed course to accommodate his colleagues – again showing that for House Republicans, the tail wags the dog.

escape from tomorrow disney poster 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to indie horror film Escape from Tomorrow. The film was shot secretly on location at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, without permission from the company, telling the tale of a man’s disturbing experiences during the last day of a family vacation at the amusement park. Due to Disney’s reputation for being fiercely protective of its brand, the cast and crew used guerrilla filmmaking techniques to avoid attracting attention during its making. Since early screenings, the Mouse House’s response has been a stoic “no comment,”  knowing that in PR, paying attention means giving attention. Presumably the silence before the legal storm…..

 

Syria: An About Face to Save Face?

 Syria: An About Face to Save Face?

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Syrian President Bashar-Al-Assad.

Call Syrian President Bashar-Al-Assad what you will – and he is being described by many names these days – and add another to the list: master of public relations. Remember the days before war broke out in Syria? A  fawning feature in Vogue celebrated Mrs. Assad and her presidential mate as the Middle East’s glamorous, modernizing couple. Such was the range and power of their PR machine.

By the time the Vogue article hit the stands, Syria was burning, and Assad was being called, at best, a dictator. The news has only gotten worse over time, coming to a head when US President Barack Obama threatened air strikes against Syria for using chemical weapons against its people.

In the ensuing debate, as pundits interviewed members of Congress on their voting intentions, one voice was quiet: that of Assad himself. Until he made himself available to American TV journalist Charlie Rose, that is.

In the interview, the man many are calling a monster was calm, not defensive. Bankers responsible for financial crimes have sweat far more than Assad, a man accused of mass murder. He followed up that calm show with an announcement: that Syria would agree to turn over its chemical weapons stockpile – if the US backed down from a strike.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for President Bashar-Al-Assad. An albeit reluctantly high grade for a dictator using his PR machine to play chess with the world.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Image need rehab? Appear cooperative. Whether one believes Assad or not, he has pounced at the right moment. The media reports that Americans are sympathetic to the Syrian people, yet fearful of involvement in yet another Middle Eastern war. Congress is at odds as to what to do. And suddenly, Assad the Impaler comes into our living rooms as Assad the Reasonable Cooperator. Timing is everything, and in the midst of a fray, heads will turn toward the calm voice of reason – no matter the source.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to President Obama for his artful handling of Congress regarding possible military involvement in Syria. Global concern about the Syrian civil war soared after more than 1500 civilians were believed killed in government-led chemical weapons attacks. Taking a political gamble, Obama announced he supports limited intervention but would require Congressional approval to move forward. The savvy move effectively forces Republicans to align themselves with the White House on an issue that’s far from popular with the American people. Within days, senior Congressional Republicans lined up behind the prez. If the measure passes in next week’s vote, the US will present a united front. If it fails, it will be due to Republican leaders’ inability to garner support. Either way, Obama wins.

John McCain plays on iPho 010 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to US Senator John McCain, caught playing poker on his iPhone during a Senate committee hearing to discuss US military intervention in Syria. The hawkish Arizona Republican is a strong proponent for use of force in response to the gassing of civilians in that country’s two-year civil war, and his advocacy is likely to be critical in upcoming Congressional votes to authorize military action. But at the hearing Tuesday, his mind was apparently elsewhere, as an alert Washington Post photographer discovered. “Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing – worst of all I lost!” McCain posted on his Twitter feed. But the attempt at deflection only drew more criticism. “That hearing sounds so boring though. Hope it wasn’t about anything important,” tweeted one.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to JCPenny, for dumping their embattled Martha Stewart line of home goods. The colorful kitchen and home collection caused was a disaster from the start, when Stewart assured the venerable retailer that her exclusive contract with Macy’s wasn’t that exclusive. Actually, yes, it was, ruled a judge. The lawsuit cost millions, as well as JCP’s then-CEO Ron Johnson his job. This week, the whole magilla was resolved when current JCP CEO Mike Ullman cleared shelves of Stewart designs that, after all was said and nearly done, weren’t selling anyway. That, apparently, is the way the cookie plate crumbles.

Bachmann Video: What a Long, Strange Clip It’s Been

 Bachmann Video: What a Long, Strange Clip Its Been

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Michele Bachmann.

US Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is a lot of things, but predictable isn’t one of them. The Minnesota Republican has once again made headlines, this time with the unexpected announcement that she won’t seek re-election in 2014.

The Tea Party darling’s reasons for stepping down are murky, and her announcement only made the waters more turbid. The first mistake was in dropping her bombshell via a YouTube video, an indication that she didn’t want to face questions about her decision or her future plans. Then there’s the video itself. Against an odd Chariots of Fire-style musical backdrop, Bachmann begins by rambling about term limits, then launches into a list of reasons she’s not retiring: certainly not because she faces a tough re-election campaign against a candidate she narrowly defeated last year, or because of a federal inquiry into possible misuse of her presidential campaign funds. In the remaining seven minutes of the video, she bashes the Obama administration, slams the “liberal media,” and rattles off a laundry list of issues she’ll continue to support or fight in her remaining 18 months in office.

Political swan song or groundlaying for another presidential bid? It’s impossible to tell. Bachmann says the country is on the wrong track and in the worst shape she’s ever seen, yet there is no opportunity, political or otherwise, that she won’t consider in the future. More than one copy editor must have smiled in appreciation at New York magazine’s headline, “Michele Bachmann Retires as President of Crazyland.”

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Michele Bachmann. The Minnesota congresswoman befuddles, per usual.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: If you’re not going to say anything, say it as succinctly as possible. Bachmann announced her retirement, yet her constituents still have no clue why she’s leaving or what the future holds. It may well be that she doesn’t want to reveal all at this time, but a concisely worded press statement issued through her office would have accomplished the same goal without a move that only added to her already bizarre reputation.

To watch the video, click here.

Mr Cruz Goes to Washington

 Mr Cruz Goes to Washington

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Sen. Mark Cruz.

The latest storm to descend on the U.S. capitol is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who blew into town two months ago and has stayed on the front pages ever since. A freshman to the Senate, Cruz’s brash behavior has rankled colleagues on both sides of the political aisle and caught the attention of the press. The New York Times called him “an ornery, swaggering piece of work” , while the New Yorker is asking “Is Sen. Ted Cruz Our New McCarthy?” More Republican-friendly venues, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard, have lauded the 42-year-old’s unconventional starting term.

Freshmen senators traditionally begin their terms quietly, sitting practically unnoticed on committees and casting votes, lemming-like, along party lines. Not so Mr. Cruz. In the news most recently for spitting fire over former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Defense Secretary, he successfully stalled Hagel’s nomination for several weeks. The Texas upstart is creating waves.

Media outlets are divided on their opinions of Sen. Cruz, but they’re all talking about him. During his campaign, the Texas Republican told constituents he was going to shake things up in Washington. So far, that’s one campaign promise he’s kept.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Sen. Ted Cruz. At the beginning of the year, almost no one outside Texas (and even many in the Lone Star State) knew who he was, and now everyone has something to say about him.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Make a splash at the outset. Congress is a big, noisy place and it can be hard to distinguish oneself amidst 535 people intent on doing the same. Unlike the more raucous House of Representatives, the Senate is considered a thoughtful and well-mannered chamber, and it’s too early to tell whether Mr. Cruz’s strategy will serve him well. Ultimately, the junior senator from Texas will need to form alliances to get votes to go his way, but so far his PR impact has been substantial enough to make his colleagues realize one thing: ultimately, they will need to court him as much as he needs to court them.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners and Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) TO Oprah Winfrey. First, she beats out the US Anti-Doping Administration, to whom Lance Armstrong should technically be confessing. Second, she gave tantalizingly vague quotes (to BFF Gayle King on The Early Show) about the interview, never quite saying he confessed, never quite saying he didn’t. We all know now that he did; as one pundit put it, “Oprah Winfrey doesn’t get on a plane and fly across the country for nothing.” But she knows better than to give away the candy store. Millions will tune in to watch Lance squirm, thereby giving Oprah’s embattled network OWN a whole new audience, and parent company Discovery breathing space about previously low ratings.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “D” (PR PROBLEMATIC) TO the National Rifle Association. The group suggested in a video that President Barack Obama thinks his own children are “more important” than others because they are protected by the Secret Service. The charge is just plain silly, and reinforces the NRA’s PR image as extremist and out-of-touch. Every modern president has mandatory armed protection and the Obama children are obviously a greater target for ne’er-do-wells than pretty much any other children in the world. With the extreme right already locked up, the NRA should be courting moderate gun-rights supporters – the very demographic likely to be rolling their eyes at the video.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE PR AWARD TO Mark Sanford. Nothing beats a comeback – even a longshot. In 2009, when he was Governor of South Carolina, Sanford told aides he was going hiking for a week and then mysteriously disappeared. Later, it was revealed that Sanford had taken an unauthorized break from his official duties to visit a TV reporter in Buenos Aires with whom he later claimed to be madly in love. The episode guaranteed a messy reputation, a divorce (from one of the few political wives who refused to stand by her man with a benign smile), and an entry in political folklore. Earlier this week, Sanford announced his decision to run for Congress. Really? No, really? We may be underestimating the American voting public when we say there’s nothing to discuss here. Then again, his new campaign will prove entertaining and underline the obvious truth: Scandal is always more interesting than policy. Let the games begin!