Martha Stewart and Match.Com: Is It Love?

 Martha Stewart and Match.Com: Is It Love?

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Match.com.

You must have heard about it by now – after all, Saturday Night Live has already done a skit on it – but in case you haven’t, Martha Stewart, domestic diva-turned-entrepreneur, is turning to the Internet in the hopes of finding true love. Ms. Stewart has joined millions of other singles by posting a profile on dating website Match.com. She shared this tidbit last week in a candid conversation about her love life with NBC Today show host and longtime friend Matt Lauer.

What you may not have heard in the rush-to-coverage that followed, however, was much of a response from Match.com. At first blush, this seems a bit odd. After all, having one of the world’s most successful and recognizable businesswomen touting your product on national television is a dream come true. Indeed, the PR team over at Match must still be reeling from such unexpected good fortune.

Or are they? Matchmaking is a tricky business – even more so when your new unofficial spokeswoman is a global celebrity whose happiness depends on your company coming up with the goods. Sam Yagan, the CEO at Match.com, agreeably appeared on an episode of Today to help Ms. Stewart write and post her profile, but other that the Match.com response has been very low-key: no press releases, interviews, or big social media blitz. This is the right approach: Save the champagne for the engagement party.

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) for Match.com. By staying out of the media limelight now, Match leaves itself room to take credit if Martha does find Mr. Right, as well as to graciously split with her if she doesn’t, without taking an unnecessary PR hit.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When it comes to PR, it’s the marriage that should be celebrated, not the courtship. Dating is an uncertain phase;  success is far from certain, whether in love or in business. The big PR push should come when quantifiable results are produced and stand the test of time. Until then, it’s just another concept that, like new love, could go south in a heartbeat.

Wall Street Journal’s Cowardly Response

 Wall Street Journals Cowardly Response

The PR Verdict: "D" for the Wall Street Journal.

Is that as racy as love letters get?  E-mail correspondence between Brett McGurk, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and his then-paramour Gina Chon, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has members of Congress very excited. For the rest of us it’s hard to see what the fuss is about.

The e-mails, dating from 2008, were posted anonymously this week on Flickr–bad timing for McGurk, a top adviser on Iraq who is currently going though congressional approval for the job of US ambassador. Congressional members are concerned that while McGurk was working on tough negotiations with Iraqis, his future wife Chon covered the talks for the WSJ. Could he have leaked to her classified information?  If so, they’ll have to try to stay awake while reviewing e-mails such as McGurk’s “I had a very good day with the Iraqis–the best yet. Can’t tell you about it of course. But you should definitely stay past Sunday.” Chon’s reply: “Stop being such a tease!”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland breezily washed her hands of the issue, telling CNN, “I’m not going to get into e-mails between Mr. McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife.” The WSJ had a more cowardly reply to CNN,  “We are looking into the matter.”

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Wall Street Journal who could have tried harder to defend its journalist. If the State Department can sound annoyed, why can’t the WSJ?

PR Takeaway: Where’s the beef? The WSJ might have tried publicly shifting the burden of proof onto the accusers: “Which article does the committee think contains leaked information? We would be happy to look into the matter.”  Then sit back and wait for the response.  And while we are there, how about privately suggesting to members of Congress that they stop calling the emails racy? In this day of Fifty Shades of Grey, they’re hardly blush-inducing.

To read the racy letters and for more background click here.