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

giffordsjump The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who marked the third anniversary of the mass shooting that killed six of her constituents and left her in critical condition, with a different kind of death-defying, life-affirming act. Last Wednesday, Giffords, now heading a national gun control group with her husband, Mark Kelly, while continuing to inspire all with her painstaking, courageous rehabilitation from her injuries, paired up with a Navy SEAL for a tandem skydive over the Arizona desert. Giffords, whose injuries left her with sharply impaired speech, told an interviewer the stunt could speak for her. And what was the message? “I’m alive,” she said.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who’s trying to speed away from a PR disaster. After months of denying allegations that his office intentionally caused traffic jams in a town whose mayor didn’t endorse Christie, emails surfaced this week suggesting members of the governor’s inner circle did just that. In an emergency press conference, Christie fired one staffer, distanced himself from another and described himself as blindsided and humiliated. But the PR damage to the potential presidential hopeful is done: Either he knew about the antics and lied about them, or he didn’t know but is incompetent and obtuse enough to surround himself with vindictive bullies. The question for Christie is whether this PR stain will wash out by 2016.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Dennis Rodman, former NBA basketball star, now self-appointed envoy to North Korea. As shown in the basketball game organized by Rodman, his skills on the court still far outweigh those of the ambassador he fancies himself as being. On this latest visit, Rodman insinuated that Kenneth Bae, a political prisoner held by North Korea since 2012, did something to deserve his sentence of 15 years of hard labor. Rodman’s empty apology, made via his publicist, was that he’d been drinking – something that, were he not Kim Jong Un’s bestie, might have landed him in a position to apologize to Bae directly.

The Worm Turns…Into a Diplomat?

 The Worm Turns...Into a Diplomat?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Dennis Rodman (pictured with Kim Jong Un).

Dennis Rodman has always been a maverick. And while few thought they’d seen the last of him when he retired from professional basketball, even fewer could have predicted that the ostentatious athlete would be making headlines for his  attempts at international “diplomacy” nearly 15 years later.

On the court, Rodman was known as “The Worm” and played an aggressive defense for several top-ranked US teams. Off the court, he was equally well known for his multi-hued hair, wild tattoos, and laundry list of wives and legal woes. After stints in acting and professional wrestling, the now 52-year-old Rodman has a new career: unofficial ambassador to North Korea and its young dictator Kim Jong Un, or – as Rodman put it this week – his “friend for life.”

Returning from a  second trip to see Kim, Rodman held a press conference this week to dutifully convey Kim’s message to the world: Hey, North Korea isn’t so bad! Kim, Rodman insisted, is “a very good guy,” and, really, just wants to talk. One presumes Rodman’s state-managed tours of the North Korean countryside did not include the millions believed starving and living in forced poverty, or the gulags where multiple generations of a family are imprisoned for a single relative’s transgression.

While a few naïve hopefuls continue to view Rodman’s visits as positive, the growing feeling is this “basketball diplomacy” is at best entertaining and at worst embarrassing. As one late-night comedian put it, “Not since Sea Biscuit and Hitler has there been a more strange pairing of athlete and dictator.”

THE PR VERDICT:  “D” (PR Problematic) for Dennis Rodman. US Secretary of State John Kerry need not fear for his position.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  There is a fine line between outrageous and oafish. Rodman’s antics have always pushed the envelope, and he has been rewarded with lots of attention. But there is something pathetic about this latest publicity grab: Rodman appears less a savvy envoy and more an aging ex-basketball player mesmerized by a young despot who flatters him and makes him feel important. “I’m not a joke,” Rodman insisted at the press conference, sitting next to a bust of his own head. “Take me seriously.” If only it were that easy, Dennis.