Former US VP Cheney Opens Up in “Heart”

 Former US VP Cheney Opens Up in Heart

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to former US Vice President Dick Cheney.

How do you revamp the image of someone accused of being heartless? Show that he has a heart – literally. Former US Vice President Dick Cheney’s new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, was published this week. Cheney, who served for eight years under President George W. Bush, kicked off the media on CBS’ 60 Minutes and continued on to the major morning shows.

Cheney is something of a cardiac miracle: he’s suffered five heart attacks and has had surgery to place stents, a pacemaker, and a pump. Finally, in 2012, he had a heart transplant.He waited 20 months for a new heart, nearly double the waiting time of most transplant recipients. No special treatment there.

The book has also provides interesting tidbits about Cheney’s tenure in the Bush White House. For one, his health history prompted him to sign a resignation letter in advance should he ever be alive but incapacitated. His cardiologist also had Cheney’s pacemaker altered so it couldn’t be hacked by a would-be assassin.

But the book serves another purpose. In the twilight of their lives, politicians have been known to contemplate their legacies. Heart shows that the now 72-year-old Cheney, whose nicknames include Darth Cheney and the Dark Lord, is, indeed, human – flesh and blood, just like the rest of us. At least, that’s what the book says.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to former US Vice President Dick Cheney. Nobody wants to go into that good night known as Dr. Evil.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: (Almost) no one is beyond redemption. When public figures open up about personal struggles or admit to fears, it can often blur the edges of a sharp character or reputation. Perhaps it’s through a memoir (safe but labor intensive) or on Oprah’s couch (riskier, but with a wider audience). In that sense, Cheney is lucky: His bad ticker has given him rich material to mine for such an effort. But can one book soften so many years of harsh criticism? That’s a tall order, and not one for the faint of heart.

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 the Respect for Marriage Coalition. In PR, nothing succeeds like the element of surprise. The ambiguously named Respect for Marriage Coalition pulled the proverbial rabbit out of its hat this week with the launch of a million dollar advertising campaign aimed at promoting the legalization of gay marriage. Obama’s inauguration comments are inevitably featured, but the TV advertisements and full page ads in the New York Times, Washington Post  and Wall Street Journal contain a far bigger surprise: Dick Cheney, Laura Bush, and Colin Powel relaying the message “Freedom means freedom for everyone.” The sound bite has already reverberated around the web world. An unlikely PR coup that nobody saw coming.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO Joe Biden. The vice president is known for what admirers say is a no-nonsense way of talking and detractors call regular meals of shoe leather. Earlier this week, during a Facebook “town hall” meeting with Parents Magazine on gun control, Biden advised a participant who was concerned about protection. His advice? “Buy a shotgun,”  He meant that shotguns are better than assault-style weapons, and, in typical Biden style, he related a homespun personal story – in this case, telling his wife that if intruders were afoot, two shotgun blasts would scare them off. Mr. Vice President, this was a town hall meeting about gun control for Parents Magazine readers, not Garden & Gun subscribers. Sigh.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Lance Armstrong. After finally agreeing to come clean to authorities about doping his way to seven Tour de France wins, Armstrong announced he would testify – but only to an international tribunal. What’s the problem? No such tribunal exists. Nor, it seems, does any pure intention on Armstrong’s part to tell the truth. It’s become clear that teasing about testifying is only to get the US Anti-Doping Administration to lift the lifetime ban on Armstrong competing in professional sports. If he testifies, they may lift the ban; however, he’ll also face civil and criminal suits and charges. For the moment, the only way he can get through this now-galling fall from grace is to abandon thought of competition. That might lead to a different strategy, but at the very least it will keep him from appearing in this category again.

What Did Obama Say That Was Offensive and Callous?

obamagay marraige21 What Did Obama Say That Was Offensive and Callous?

The PR Verdict: “D” for both organizations and their PR strategy on Obama’s announcement.

“Offensive and callous” were the surprising words used yesterday by the gay Republican organization, Log Cabin Republicans, to describe President Obama’s headline comments endorsing gay marriage.  Distinctly underwhelmed by Obama’s change of heart, the organization immediately issued a statement claiming the President “does not deserve praise for an announcement that comes a day late and a dollar short.”   Their reasoning?  His comments followed North Carolina’s approval of an amendment to the state Constitution banning gay marriage.   People were “mourning” the passing of the amendment and Obama’s timing they said, smacked of cynicism.

These sentiments were then reinforced by a similar organization, GOProud, which said, “This is hardly a profile in courage by President Obama.”  Wanting to score a PR point, the statement went on to declare triumphantly that “President Obama has finally come around to the Dick Cheney position on marriage equality.”   Meanwhile, GOP candidate Mitt Romney was not mentioned in either statement and nor was the party’s current policy position.

This was an odd and mistaken PR strategy.  Why make PR mileage on a day which most campaigning peers would consider a step forward?

The PR Verdict: “D” for both organizations and their PR strategy on Obama’s big announcement.   While having previously characterized this issue as one of personal choice,  both organizations batted the issue straight back into the world of partisan politics.

PR Takeaway:  Fighting back at every  PR turn can quickly sound stale.  Both responses belittled progress on an issue that each organization has been fighting for.  Why not welcome the change and then, in the coming days, prod the President as to what he intends to do with his new found view? A clear case of misguided strategy and wrong timing.

What’s your PR Verdict?