Why Mayor’s Drug Denial Won’t Crack Interest

 Why Mayors Drug Denial Wont Crack Interest

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Toronto, Canada Mayor Rob Ford.

Exciting times! This past Friday, Rob Ford, the Mayor of Toronto, issued a statement to the media denying that he is a crack addict. “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” he said in a surprisingly terse statement to the media. Only this, after a week full of allegations and speculation concerning a video that allegedly shows Ford smoking crack and dissing his political opponents. A busy time for the Mayor’s press office, to be sure.

The Toronto Star and Gawker.com both claimed to have seen the video and confirmed that the star of the show was none other than Mayor Ford. The video, which no one else has seen, was being hawked by drug dealers for $200,000. Gawker promptly started a fundraising drive amongst readers and raised close to $180,000 (a sure sign that the recession is over). Alas, the dealers have vanished. Drug dealers not good to their word? What is this world coming to…

Meanwhile, Friday’s denial from Ford, however robust, failed to put the story to rest. The weekend media was full of more lurid, detailed allegations. His Honor repeated on a radio show – his brother’s – that this alleged video doesn’t exist, unwittingly adding that the media are a “bunch of  maggots.” That comment wasn’t likely to dim the spotlight on this story.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Mayor Rob Ford. This story is now officially out of control.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Deny, yes – and then follow up with an action plan. Why the Mayor of Toronto took over a week to respond to wildly circulating rumors remains unclear, but by the time he said something, simply denying he uses crack was not enough. The missing ingredients: an additional statement about being genuinely bewildered as to how this story has come about. Expressing astonishment that reputable news organizations are willing to pay acknowledged drug dealers for an unverified video. And confirmation that he intended to refer the matter to the police. Without these important components to a successful deflection,  Toronto’s citizens will inevitably stay tuned.

The Boss Bares All

 The Boss Bares All

The PR Verdict: “B” (Almost a Winner) for Bruce Springsteen and his decision to talk to the New Yorker.

Is there something we didn’t know about Bruce Springsteen? Apparently so. Pre-publicity for the next issue of the New Yorker is generating headlines with a massive 16,000-word profile that lets readers into The Boss’s darkest secret: He has been battling depression for years.

Springsteen made the personal revelations during the weeks he was being interviewed and trailed by journalist David Remnick, the author of the profile. Advance PR tells us that Springsteen will come across to readers as a thoughtful and considerate soul with a high level of self-awareness and introspection. And, one could say, well-versed in the language of therapy.

The multi-platinum musician has been seeing a therapist since 1982. Remnick says that Springsteen avoided drugs due to the “thread of mental instability that ran through his family,” including Springsteen’s father, who battled “paralyzing depressions.” Additionally, Springsteen’s wife Patti Scialfa confirms in the article that she is bipolar. Such revelations might have been sensationalized in the hands of a lesser publication, but this elegant, straightforward bastion of publishing was the right choice to discuss an intensely personal story.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Almost a Winner) for Bruce Springsteen and his decision to talk to the New Yorker: a sensible place to discuss a wider social issue.

The PR Takeaway: Where you say something matters as much as what you say. Top marks to Springsteen for choosing the New Yorker to air an intensely personal issue. This might have gotten big airplay on E! Entertainment News and celebrity publications, but if Springsteen wanted to make some wider nuanced points, this was the way to go.

To read more, click here.

What’s your opinion of Bruce Springsteen’s decision to reveal this intensely personal information? Give us your PR Verdict!


Better Damage Control for Bryson?

 Better Damage Control for Bryson?By anyone’s standards, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson has had a difficult past few days. News reports have been filled with tales of the senior government official rear-ending a car, driving away, and then crashing into a second car before police found him alone and unconscious in the Los Angeles suburbs.  What happened? Is there a scandal to be uncovered?

Having apparently suffered a seizure in his car while driving alone, he hit the headlines after being cited for felony hit-and-run. Instead of being booked in jail, he was taken to an area hospital for medical attention. That’s when the media went from excited to very excited.

The first thing his PR pointed out was that “Secretary Bryson was involved in a traffic accident” and that he suffered a “seizure.” While the official police comment was “The investigation is in its preliminary stages,” Bryson’s spokesperson quickly said that drugs and alcohol did not appear to have been a factor in the two alleged hit-and-run crashes.” So far, so good PR–but how else could the volume and excitement be turned down on this story?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the PR handling of Bryson’s car accident. A clear and straightforward approach efficiently done. We’re withholding a top grade as one crucial element was missing…

PR Takeaway: Adding non-official voices to any incident softens the story. The problem with the PR response so far is that it remains in the realm of a police investigation. Take the story in another direction: Have a statement issued by his four daughters. The family is rallying around their father whose recovery is now the number one priority. Reiterate collective relief that no one was hurt and use a term other than “ investigation.” Far better to confirm Bryson is assisting with inquires and focusing on rest and a quick recuperation. Thanks for your kindness and understanding, case closed.

To read more click here.



Mr Brand? Will That Be All?

Russellbrand Mr Brand? Will That Be All?

The PR Verdict: “B” for Russell Brand and his well-structured testimony.

There was something surreal about the testimony of comedian Russell Brand to the British Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee yesterday on drug abuse.  Was it is his sleeveless black shirt, the wild man beard, the crazy hair or the multiple rings and chains?  Was this Russell’s Sunday best?

Appearances aside, he made his points clearly.  The dozen-times arrestee said substance abusers should get treatment and not be sent to prison.  He spoke with passion and conviction about a topic he has been public about many times.  His key message?   Drug abuse is a public health issue not a criminal issue.

From a PR point of view he was clear about what he wanted to comment on and what he didn’t.  He batted back various questions including the legalization of drugs and other wider social issues claiming he was not “particularly qualified” to make that call.   But then he didn’t stop talking…Enough Russell !  And please sit still!

The PR Verdict: “B” for Russell Brand and his well-structured testimony.  This might have been an “A” but if only he would STOP talking. Sometimes enough really is more than enough.

PR Takeaway:  Make your points and watch them land.  Wait for a response and say nothing.  Brand’s testimony gave some unintentionally good pointers as to how to handle a media interview.  Style of delivery is just as important as content and Brand fluctuated between skittish and grounded, overexcited and solemn.  In the future stay confined to short bullet point paragraphs and make it clear when finished.  No need to fill in the blanks.  Just wait for the next question.  And why NOT tuck your shirt in?

To see very brief excerpt click here and to see a longer excerpt click here.

What’s your verdict on Russell’s testimony?

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