A Tip for Eastwood’s Next “Empty Chair” Speech:

 A Tip for Eastwoods Next Empty Chair Speech:

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Dirty Harry.

Why did Clint Eastwoood’s puzzling speech to the GOP faithful at the Republican Convention in Tampa, FL, last week get such a resounding thumbs down? Eastwood’s now famous address–talking to an empty chair–did little to capture the public imagination in the right way. It was obviously not the warm-up act Team Romney was hoping for. Was this cold shower one of Dirty Harry’s worst performances?

The reviews were not kind. Eastwood’s failed motivational opener was invariably described as “rambling” by the commentators. Even Ann Romney damned Eastwood with faint praise by saying on morning television that Eastwood did “a unique thing last night.”

Eastwood’s problem was that his speech seemed too much like hard work. Talking to an empty chair, with its overtones of Gestalt therapy, seemed better suited to the analyst’s couch than national television. Above all, the exercise diffused Eastwood’s own anger, which is what was always going to connect with the audience. Despite the botched delivery, he made a case about why he is unhappy with the present administration. It could easily have been the temperature-setter for Romney’s later key speech, but instead Romney had to claw back the audience’s attention and start afresh.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Dirty Harry. Not a bad speech content wise, but why was its delivery so complicated?

The PR Takeaway: Speak from the heart and connect with the audience; any actor knows that. Eastwood’s speech read like an open letter to Obama, and what better way to have delivered it than to stare straight into the camera? Eastwood could have channelled the steeliness of Dirty Harry rather than taking a leaf out of the therapist’s handbook. Connecting with the audience and issuing the President with a series of ultimatums might have made Dirty Harry’s day, as well as Mitt Romney’s.

To see the speech click here.

What’s your opinion of Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” speech? Give us your PR Verdict!

The Romney-Ryan Tango

 The Romney Ryan Tango

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) so far for Paul Ryan.

How do you PR package 42-year-old Paul Ryan for vice president?  And what’s the PR dynamic for his running with Mitt Romney? Father-son? Teacher-pupil? Firebrand-moderate? Or just great pals? This choreography will be more carefully planned than the finals of Dancing With the Stars.

Both political sides are excited by the Ryan announcement. Ryan rouses fiscal conservatives – at last, said the commentators,  a candidate who has built his reputation on fiscal discipline. Democrats, on the other hand, think they have been handed a political gift. “The man who wants to end Medicare” is now their political rallying cry.

A generation younger than his potential boss, Ryan has the charisma and energy to appeal to voters. His positioning is that of the Young Turk brimming with ideas, energy, and conviction. Romney may find himself playing second fiddle to a younger deputy with stronger, more headline-grabbing ideas. Where does that leave Romney: agreeing with Ryan on all matters, or being the more moderate, generational elder? How can the  younger, pushier brand, Ryan, compliment and not overshadow the more seasoned brand of Romney?

The PR Verdict: ”B” (Good Show), so far, for Paul Ryan and his opening salvos. His youth, vigor, and ideological commitment seem to have energized his party. The PR work is now to position both candidates as being not only on the same page but having the same level of firepower and conviction.

The PR Takeaway: Brands need space. Ryan has captured the headlines with some radical views, and his brand is becoming clear. For Romney, his own brand positioning needs to reaffirm who is running the show – a public tango where Romney needs to be seen in the lead at all times. Romney’s faux pas on the day of the announcement, when he introduced Ryan as the “next President of the United States,” could be a portent of a potential PR problem. Romney, for the sake of his own candidacy, needs to make sure that he is seen as being in charge of the ideology, as well as the campaign.

Is Paul Ryan a wise or radical choice for Romney? Give us your PR Verdict!

Guest Column: Canadian Political Party Smackdown!

598e8a954113bbd41d651c0b7a2f 300x214 Guest Column: Canadian Political Party Smackdown!

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the NDP.

Canadians are used to conservative party political attack ads, even when there isn’t an imminent election. Since 2007, the norm has been for the ad to run and the Liberal Party not to respond. The Liberals lost the last two elections. Apparently, Canada’s new Opposition Party, the ultra-left NDP, has had enough.

Some history: The old ads from the party of the Canadian Prime Minster, Stephen Harper, suggested that the Liberal Leader of the Opposition was “not a leader”; the Liberals sat on their hands, and Leader Stephane Dion was subsequently trounced in the next election. The Liberals then got a new Leader, Michael Ignatieff, a Harvard professor and frequent expat. Harper painted Ignatieff as a crass opportunist who “didn’t come back [to Canada] for you.” Ignatieff also chose not to respond and promptly led his party to the biggest defeat in Liberal history.

Canada got a new Opposition Party with the NDP. Harper started attack ads on the new Leader of the NDP, admonishing the Party with the innuendo, “This is the best you can do?” This time, the NDP shot back with an ad accusing Harper of attacking the most vulnerable Canadians during the recession. Even without an election in the offing, the ads say that current policies aren’t working and that Canadians will have to pay the price. The war is on–but who will win?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the NDP. While necessary to respond to the attack ads, the NDP policy wonks obviously won the day by attacking policies, not personalities. 

The PR Takeaway: Politics is about popularity, rarely policy. The Prime Minister’s attack ads are directed at the subject’s image and reputation; these attributes take years to build, but only 30 seconds to undermine. The NDP took the moral high ground by talking about policies, which Canadians find tough but pragmatic in a recession. Leading up to the next election, the Prime Minister can backtrack, soften, or amend these policies to diffuse the NDP’s salvos. More likely than not, the NDP will find it harder to fight the PM’s more personal attack campaign. Hitting back with policy is a hard sell. 

Is the NDP attack tactic effective, or should they have stayed out of the muck altogether? What’s your PR Verdict?