Client 9 Seeks 2nd Chance

 Client 9 Seeks 2nd Chance

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Eliot Spitzer.

In his heyday, former New York State Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer crusaded for strict regulations on Wall Street, incurring the wrath of the rich and powerful while fighting the good fight for the little guy. By night, he was known as Client 9 to the madam who supplied him with prostitutes. Not an isolated incident, nothing that could be put down to not knowing better. The word hubris replaced talk of a future in the White House.

Ah, but look at the shelf life of political shenanigans, and we may see why Spitzer is taking another shot in politics, announcing his run for Comptroller of New York. After all, Bill Clinton was reviled during the Monica Lewinsky episode, and now he’s an elder statesman that current president Barack Obama couldn’t wait to have in his corner. Another politician testing the waters for Spitz is Anthony Weiner, who waited not terribly long after his naughty-texting downfall to climb into the race for mayor of New York City. Was anyone terribly surprised that he quickly rose in the polls? Perhaps not.

The public has a short memory, or perhaps a shorter tolerance for politicians in general these days. Those whose transgressions err on the side of the personal, rather than keeping the little guy down and out, tend to be forgiven. The odds seem good that Joe Public will give Client 9 another shot.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Eliot Spitzer. Penance done, he stands a good chance of being re-elected.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: After you’ve done wrong, do the right things. Step 1: apologize. Step 2: gracefully resign from your post (hopefully with your still-supportive wife by your side). Step 3: Lay low for a while, giving other politicians a chance to grab the negative headlines. Step 4: begin reinvention and let the search engines associate you with something else apart from scandal. (In Spitzer’s case, this meant a a stint as a TV pundit.) Step 5: Let others go before you to test the waters. And finally, Step 6: return to the job you were good at, pledging to reward forgiveness. Voila! Happy days are here again.

Total Arnold

 Total Arnold

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This week, Arnold Schwarzenegger began promoting his book, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. Schwarzenegger’s life is nearly unbelievable – he was a champion body builder who became the highest paid actor in Hollywood despite a heavyweight German accent and a nearly unpronounceable name. He then married a member of the Kennedy family and become governor of California. And the focal point of all his latest interviews? His affair with the housekeeper.

Surely Schwarzenegger didn’t want to include the chapter detailing his affair with housekeeper Mildred Baena, yet on some level he must have known this was the double-edged sword of PR: talk about the thing you don’t want to talk about, or no one will buy your book. In interviews, Schwarzenegger shows contrition, albeit insensitively, referring to the affair with Baena as “my screw-up” and “a disaster.” Arnie, it seems, is untroubled by how this might affect the result of this affair: his youngest son, Joseph. And it’s hard to tell whether he’s sorry for what he did to wife Maria Shriver, or sorry he got caught.

Schwarzenegger follows Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, and many others whose works and lives became defined by a single act: that of schtupping the maid, or the prostitute, or sexting the intern. Only Bill Clinton moved beyond Monica, though his career remains tarnished by the scarlet letter.  Yet what do we really expect from The Governator? Nothing other than what he’s giving, and gives well: He doesn’t care what you think about him, only that you think about him.

The PR Verdict: B (Good Show) for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The grade is based not on character but for his handling of the media and for canny self-promotion via contrition.

The PR Takeaway: Scandal always outlasts notable works. Whatever leads those in positions of power towards the scandalous is for the Psychiatrist’s Verdict. But for our purposes, as Arnie clearly shows, the public relations prescription is to own up; apologize with sincerity; pour barbecue sauce on yourself in preparation of being grilled by the media; and get back to the business of doing whatever good works were interrupted by your poor judgment. Finally, get on with counting the royalties, while remaining contrite at all times.

What do you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s media profile? Give us your PR Verdict!