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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Valérie Trierweller, the French first lady who staged a PR coup by checking herself into hospital after a magazine revealed that French President François Hollande has been having an affair with actress Julie Gayet. The media reported that Trierweller is so weak she cannot stand and is suffering from “low morale.” Despite being so indisposed, she’s made it clear she has no intention of leaving her philandering companion. Might Hollande have used this opportunity to declare his allegiance to Gayet? We’ll never know, since Trierweller’s canny move ensures she is the sympathetic figure in this love triangle. Hollande is left to send chocolates and flowers, while Gayet has launched a lawsuit. Touché, madame.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Hillary Clinton. A bipartisan Senate report on the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi found that the incident, which left four Americans dead, was preventable. Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time, was not the only one blamed, but the findings are grave and cast a pall on talk of her possible bid for president in 2016.

randikaye The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO CNN’s Randi Kaye, who braved the confines of a pot smoke-filled stretch limo apparently for hours as part of her network’s coverage of Colorado’s newly-legalized marijuana industry – and appeared on camera visibly stoned as a result. Wrapping up her report on Anderson Cooper’s evening segment on Tuesday, Kaye giggled a lot and told the host that she’d had trouble remembering all the questions she wanted to ask during her reporting. Cooper asked but didn’t quite get the answer on whether Kaye’s Rocky Mountain high was passively or actively acquired. Pro tip for next time? Roll down a window.

Vogue Fashions a (Too) Perfect First Family

 Vogue Fashions a (Too) Perfect First Family

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Vogue’s cover feature on the First Family. (Pictured: First Lady Michelle and President Barack Obama.)

Can planned PR be too effective? That might be the inevitable question when reading the latest edition of American Vogue, featuring First Lady Michelle Obama on the cover.  Photographed elegantly by Annie Liebowitz, the magazine offers an interview with the Obamas at home in the White House, with a particular focus on the First Lady’s views on raising a family. To the Obamas’ supporters, it’s inspiring; to the cynical, it makes for decidedly unedifying reading.

In the article, America’s First Couple talk about “their life as parents, their marriage, and their vision for America’s families.” This is an article that details the rigors of running a household just like any other and the stresses a demanding job can have on any parent. While most working couples find it hard to have an evening meal with their children, Mrs. Obama tells Vogue that the President is home by 6:30 pm to have dinner with her and their two daughters.

The article goes on to emphasize the importance of family, grandparents, and discipline, and the Obamas talk in a good-natured way about coming to terms with technology that teenagers understand as second nature. The PR sound-bite that sums up the article?  This is not the First Family, but rather the “Family First Family.”

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK ) for the Obamas and their Vogue profile. The ring of authenticity may have sounded a bit tinny coming from this very Obama-friendly publication.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Authenticity gives credibility. This article has all the hallmarks of being quote checked, pre-approved, and negotiated every step of the way. (Important to mention: Vogue editor Anna Wintour raised funds for the Obama campaign and was rumored to be in the running for an ambassadorship.) The result? Some of it just doesn’t ring comfortably true. Though the Obamas may be, in some respects, like ordinary Americans, the magazine’s description of the family sitting down to dinner together seems almost perfectly scripted. The end result is that the reader feels vaguely manipulated. Next time, opt for telling a less 1950’s version of suburban family bliss and opt for something more modern. Sometimes it’s better if PR gets out of its own way.

To read the article, click here.

The Michelle Obama of China?

 The Michelle Obama of China?

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Peng Liyuan, China’s new First Lady.

Ever heard of Peng Liyuan? Watch out, she may soon become a household name. In a stark departure from regimes past, incoming Chinese President Xi Jinping is carving out an important role for his wife Peng Liyuan. Is she the new PR weapon for China?

China’s First Lady, Ms. Peng will have her own speaking engagement at an upcoming conference for the economic powerhouse nations of the new century.  The countries commonly known as BRICS include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Held in South Africa at the end of March, it’s an important venue for the new president and the promotion of Ms. Peng is a shrewd move.

A folk singer known for her passionate renditions of patriotic songs, Ms. Peng is far better known than her husband Mr. Xi, until his relatively recent political ascent. She is glamorous, reportedly a warm personality, and has already demonstrated her “issues-ability” in her role as Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization on HIV and tuberculosis. With this pedigree and the support of her husband, will she stand alongside Michelle Obama, Jackie Kennedy, and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy as one of the world’s most significant First Ladies?

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Peng Liyuan. She represents the “softer side” of China, a side that the world is curious to glimpse.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Charm charms. Even totalitarian states understand that in the age of smartphones and Twitter, they need to do more than issue propagandized press releases. Somehow they need to be likeable.  By giving his wife a profile, China’s new strongman is softening his own image and ultimately that of his country. In addition to giving his wife a PR platform, he has been recently quoted by the media joking with U.S. schoolchildren and kicking a football in Ireland. In old China, these media opportunities would not have happened, much less been publicized. This new president and his wife are already laying the groundwork for a PR charm offensive. Stay tuned.

How Can Monica Get Past The Little Blue Dress?

monicalewinsky How Can Monica Get Past The Little Blue Dress?

The PR Verdict: "C" for Monica and her PR reinvention so far.

Monica Lewinsky’s reputation seems to have been frozen in time.  Caught in a sensational political triangle 14 years ago, she still retains the ability to polarize.

PBS’s forthcoming four-hour documentary on the Clinton Presidency is airing this week and according to reviews it focuses minimally on the substantive issues of Clinton’s administration.  Instead of financial deregulation, brewing Islamic fundamentalism and failed health care reform, on centre stage sits Monica and the little blue dress.

Over the years, Hilary Clinton has transformed her reputation as the vilified First Lady into an exemplary Secretary of State. Husband Bill has morphed into the elder statesman. But Monica remains trapped by her PR image as the voluptuous intern who led a President astray.

The PR Verdict: “C” for Monica and her failed reinvention so far. The PBS documentary opens up ample PR opportunities for an image rehabilitation that has her being far more than her current handbag line and NYC partying.

Monica Lewinsky in her previous interviews has complained the past is always following her.  Follow-up from the documentary might be her best chance to make the break. Cultivate a new look and turn a new page. Next, form alliances with well-known and influential female editors who will convey gravitas by association and be eager to show off the new you. Palling around with Tina Brown and Arianna Huffington might be a good place to start.

To read about the PBS documentary click here. To read a New York Magazine profile on Monica click here.