Chik-fil-A and Campus Pride’s Peaceful PR

Windmeyer Cathy 150x150 Chik fil A and Campus Prides Peaceful PR

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Shane Windmeyer (pictured, left) of Campus Pride and Dan Cathy of Chik-fil-A.

Shane L. Windmeyer and Dan Cathy may not be household names, but both are well known in their respective arenas: college students recognize Windmeyer as head of Campus Pride, a vocal advocate for the LGBT community, while business execs know Cathy as CEO of fast-food franchise Chik-fil-A. Their relationship – at least, that of their respective organizations – has been an acrimonious one since last summer, when Cathy’s comments regarding same-sex marriage ignited a firestorm of protests and boycotts on both sides of the issue.

Apparently, that relationship has changed. This week, Windmeyer revealed in his Huffington Post blog that the two men have reached a détente of sorts. According to the editorial, Cathy reached out to Windmeyer to better understand his perspective, even as the embers from last summer’s fracas were still smoldering. The phone call begat a series of additional calls, texts, e-mails, and in-person meetings, culminating in Windmeyer attending the Chik-fil-A Bowl as Cathy’s personal guest on New Year’s Eve.

Even more impressively, Cathy provided Windmeyer with internal documents that show the company has ceased financial support of certain groups perceived as hostile to the gay-rights agenda. As a result of the new peace, Windmeyer used his blog to appeal to Chik-fil-A boycotters to reconsider, noting, “In the end, it is not about eating (or eating a certain chicken sandwich). It is about sitting down at a table together and sharing our views as human beings, engaged in real, respectful, civil dialogue.”

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for both parties. In a time when hotheads are the norm, cooler heads are a refreshing change.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Sometimes the best PR strategy is to take the “public” out of “public relations.” In this case, opening up a private dialogue away from the harsh glare of the media spotlight gave both party representatives room to explore and understand the other’s views. In doing so, both secured concessions from the other and opened up a dialogue that continues to create an entirely different outcome. Might Congress want to take note?

Katie Holmes’s Stealth Divorce Bombshell

 Katie Holmess Stealth Divorce Bombshell

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Katie Holmes and her stealth divorce bomb.

TomKat–Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes–are now officially over. Just like that. The surprising announcement that Holmes had started divorce proceedings seemed to catch her actor husband Cruise off guard. The filing was made on Thursday afternoon; the media went crazy on Friday. What happens now?

Speculation has already begun as to the cause of the marriage breakdown. Whispers of Holmes’s resistance to Cruise’s Scientology pals abound, as does the sneaking suspicion that the marriage was, from the start, a five-year contractual understanding. Other media speculate that Cruise’s alleged ambiguous sexuality is the genesis of the crisis, with one New York tabloid sarcastically commenting, “Holmes will keep the house while Cruise keeps the closet.”

Was the split expected? The gossip magazines had not speculated about Cruise’s third marriage in any meaningful way (despite ongoing low-level chatter). Cruise showed up alone at the recent premieres of his latest film Rock of Ages with no significant adverse comment. With the media off guard, the time for Holmes to file was now. At least on the PR front, this was minimally damaging, given the couple’s notoriety.

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for  Katie Holmes, whose divorce strategy is like a precision bomb. Taking the media by surprise means that phase one of the divorce agenda is owned by Homes, hands down.

The PR Takeaway:  Quick precision bombing has its advantages. Making a sudden filing before the weekend, while not making substantive comments keeps the scandal level relatively low. Holmes followed the template of her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s own divorce from second wife Nicole Kidman: no comment, no explanation–the PR exercise equivalent to ripping the band aid off quickly. No one ever really got to the bottom of the Kidman/Cruise divorce in part because it seemed so unexpected. The explanations this time around might be just as elusive.

Will Katie Holmes’s sudden, stealth divorce bomb shatter the media’s speculative attack? Give us your PR Verdict, below.

Hey ! Did you see that the Financial Times (Alphaville) republished our PRV on Barclays? Take a look: http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2012/06/29/1065981/barclays-pr-rating-d/

Did Team Romney Bet On The Right Horse?

ricGrenell 300x165 Did Team Romney Bet On The Right Horse?

The PR Verdict: "A" for Ric Grenell, Romney's short lived foreign policy PR.

Ric Grenell, Mitt Romney’s former foreign policy spokesman (of three weeks), hit the headlines yesterday.  It must have been a tough day for the Romney campaign. The resignation of a major aide is hard enough, but when he resigns after twenty one days, it’s clear trouble is brewing.

Ric Grenell has impeccable Republican credentials.  Serving four US ambassadors to the United Nations as Chief US spokesman, he carried many unpopular PR cans during the Bush presidency.  When Romney appointed him as his foreign policy spokesman it seemed a logical choice.  Then the trouble started.

Romney says Grenell’s sexuality (he is gay) was not an issue but it clearly was for some of Romney’s conservative contributors, as was Grenell’s previous endorsement of gay marriage.  Angered by his appointment, the American Family Association said Grenell’s appointment sent a “drop dead” message to supporters of traditional values.  Romney’s campaign managers asked Grenell to lay low as the protests within the party grew, hoping they would pass.  They didn’t and he resigned citing the “hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues.”

The PR Verdict:  “A” for Ric Grenell who left the campaign on his own terms.  Grenell left as elegantly as he could, thanking Romney for making it clear his sexuality was not an issue.  Clearly this was not the case for other Romney supporters.

PR Takeaway:  Think carefully before picking sides.  The ball is squarely in Romney’s court, now saddled with explaining how the party and its candidate are not captive to polarising social conservatives.  Headlines like this will worry moderate voters who, if the polls are to be believed, are going to make the difference for Romney.  Was this the wisest strategy?

To read more about Ric Grenell click here.

Whats your PR Verdict?

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Goldman Sachs, Marriage Equality and Atypical Advocates

BlankfeinMarriage1 300x205 Goldman Sachs, Marriage Equality and Atypical Advocates

THE PR VERDICT: "B" for HRC and Blankfein

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, surprised everyone yesterday with his decision to become the first national corporate spokesman for same sex marriage. He has teamed up with Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national advocacy organization that promotes LGBT rights.

HRC reasons that their unlikely spokesperson will demonstrate the diversity of Americans rallying around this issue. A neat and clever idea.

The NYTimes gave the news a big splash and HRC issued a video with Blankfein impressively declaring that equality is “good business and is the right thing to do”.  This PR strategy works on all fronts and incidentally helps correct Blankfein’s image as the Gotham villain in the financial crisis.

The PR Verdict: “B” for HRC and Blankfein.  This is an impressive PR strategy that changes the conversation and widens the supporter base from the predictable liberal, creative, establishment.

Blankfein should avoid responding with “no comment” as he gave the NYTimes and share personal thoughts about why he is doing this. “Good for business” is a sensible rallying cry but coming from an industry that has been demonized of late, wider more personal observations will kick this campaign into high gear.

Video below :

Lloyd Blankfein on Marriage Equality – HRC