Saying Almost Nothing Can Be Everything

3c0bfc70047cd9211fdfddb22528f6d3 300x2251 150x150 Saying Almost Nothing Can Be Everything

PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Terri Lynn Land.

Turning the tables on one’s opponent can also work in PR. That’s what Republican US Senate hopeful Terri Lynn Land of Michigan has done with her first campaign ad, a 30-second spot entitled “Really? that  pokes fun at her rival, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters.

Peters asserts that Land, a former secretary of state in Michigan, is part of a “war on women.” It’s an accusation in the vein of that old leading question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Say “yes” and you cop to the transgression, but saying “no” implies it’s still going on — and trying to explain yourself just keeps the issue alive. In her ad, Land appears on screen and says Peters “want[s] you to believe I’m waging a war on women. Really? Think about that for a moment.” As campy music starts up, Land sips her coffee, shakes her head and checks her watch before the ad concludes with an overtone of her saying “I’m Terri Lynn Land and I approve this message because, as a woman, I might know a little more about women than Gary Peters.”

Simple and amusing, the ad hit its mark. “It seems to work,” The Daily Caller says. “It’s tough, but also fun.” The clever commercial also caught the attention of the big media guns like Time magazine, The Washington Post and National Public Radio. Talk about bang for your ad-buying buck.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Terri Lynn Land, a relative unknown whose ad put her on the national radar.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: It takes two to tango. When a damaging accusation is made, take a deep breath and try to figure out how to bat it down without directly engaging. Land’s execution was flawless. The gauntlet was thrown so she had to act, but she did so in a mocking way that makes her look smart and her opponent look aggressive and silly. It’s also a nice departure from the relentlessly negative political ads that permeate the airwaves. For Land, saying almost nothing said everything.

GOP: OK With Sequester, or Not?

 GOP: OK With Sequester, or Not?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” for the GOP and Republicans for their post sequester messaging.

What, no triumphant headlines or gloating from the GOP? Has it suddenly discovered a new level of modesty? Days after the sequester debate has reached the end of its life cycle, the GOP and Republican politicians seem remarkably low key about their latest political triumph. Puzzling, to say the least.

From the get go, President Obama has been clear: He hated the sequester. A bad and clumsy mechanism to reduce spending that would only hurt middle and low-income earners. Bad for the economy, bad for the recovery. In PR terms, his case was an easy read.

Republicans, on the other hand, made it clear that spending needed to be reined in. This showdown was going to highlight their resolve to cut spending and bring the deficit back in line. But since then, the triumphant tone in Republican communication has been increasingly limp and muddled. House Speaker John Boehner said, “I didn’t like it anymore than anybody else liked it,” while other Congressional peers including Jim Jordan said: “The sequester should happen… That is good.” Sen. Lindsey Graham told the media, “The cumulative effect of sequestration is bad for defense.” So, is the GOP  happy with the cuts or not? What is the official party line – or is there one?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” for the GOP and Republicans for their post sequester messaging. Confusing at best.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Don’t air your doubt in public. Just weeks ago, GOP messaging was clear: Government spending was out of hand, and the American electorate had handed them a mandate to rein it in. Now that the cuts are in place, the PR messaging is confused and contradictory, playing straight into concerns that the cuts are iron-fisted and potentially damaging to the fragile recovery. What changed in the space of a couple of weeks? Now is the time for the GOP  to revisit and unify its messaging. Public displays of ambivalence in moments like this rarely offers any protection against public reactions of hostility. Without a change, the GOP and Republican Congress is unintentionally poised to take the blame for a later slow-down. Of course, if that was their intention, well, mission accomplished.


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 Lady Gaga.  Though we had ranked her earlier this week, Lady Gaga has not stopped topping the list of trending stories right across the web.  While the world may be holding a global UN summit in New York, Gaga turned a 25-lb. weight gain into a point of pride – and a brilliant PR maneuver.  The coverage keeps on being generated following the launch of her Body Revolution, a forum urging acceptance for less than perfect physiques. A media masterstroke that has put more serious global issues in the shade.


 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: F (Full Fiasco) for Team Romney. The latest Gallup Poll shows Mitt Romney trailing behind Barack Obama by six points. It’s not hard to guess that the number 47 figured into that percentage somehow. With just over a month until Election Day, Team Romney must come up with a serious plan to halt this free-fall. The announcement of a genuinely new and unexpected economic plan might just reset the debate. Something fresh and unexpected is needed. Any suggestions?



 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV AWARD FOR BRAND CONSISTENCY: Samuel L. Jackson for his “Wake the F*ck Up” political bedtime story. The actor, so well known for his expletive-laced lines in films and real life that he’s usually called “Samuel Motherf*ckin’ Jackson,”  cuts through indistinct attack ads with a punchy pro-Obama rant. In rhyme!  While it may not encourage anyone to change their vote on the big day, Jackson has successfully reinforced his own brand without talking about himself  – the secret to all successful PR.

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!

What Did Obama Say That Was Offensive and Callous?

obamagay marraige21 What Did Obama Say That Was Offensive and Callous?

The PR Verdict: “D” for both organizations and their PR strategy on Obama’s announcement.

“Offensive and callous” were the surprising words used yesterday by the gay Republican organization, Log Cabin Republicans, to describe President Obama’s headline comments endorsing gay marriage.  Distinctly underwhelmed by Obama’s change of heart, the organization immediately issued a statement claiming the President “does not deserve praise for an announcement that comes a day late and a dollar short.”   Their reasoning?  His comments followed North Carolina’s approval of an amendment to the state Constitution banning gay marriage.   People were “mourning” the passing of the amendment and Obama’s timing they said, smacked of cynicism.

These sentiments were then reinforced by a similar organization, GOProud, which said, “This is hardly a profile in courage by President Obama.”  Wanting to score a PR point, the statement went on to declare triumphantly that “President Obama has finally come around to the Dick Cheney position on marriage equality.”   Meanwhile, GOP candidate Mitt Romney was not mentioned in either statement and nor was the party’s current policy position.

This was an odd and mistaken PR strategy.  Why make PR mileage on a day which most campaigning peers would consider a step forward?

The PR Verdict: “D” for both organizations and their PR strategy on Obama’s big announcement.   While having previously characterized this issue as one of personal choice,  both organizations batted the issue straight back into the world of partisan politics.

PR Takeaway:  Fighting back at every  PR turn can quickly sound stale.  Both responses belittled progress on an issue that each organization has been fighting for.  Why not welcome the change and then, in the coming days, prod the President as to what he intends to do with his new found view? A clear case of misguided strategy and wrong timing.

What’s your PR Verdict?


Newt Gingrich and the Eye of the Tiger

rockygingrich Newt Gingrich and the Eye of the Tiger

PR VERDICT: "F" for Gingrich




The copyright owner of the song Eye of the Tiger filed a lawsuit against  Newt Gingrich, GOP candidate yesterday. The filing demands Gingrich stop using the song at public appearances.

The lawsuit lists previous appearances and promotional videos where Gingrich has allegedly used the song without permission since 2009.

The filing points out that Gingrich is well aware of copyright laws, given that he owns a production company that sells his written work, documentaries and audio books.  Furthermore the filing quotes Gingrich in a debate about online piracy as saying, “If a company finds it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue.”

The PR VERDICT : “F”  for Newt and his campaign.

For a candidate who is routinely characterized by opposing Republicans as careless, impulsive and unstructured, Gingrich has handed his detractors a gift.  The failure to have previously addressed this issue, if true, is an embarrassment.

Best strategy now? Respond  to the claim with a short statement claiming that legal advice had confirmed that copyright was not an issue, the song has been used without comment since 2009 and that the timing of the lawsuit is politically motivated. Ideally the statement should have been issued yesterday by Gingrich’s campaign.

If none of the above is viable, then the Gingrich team needs to revise some of its most basic checklists and think about another song.  Suggestions welcome.

To read more about this click here. To watch a video click here.


Donald Trump: Anyone Coming To My Party?

donaldtrump Donald Trump: Anyone Coming To My Party? Donald Trump (left) announced recently that he would be chairing a televised debate with the leading GOP frontrunners. Invitations were sent.

John Huntsman was the first to decline. After that, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney sent their regrets. Michele Bachmann remains on the fence while only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have accepted.

Ironically these very same candidates were previously beating a path to The Donald’s door, assuming his public endorsement would make the difference. That was before The Donald intimated that he might run as an independent himself.

The lesson learnt? Presidential candidates can’t shine when pandering to a celebrity whose trademark is opinionated bluster.

The PR Verdict: “A” to the candidates who have sent their regrets.  This was not the right PR vehicle.

The Donald has a habit of shouting down ideas and people he disagrees with. This has made him a media celebrity albeit without a high level of credibility or gravitas. By appearing in the debate,  a presidential candidate runs the risk of looking like he is pandering to a bully.  Not very presidential. Better to send a thank you note and regrets.