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 Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. After weeks of bad press for the National Basketball Association, attention was gratefully turned to Durant’s MVP speech, which alone could have won him an award. Durant gave emotional thanks to his mother, Wanda Pratt, who raised two boys on her own and sometimes went without even food so that her sons wouldn’t feel the pain of want. Durant credits his mother’s determination for his championship-winning skills on the court and called her “the real MVP.” A happy Mother’s Day for Pratt, and some relief for the beleaguered NBA.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the Nigerian government, whose weak response to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls has brought international condemnation on the African nation as it prepared to host the World Economic Forum on Africa. The girls were kidnapped on April 15 by the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Boko Haram, whose leader has said he plans to sell them into slavery. Finally bowing to pressure, the Nigerian government this week offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to the girls’ whereabouts. Meanwhile, Boko Haram raged into another village and scooped up eight more girls. As the Voice of America noted, “[Nigeria] is the biggest economy in Africa, but authorities cannot even keep children safe in their schools.”

treygowdy The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Republican Congressional officeseekers, who chose to ignore recommendations from one of their own to stop fundraising off the 2012 attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. US Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) who is heading a new (and quite partisan) House Select Committee that will review the matter yet again, urged his colleagues last week not to undermine the committee’s work with partisan appeals for funds that hype the issue. Minutes before, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a fundraising email doing just that.  “Help fight liberals by donating today,” it asked, and other appeals followed. So much for the Committee’s integrity.

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.

The Obamacare Show Must Go On

 The Obamacare Show Must Go On

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the launch the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday, the Affordable Care Act – the long-awaited and controversial US health care program also known as “Obamacare” – launched amid a US government shutdown and a host of technical glitches. A bungling of presidential proportions? Not necessarily.

The federally-mandated marketplaces that are the cornerstone of the new US health system opened for business on October 1. That’s the same day a Congressionally-led shutdown, sparked by the program’s opponents, closed iconic American memorials and national parks and furloughed more than 800,000 workers. As if that weren’t inauspicious enough, millions of Americans were met with error messages when they tried to check out their state’s exchanges, many of which are managed by the federal government through its healthcare.gov portal.

But these factors didn’t cast a PR pall over the program – at least not initially. The fact that the health care exchanges opened on time, despite a government shutdown, was a PR coup. It also seemed to elevate the program above the Congressional bickering that has come off as childish and impotent. As for the technical problems, they’re being met with a shrug. These days, inability to immediately access the latest technology platform has become almost de rigueur; opening-day delays imply overwhelming demand. For Obamacare, there will be a short grace period for the program to get its act together and start signing people up. After that, though, all bets are off.

THE PR VERDICT:  “C” (Distinctly OK) for the launch of the Affordable Care Act, debuting in a timely manner and piquing the interest of millions of Americans.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The show must go on. Having come this far, President Obama would have invited a PR disaster had he given in to demands to delay the launch of the health insurance exchanges. If the product is useful, intriguing, or novel enough, consumers are willing to endure a few headaches at the outset. All that said, the countdown has begun: Obamacare needs happy customers, and soon, if its going to establish itself as the viable solution to America’s health care woes.

Department of Defense In De Facto Denial

dod computer1 Department of Defense In De Facto Denial

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the Department of Defense.

While NSA secret-leaker Edward Snowden apparently bides his time in the transit zone of Moscow’s airport, the repercussions of his actions continue to confound US officialdom – and their PR teams, it seems. The latest questionable move comes from the Department of Defense.

Last week, The Herald of Monterey County, California learned that internet access to UK newspaper The Guardian, which first broke Snowden’s revelations, had been restricted at a nearby army base. Except it wasn’t just at the base, and it wasn’t just the Guardian’s site: The DoD was blocking all articles about the NSA leaks from millions of government owned computers. Automated filters were installed to censor any article containing information still deemed classified – even though details have been spread to the four corners of the known Interwebs.

Spokespeople for the US Army and DoD cited the need for “network hygiene” to keep the once-secret information from further unauthorized disclosure. A primary concern was money: According to one military flack, it takes “a lot of time” to remove classified material viewed online by news-reading military personnel on government computers. The flack generously noted that DoD “is also not going to block websites from the American public in general.” Just those serving in uniform, apparently.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the Department of Defense, for sticking to a rulebook that no longer makes sense.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When events are moving fast, be ready to improvise. How does it look to go by the book when no one else is following the rules? This applies especially in the lightning-fast realm of information technology. The Defense Department’s PR team sought to spin the site-censoring as a cost issue. But why spend money at all on what seems an absurd exercise to begin with? DOD’s policy, and its PR positioning, make as much as sense as – ahem – keeping your head in the sand when the horse has already left the barn.

Edward Snowden Keeps His PR Cool

 Edward Snowden Keeps His PR Cool

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Edward Snowden.

He’s an international hero, a whistleblower fighting the good fight against Big Brother! He’s a villain, a spy, a traitor exposing US secrets to those who would harm the nation! Whichever you believe, apparently Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA who has been exposing intelligence gathering secrets for the US National Security Agency, isn’t embracing any role that the media, government officials, or his supporters are creating for him. “I don’t want the story to be about me,” Snowden has said. “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

The media frenzy about Snowden, and whether he’s good or evil, has been fueled by no shortage of people willing to pick sides. Even Snowden’s own father appeared on Fox News asking his son to stop leaking sensitive information about the government’s spying practices.

Yet, despite his nearly folkloric status, as well as the US’s embarrassment at not being able to find him, Snowden hasn’t taken any opportunity to boast to his supporters or to taunt his detractors. His contact with the media has been limited to staying on-brand with a simple message: I am not a traitor and I am not a hero.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Edward Snowden, holding PR steady in a media environment that wants him to take sides.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Stay true to your message. When that message is volatile, don’t get bogged down in public, or political, opinion. Ideas about what Snowden is doing vary wildly, and he’s had every opportunity to get lost in that spaghetti sauce – which would only dilute his message. By standing firm on his purpose, Snowden’s motives stay unquestioned sans vainglory.  That’s one secret definitely worth sharing.

Barbara Bush’s PR Gift to Hilary?

 Barbara Bushs PR Gift to Hilary?

THE PR VERDICT: “B” for Barbara Bush and her off script comment.

Three generations of Bush women were interviewed last week on the Today Show to coincide with the launch of the Bush Presidential Library. When host Matt Lauer asked if Jeb Bush, son of George H.W., younger brother of George W., should run for president in 2016, one might almost think it was a rhetorical question. One might also nearly fall off one’s couch at the answer from Bush matriarch Barbara, Jeb’s mother: “There are other people out there that are very qualified, and we’ve had enough Bushes,” she said. Laura Bush, Dubya’s wife, and her daughters could only look a little startled.

The sound bite reverberated around newsrooms, and the headlines read NO MORE BUSHES, making Barbara Bush sound more like a protester than a former First Lady. Her reason for the nay say? While she described son Jeb as one of the best qualified men to do the job, she was concerned he would  “get half of our friends and all of our enemies” working against him.

Was this a PR gift to the Democrats? Not necessarily. Whatever damages the Bush camp sustained, the Hillary Clinton camp might have been equally vexed. Babs Bush went on to opine that the presidential field had to be opened up to other contenders. “I think it’s a great country, there are a lot of great families, and it’s not just four families or whatever.” What was looking like great fodder for those opposing Jeb Bush (even his mother says no!) now had a sting in the tail. Clinton’s PR gift had just as quickly been taken away.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” for Barbara Bush and her off script comment. Going off message was mitigated by also robbing her opponents, the Clintons, of the same.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: PR gifts are rarely free. With the rest of the family being supportive of Jeb’s possible run, Barbara Bush’s comments were presumably a spanner in the works. But Hillary Clinton and political strategists hoping to make capital will have been disappointed. Babs Bush’s comments could equally become the rallying cry for opponents to another Clinton presidency. This political gift might be one the Democrats may ultimately have to pass on.

 

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and Losers

PR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the latest online petition. We love the latest petition circulating on the White House’s own website, “We the People” which calls on Congressional lawmakers to prominently display their financial backers and monetary support from various lobbies. Yes, it will make Congressional members look like Nascar participants, but it just might focus their minds when it comes to voting on financial or healthcare reform. Members of Congress would be required to wear the names of their “sponsors” during all official duties, including voting. The size of a logo or name would vary with the amount of a donation. A brilliant idea, giving vested interests no place to hide.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the European Central Bank (ECB) and its ham-fisted attempt to impose an unprecedented tax on the deposits of ordinary Cypriots without vetting the levy with lawmakers first. The tax, part of a proposal to bail out the small Mediterranean country of Cyprus, sparked demonstrations and forced the Cypriot Parliament to reject the bailout’s terms, causing angst in European, and ultimately world, financial markets. Nobody likes a tax, but the terms may have been easier to accept had the ECB secured the backing of key leaders first. Instead, Cyprus now teeters on the brink of economic collapse. The world watches – and waits to be affected by the consequences.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Michele Bachmann. The Republican Representative for Minnesota is back, and she’s making less sense than ever. In this video, she says Obamacare will “literally kill” women and children. We understand what she meant, but a bill cannot literally kill anyone, unless it is used to inflict a fatal paper cut. Still, it would not be the health care bill itself, but the paper the bill was printed on. That’s more detail on that than Rep. Bachmann gave in her charge against Obamacare. And in her address at the Conservative Political Action Conference, she stated that the First Family lives ” a lifestyle that is one of excess.” Bill O’Reilly pointed out that President George W. Bush had a bigger White House budget. Let no mere fact stop the poor man’s Sarah Palin from making her point – whatever that might be.

Italy’s Five Star Movement Wins; Now What?

 Italys Five Star Movement Wins; Now What?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Italy’s Beppe Grillo.

What happens when the anti-establishment becomes part of the establishment? That’s the question Italians are asking themselves as an overwhelming 25 percent voted for the grassroots Five Star Movement (M5S) last weekend. A party of “political outsiders,” its elected parliamentary representatives define themselves by everything typical parliamentarians are not – at least, not in Italy. Namely? Young and honest.

In only three years, M5S has become a political steamroller. Without deep financial pockets, momentum has come from tireless rants and the pungent humor of the party’s leader Beppe Grillo. A former comedian, he amassed political capital with his unmatched rhetoric, winning the hearts and minds of disgruntled Italians who continue to despair at their deeply dysfunctional political system. His main achievement seems to be giving ordinary Italians a chance to vent their frustration and rage peacefully.

Now, poor Beppe is caught in a classic communications dilemma. Remaining true to brand means categorically refusing alliances with any established political force and continuing to win the crowds by criticizing established politicians and cracking jokes. The “outsider approach” might win votes, but it won’t help the country out of a dire economic crisis. With the “Grillo” brand being the anthesisis of sober statesmanship, it might be time for his M5S to think about a rebrand for the party and its leader.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Beppe Grillo. A different style (and a different spokesperson) may be what is needed.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Brand evolution changes with circumstances. Grillo’s stated goal was to give Italian citizens the power to change their own country, but everyone understands this is a long haul – and an unpopular journey. While Grillo did not run for office himself, his M5S has won a seat at the table. With doubts persisting about the party’s ability to effect any real change, the best way to reassure their supporters is to take on the mantle of serious politicians promising to get things done. Coming across as rebels, comics, victims, or dreamers won’t cut it any longer, but speaking in a different tone and style will. Less jokes and rage and more substance will transition the party (and its leader) into the power role they have been handed. Beppe Grillo, as the leader and spokesperson, might want to start the change from the top.

 

A Tough Gun-Control Act to Follow

 A Tough Gun Control Act to Follow

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Giffords and Kelly.

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her ex-astronaut husband Mark Kelly announced this week that they will lead an effort to lobby Congress for stricter gun-control laws. The couple launched their political action committee, Americans for Sensible Solutions, on the second anniversary of the mass shooting of Giffords and 18 others in a Tucson, AZ parking lot. Six people died in the 2011 attack, which was perpetrated by a mentally ill man who obtained the guns used in the shooting legally.

Giffords has a unique set of credentials for this cause. Having barely survived the shooting, she was forced to relinquish her seat in the House of Representatives. As a politician from one of the country’s most pro-gun states, she has in the past boasted of her prowess with her Glock 9mm pistol (the same model her would-be assassin used). Her husband Mark Kelly, frequently described as an American hero, is himself no stranger to ordnance, having flown U.S. Navy combat missions in the Gulf War.

The pair are making their position clear: They are not seeking to revoke US citizens’ rights to bear arms and have emphasised that the Second Amendment can co-exist with responsible gun ownership. Distancing themselves from the National Rifle Association while at the same time reaching out to “the majority of NRA members,” they have grabbed the middle ground: in favor of guns, but with more effective gun-control laws.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Giffords and Kelly. Their impeccable credentials will make it tough for opponents to take them on publicly.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Take the middle ground and let the others do the polarizing. In any debate, when views are extreme, the winner will be the persuasive advocate who courts the majority in the middle. Publicly defending current gun policy when up against a high-profile victim and her military husband is going to require finessed PR skills. The NRA may have just found their ground taken away from them.

 

 

Depardieu: From French to Russian Dressing

 Depardieu: From French to Russian Dressing

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Gerard Depardieu (left, with Vladimir Putin).

Who’s playing who in the great French tax debate? Heavyweight French actor Gerard Depardieu has raised eyebrows after threatening to take up a Russian passport to avoid what he sees as onerous tax rates in his native France. In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Depardieu claimed, “I love your country, Russia, your people, your history, your writers. I like to make films here . . . I adore your culture, your way of thinking . . .”

President Putin has said the passport is there for Depardieu “if he wants it.” Depardieu has said he wants to take up the offer even before the new higher tax rates are law in France. For smiling President Putin, what better way to encourage off-shore Russians that Moscow is safe and friendly to high net-worth investors?

Before playing his part in this PR love-fest, Depardieu might want to ponder why, despite having a flat tax rate of only  13 per cent, wealthy Russians continue to ship their money to offshore centers. Parking money offshore has been a consistent concern of both Russian tax authorities and millionaires alike. Could it be that Putin needs an endorsement to show his wealth-friendly credentials?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Gerard Depardieu and his partnership with President Putin. The actor might want to read the fine print.

THE PR TAKEWAY: In PR, it’s easy to be played. Gerard Depardieu seems to be happily ignoring the acres of press coverage concerning Russian government corruption, its politicized bureaucracy, and it’s notorious vindictiveness – not to mention clamp downs on artisitic freedom (ever heard of Pussy Riot, Gerard?). As wealthy Russians continue to seek safer havens, Depardieu might want to wonder why Putin’s PR people are happy to have him so publicly running in the opposite direction of Russia’s oligarchs. It’s easy to understand what Putin sees in this PR opportunity, but for Depardieu, it’s not so clear. Before jumping on the endorsement bandwagon, it might have been more sensible to look around for alternative tax jurisdictions. Singapore, anyone?