Will Christie’s One-Horse Race Lead to Washington?

 Will Christies One Horse Race Lead to Washington?

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Chris Christie.

Does style trump substance? That was the key question in the race for governor of New Jersey. With Chris Christie and Barbara Buono facing off for the coveted seat, name recognition alone was going to tip the scales in this race.

One needn’t be a resident of New Jersey to know Christie. He’s the man who spoke mostly about himself in a speech meant to introduce Mitt Romney to the Republican National Convention as their candidate for president. He was the Republican who crossed party lines by giving a warm welcome, and thanks, to President Obama in the days after Superstorm Sandy. He’s also the official who opposed same-sex marriage in New Jersey, though he quietly dropped a promise to fight it in the Supreme Court.

But did Christie ever really have an opponent? Christie made a memorable stand during Sandy and has kept a high profile since, staying on brand as a straight shooter, poking fun at himself on Letterman and undergoing weight loss surgery as he dealt with media criticism over his appearance. Christie has done it all publicly, with a PR plan that has made everyone think this was a one-horse race.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Chris Christie, returned as governor of New Jersey and possibly a future in Washington DC.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Stand out from the pack, and stay there. At a time when approval of government and its elected officials is at an all-time low, Christie differentiates himself fearlessly. He ranges from being a man of the people to being a brash trash-talker, but everyone knows his name. This is no accident. Find a way to step apart from the pack and then do what it takes to make sure yours is the only name remembered.

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!