Jeffries Out of Style at Abercrombie?

 Jeffries Out of Style at Abercrombie?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Mike Jeffries and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Fashion trends rarely live beyond a season. The shelf life of those who create the trends may last longer, but an article in the spring fashion issue of New York Magazine may herald the end of one long-running reign: that of Mike Jeffries, CEO and former chairman of the board at Abercrombie & Fitch.

The piece could easily have made more of Jeffries’ pecadillos, such as his extensive cosmetic surgery and draconian regulations about male model staff aboard the corporate jet. Instead, it focused instead on a familiar story: a steady rise, and a precipitous fall. Jeffries created a multi-billion dollar brand with iconic merchandising that teenagers could not get enough of; now, in the wake of $15.6 million losses last quarter, Jeffries is no longer chairman of the board, and there are rumors of replacement.

A&F did not make Jeffries available to contribute to the story. Quotes about his micromanagement style came from former employees and associates, who theorize that brand exclusivity, created by Jeffries, was behind A&F’s success in the 1990s, and its downfall in the inclusive aughts. “What we’ll remember Jeffries for now is for failing to change, for all the store closures, for the way employees were treated,” says Brian Sozzi, head of Belus Capital Advisors. “That’s unfortunate.”

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Mike Jeffries and Abercrombie & Fitch.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Step to the side, then make a re-entrance.  New York Magazine’s article is the kind that causes damaging chatter within its industry. First defense? Say nothing, as A&F did by not contributing quotes. Second: Pause, so that the next action taken isn’t viewed as defensive. Third, return with bold news – a new line and a new initiative. A&F could still make a comeback. After all, every fashion trend gets another strut down the catwalk.

Miley Cyrus is Crazy (Like a Fox)

 Miley Cyrus is Crazy (Like a Fox)

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Miley Cyrus (left, as Hannah Montana; right, her new image).

Former Disney star Miley Cyrus has grown up very quickly lately. The teen singer and actress previously shot to mega-stardom as the star of Hannah Montana. Back then ratings were high and Cyrus’s albums hit the top ten, with movies and multiple merchandising tie-ins. Miley was everywhere.

But as her recent MTV Video Awards performance can attest, those days are way over. With a close-cropped platinum ‘do, a barely-there outfit, and a wildly suggestive tongue, Miley sent a message: Hannah Montana no more.

Chat shows talked to experts and outraged parents about what happened to this teen idol. The truth? It’s not insanity, drugs, or child stardom gone awry. It’s a combination of savvy star and manager using an old PR concept: sex sells. Cyrus’s new song “Wrecking Ball” has Cyrus, naked, riding a wrecking ball while tonguing the chain in the video: woah. Result? Millions of views, morning shows full of talk, and a star laughing all the way to the bank.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Miley Cyrus. If the aim of one’s career is celebrity (rather than artistry), it matters less what people say than that they’re talking about you.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep it simple. There is never an easy way to go from teen sensation to twenty-something star; ask Justin Beieber. Cyrus cut to the chase with a series of drastic measures – chopping off her hair, dying it, and making provocative videos, which are the celebrity equivalent of sexy photos. In short, she’s doing everything her formerly teen audience is doing in their real lives. This awkward transition is less train wreck than well-orchestrated PR symphony.

Margaret Thatcher’s PR Legacy

 Margaret Thatchers PR Legacy

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Lord Bell and Margaret Thatcher for consistent PR packaging that made a political icon.

The passing of Margaret Thatcher was announced yesterday by none other than her trusty PR adviser Lord Timothy Bell, the man who packaged Thatcher for an electoral win. It was a fitting end to an astonishing PR trajectory – the PR man who transformed the grocer’s daughter into a global figurehead ended up publicly drawing the curtain on the former Prime Minister’s final act, and possibly his greatest PR achievement.

To realize quite how successful Lord Bell has been in creating a myth and icon, one only need look at the media coverage announcing Thatcher’s death. Blanketing most news outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, the consensus on both political sides was that Thatcher had genuinely transformed economic policy and foreign policy with her relentless prescription for free markets and hostility to the Soviet Union.

Bell’s PR packaging served Thatcher’s messages well. Yesterday’s coverage made endless references to the deepened voice loaded with gravitas, as prescribed by her PR team, while her signature handbag portrayed an impatient common sense. Though her politics are what made her famous, her clever photo ops and bon mots made sure that even those who weren’t fans felt compelled to listen, watch, and acknowledge her achievements.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Lord Bell and Margaret Thatcher for consistent PR packaging that made a political icon.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Consistency trumps inventiveness. Thatcher’s genius was to begin working with a PR team at the outset of her political launch (as portrayed in the film The Iron Lady) that took every opportunity to demonstrate qualities that she later traded on. From her famous “This lady is not for turning” speech to her impeccably groomed persona, her packaging over the years rarely strayed or experimented with doubt or ideological uncertainty. Bell found for Thatcher a PR formula that, once firmly established, simply improved with age.

Same Old Snoop Dogg Song and Dance

Snoppdogg 150x150 Same Old Snoop Dogg Song and DanceSnoop Dogg, the infamous hip hop singer, has been rehabilitated and now re-launched with a new name, new film, and new album. It’s a full agenda; the “Snoop Dogg” name has been discarded. His new one? Snoop Lion. The spiritually re-birthed Snoop Lion is no longer “singing about smoking weed and killing people.”  Instead, his new message is about smoking weed and then “smoking some more.”

Snoop Lion, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, is a 41-year-old rapper who was acquitted, along with his bodyguard, of the murder of a gang member. He is now launching a new album called Reincarnated, as well as a feature length documentary with the same name. The central theme? His love of weed, the power of weed, and the history of weed.

His re-launch seems puzzlingly similar to his previous persona, which centered around weed. Not known for puritan living, he tells GQ that he would like to spread the word about his favorite pastime. “It’s actually grown from the ground straight to you, so its like eating a vegetable,” he explains. Snoop Lion then takes the interviewer to his favorite physician, Dr. Dina, who provides “medicinal weed” in a place where a “baby faced blonde” employee named Rachel does a handstand. Is this really a reincarnation?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Snoop Lion, né Dogg. His metamorphosis into Snoop Lion needs a more radical script.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: A different script for a different image.  Snoop Dog was the shorthand for all things “weed related,” says the singer, claiming, “I partake in all things Snoop Dogg” (ie, weed). His re-launch is meant to be coincide with his spiritual reincarnation, as explained in the album and the film documentary. But his GQ interview only reinforces everything we previously knew. From a PR point of view, and without anything new to say, this was a 360 degree reincarnation. Reinvention, or reincarnation, is ineffective if the allegedly new person just keeps saying the same old thing. From Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion and back to Dogg again…

To read the interview, click here.

Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012

This year saw some celebrities, companies and even countries turn their own PR corner and we had a hard time choosing our favourite three for 2012. While they haven’t consistently made the headlines, each pick proves that image rehabilitation is always possible.

2013parishilton 150x150 Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012Paris Hilton is ending the year visiting orphans in India and sick children in Los Angeles, routine trips for the 31-year-old celebutante these days. With her name once synonymous with “bad girl”, Ms. Hilton seems to have left the days of sex tapes and cocaine possession behind. She’s revamped her image by staying out of the limelight while showcasing her business acumen, building an eponymous global chain of retail stores and a fragrance line estimated to top $1 billion in sales. Her news clippings, about new shop openings and charitable acts, reflect the reinvention: privileged brat no more. Lindsey, take notice.

 

2013myanmar 150x150 Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012Myanmar, long known for its oppressive regimes, overhauled its image on the world stage with its transition to democracy. 2012 saw ex-political prisoner and Nobel Prize winner Aung Sun Suu Kyi and her party elected to parliament, the lifting of censorship laws to create a nascent free press, and the central bank floating the kyat to allow for normalized investment. President Thein Sein’s reforms have resulted in relaxed U.S. trade sanctions and even prompted a visit from Barack Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the former Burma. All this sends a great message to the world: democracy rules!

 

2013AIG 150x150 Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012The U.S. government last week sold off its remaining stake in AIG, the insurer deemed “too big to fail” and the largest recipient of a much-maligned government bailout four years ago. The sale marks one of the most impressive turnarounds in U.S. business history and the resurrection of the AIG name. CEO Robert Benmosche was eloquent in his statement, thanking the country “for giving us the opportunity to keep our promise to make America whole on its investment … Thank you America. Let’s bring on tomorrow.” AIG’s name, like its stock, appears to be on the up and up.

Scouts’ Honor At Stake

scoutshonor 118x150 Scouts Honor At Stake

PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the Boy Scouts.

In the past six days, headlines have heralded the downfall of Lance Armstrong and our presidential candidates’ heated debates. Yet it’s shocking that one news item gained only brief attention, especially given its name: The Boy Scouts of America Perversion Files.

That was the actual internal name for files kept on Scout volunteers who were accused of child sex abuse. The files date from 1965 to 1985 and number 1,247 “ineligible volunteers” – who were merely banned from further service. “In certain cases,” admits a Boy Scout statement, “our response to these incidents and our effort to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong.” Bizarrely, the group only enacted a policy of contacting authorities in 2011, well after the scandal of the Catholic Church had entered national consciousness.

Charges are likely to be pressed and the headlines will inevitably resurface, but for the moment the Boy Scouts are out of the media firing line. The Scouts played their PR card well. Acknowledge the problem, apologize, then apologize again. Next, point to reforms (however late in the day) and assert that management has changed, at which point the news story might have a short shelf life and be on its way to disappearing. The Vatican may want to take notes.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for The Boy Scouts of America. It’s uncomfortable for us to give a high grade given the circumstances, but the Scouts followed the PR handbook and, in so doing, neatly side-stepped the media spotlight.

The PR Takeaway: PR won’t make a crisis go away, but it can shorten its life span. From a PR perspective, the most striking point is how the Boy Scouts handled this issue versus the Catholic church. The Boy Scouts made it clear that these were largely accurate and truthful files and conceded the error of not bringing in the authorities. Though grave implications remain for the victims, the long-term PR impact on the Scouts already seems less substantive than what happened to the Catholic clergy faced with similar circumstances. Does it simply come down to effective PR?

What should The Boy Scouts of America do now to save their reputation? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

Putting the Church Into Scientology

scientologists celebrities 15 300x205 Putting the Church Into Scientology

The PR Verdict: F (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s PR. Something isn’t working.

The Church of Scientology is girding its loins. After a week of disastrous press scrutiny following the TomKat divorce announcement, the organization looks set for further unsympathetic coverage. What role did Scientology play in the breakdown of the celebrity marriage? Who knows? But what is clear is that for non believers there is almost universal mis-trust when it comes to the Church founded by Ron Hubbard.

Rupert Murdoch caused a fuss last week when he Tweeted that the religion is a “very weird cult,” adding that there is “Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people.” An Internet backlash was immediate, but the problem was that those hitting back were almost exclusively Scientologists. What about friends and sympathetic supporters?

On Friday, news outlets detailed a memo allegedly distributed by the Church of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs that urges members to monitor the Internet for hostile statements about the Church and report them; hardly a strategy to win the hearts and minds of non-believers. With all their celebrity and influential contacts, wouldn’t the wiser, more sustainable PR strategy be to get non-believers defending the cause?

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s PR. Something isn’t working, despite their high number of celebrity followers.

The PR Takeaway: Act and sound like you are at one with your name. The PR problem of the Church of Scientology is that it so rarely, from a PR perspective, behaves like a church. Where are the selfless acts of charity and good will that characterize the work of many other churches and religious orders? In tone and profile, the Church of Scientology sounds more like an aggressive corporation protecting brand and market share rather than a church. Why not be a little….well, church-ier?  It could be the strategy shift needed as the TomKat divorce places the organization back in the headlines.

New Vatican PR’s First Announcement: I’m the New Vatican PR

 New Vatican PRs First Announcement: Im the New Vatican PR

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Vatican not publicly backing their new press rep, Greg Burke.

Are the Vatican’s PR troubles coming to an end? The Vatican has been looking around for someone to help its beleaguered image, following a series of ongoing PR disasters. The center of Catholicism announced earlier this week the appointment of a new Communications Director–Greg Burke, a 52-year-old American who has covered the Vatican for Fox News. Presumably he will be taking the organization into a new world of “fair and balanced” PR.

When organizations look externally for a PR adviser, it’s usually due to the unhappy realization that no one likes its messaging. In this case, when dealing with a 2,000 year old institution, it remains to be seen how much flexibility Burke has to fashion messages. Announcing his appointment, he explained to the media what a Communication Director does, describing the position as a “strategy job.” He said, “It’s very simple to explain, not so easy to execute: to formulate the message and try to make sure everyone remains on message.”

Strangely, the key person commenting to the media on his appointment seemed to be Burke himself. Where were the Vatican’s leaders welcoming him to the fold and confirming that its PR is about to turn the page?

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Vatican for its handling of the announcement and hiring of its new head honcho.

PR Takeaway: Start as you mean to go on. If a new hire is being brought in to change things up, then a strong public signal of this intention needs to be sent. Having Burke speak to the media about his own appointment without ringing endorsement from the people who hired him already makes him look lame and isolated. Next time, bosses, give your new hire firepower by welcoming and backing him publicly so that the organization and its stakeholders understand change is coming. And new hire, leave your announcement to the bosses and start talking only once your feet are under the table.

Can announcements about new public relations staff ever be made by the PR staff themselves, or does this send the wrong message? Give us your PR Verdict!

Tired of Working in Porn? Why Not Become a Realtor?

realtor2 Tired of Working in Porn? Why Not Become a Realtor?

The PR Verdict “F” for Prudential and Corcoran and the other firms whose brokers were quoted.

Tired of working in porn? Didn’t make it as a prima ballerina?  Best days as a famous hand model over? Then why not become a New York realtor?  As a Managing Director at Prudential Douglas Elliman told the NYTimes yesterday, people come to NYC  “with a dream ….often times those dreams don’t pan out….and then you start looking at alternative careers.”

Yesterday’s front-page article on the city’s realtor business featured a diverse range of brokers.  All had previously worked in an initial career (usually more colorful) and then migrated to real estate sales, as their favoured career stalled.  Being a realtor, intimated the article, is the default safety-net for the career lost.

Prudential, one of Manhattan’s leading realtors, had a number of  its brokers quoted, including a fashion designer and former porn star (above) but oddly no comment from the firm itself.  Where was the corporate PR to provide some balance to the personal tales of those interviewed?

The PR Verdict: “F” for Prudential and Corcoran and the other firms whose brokers were quoted.   Fine to have the narcissist broker grab a headline but what does it say about the rest of the firm and those who work there?

While this was always going be a lighter hearted article, a comment from a corporate PR talking about how diverse employees bring in diverse listings and clients would have made a better business case.  Instead one couldn’t help wondering if the porn studio, or ballet troupe came knocking again, the ranks of these firms would be quickly deserted.  Given that clients pay average fees of 6 percent of the sale price,  management might want to take a more visible role in how articles like this position their firm.

To read the NYTimes article click here.

What’s you PR Verdict on the coverage?

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