Austere Today, Gone Tomorrow?

 Austere Today, Gone Tomorrow?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the proponents of austerity, who continue to lose a losing battle.

What now for the proponents of austerity? Up until last month it seemed they had won the policy and PR debate. With disciples across Europe and the US, and with Angela Merkel as its high priestess, fiscal restraint was positioned as a dose of much needed tough medicine. The mantra was clear; no pain, no gain. Politically unassailable, this was one helluva PR launch with some influential backers. Over the last month, however, things have become a little more complicated: austerity may have lost its PR claim as a cure all.

Last week, economists at the University of Massachusetts reviewed calculations cited in Growth In a Time of Austerity, the bible for those justifying tightened fiscal policy, as flawed. The claim? The research published in January 2010 by Harvard University included “selective exclusion of available data and unconventional weighting of summary statistics.” The case for austerity is now not so clear.

Since then, austerity seems to be losing more and more PR steam. EU nations are sliding deeper into recession, with unemployment in Spain and Greece topping 30 percent. In Britain, austerity is responsible for a limp 0.3 percent growth, while Germany, the champion of austerity, is teetering on the edge of recession. Has austerity fallen out of fashion? The headlines would seem to suggest that less has not added up to more.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the proponents of austerity, who continue to lose  a losing battle.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Product launches can teach us something about ideological launches. If austerity was a consumer product, it would now be sitting on the supermarket shelves unloved and unwanted. Why? Because not one of its proponents have been able to demonstrate tangible benefits. Despite a big and loud launch, its advocates seem to be retreating into the shadows. Where are the business leaders confirming they are hiring in the face of cutbacks? Without some simple proof points and enthusiastic advocates, this is one launch that might have seen its brief vogue run right out of steam and into the dustbins of economic history.


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.


Vatican’s Defense: Leaked Documents Are Work of Satan

 Vaticans Defense: Leaked Documents Are Work of Satan

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Vatican PR.

Apparently the Lord is not the only one who moves in mysterious ways. Now the Vatican says it needs to factor the Devil himself into its PR planning. Wondering why current leaks are destabilizing the Vatican and creating havoc in the traditionally hushed institution? The Vatican says the current scandal involving leaked documents and allegations about its financial dealings–known as Vati-Leaks–is the work of Satan.

This startling theocratic explanation comes from none other than Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who apparently ranks second only to Pope Benedict in the Vatican’s’ hierarchy. When asked by Italian media why damage control had failed so miserably, he said the Vatican’s latest headaches were the Devil’s attempt to undermine the holy order.

No wonder the Cardinal  is annoyed: The Devil has leaked sensitive documents and broken secrecy surrounding the Vatican’s banking system. Bertone said in an interview that the image of the Vatican as a place of intrigue and power struggles was misleading, but then somersaulted 180 degrees by commenting, “The truth is that there is an attempt to sow division that comes from the Devil.”

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Vatican PR. (And presumably ”A”–Gold Star!–for the Devil and his PR). If trying to portray events as storms in a teacup, then invoking the Devil is bound to confuse.

The PR Takeaway: It’s not possible to have it both ways in PR. If current scandals are blamed on the Devil, then claiming that there is nothing to worry about sounds odd indeed. Stand the Devil down, Vatican! Otherwise, if some of the allegations are proven to be true, then the Devil might find himself hailed as a whistleblower. What then?

To read more click here.

What do you think of the Vatican’s defense that Satan is behind the Vati-Leaks? Give us your PR Verdict in Speak Your Mind, below.



The PR Verdict: “A” for the Vatican's Chief Exorcist.

Father Amorth, Head Exorcist at the Vatican (yes really), has hit the headlines.  He has shed scandalous light on a long running mystery concerning the unsolved disappearance of a fifteen-year-old in Rome, Italy during the 1980s.  Speaking to the Italian media he alleged yesterday that schoolgirl Emanuela Orlandi, a name well known in Italy, was kidnapped three decades ago, murdered and her body disposed of by officials who worked for embassies to the Vatican.

But wait, Father Gabriele Amorth, who is also the the honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists  (yes REALLY!) says the disappearance of the  young girl was a “crime with a sexual motive”.  He claims she was most probably kidnapped and forced to take part in sex parties.  Based on recent findings from a mysterious Vatican archivist he says, “…parties were organized, with a Vatican gendarme acting as the ‘recruiter’ of the girls.  The network involved diplomatic personnel from a foreign embassy to the Holy See.  I believe Emanuela ended up a victim of this circle,” he told Italian media.

Father Amorth, aged 85 is no stranger to controversy.  Previously he has described yoga as satanic, because it leads to the worship of Hinduism.  Ever vigilant he has also warned against the dangers of Harry Potter novels, urging caution as the texts encourage children to experiment with black magic and wizardry. The reasons he has turned his attention to solving murder mysteries is unclear but oh boy, he always gets his headlines.

The PR Verdict: “A” for Father Amorth and a well managed media hit almost entirely devoid of content. Is the mystery any closer to be solved or could the Vatican’s chief exorcist be a fame junkie?

PR TAKEAWAY:  For the perfect media storm: throw together key words and let the content look after itself.   Is there anything sexier than words that include; sex scandal, sex parties, murder, foreign officials and yes, the Vatican?  When these words come from the Vatican’s “Chief Exorcist” headlines are guaranteed. Content is a little trickier though and despite the rather sensational claims it is not obvious that this mystery will be solved anytime soon. This is one case where a little content has gone a long way. Could higher powers be at work?

To read more click here and here.

The PR Verdict returns on Tuesday, after the Memorial Day Weekend.



How About A Pulitzer for Beyoncé?

essencebeyonce1 How About A Pulitzer for Beyoncé?

PR Verdict: “F” For Essence’s cynical and embarrassing ploy.

Does anyone else find something vaguely ridiculous about Beyoncé being awarded a prize for journalism by Essence magazine? On May 15th, the New York Association of Black Journalists in association with the magazine, will award Beyoncé first-place prize in “arts and entertainment writing” in its magazine category.  There are 39 other winners who will also receive an award on the night.  What a surprise to realise that award winning journalism is being written at the rate of one article every nine days!

Beyoncé’s cover story from last year, called derivatively,  “Eat, Play, Love” has been named best in category and chronicled her 9-month sabbatical from her hectic recording career.   Written in the first-person, the article  gave readers an insight into the breakthroughs Beyoncé enjoyed while travelling the world.

Readers looking for insights will be delighted to know that Beyoncé discovered  she “loved artichokes and that a salad and fresh fish are not only healthy choices but incredibly delicious.”   In the article she also noted that “All over Italy, the streets smell like gelato.”  Did even she realise that this was award winning stuff?

The PR Verdict: “F” For Essence Magazine and its cynical and embarrassing ploy to garner publicity for its award show.  Column inches have been secured but most are vaguely derisory.  Bad move.

PR Takeaway:  Not all publicity is good publicity.  This is one case where the snarky tone of most of the coverage of the upcoming event has already diminished the value and integrity of the 39 other prizewinners.  Getting a celebrity to attend is one thing, giving her a prize for journalism is quite another.   Does Beyoncé need another prize?  She could have been easily comforted by one of her 16 Grammy awards if she was feeling blue.

To read  more click here and here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

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What Will We Remember Silvio Berlusconi For?

Berlusconi2 What Will We Remember Silvio Berlusconi For?

The PR Verdict: “F” for Berlusconi and his hope of imparting a political legacy.

Been to any good parties lately? Is anyone feeling more than a hint of envy and disappointment at not having been invited to Silvio Berlusconi’s rather extravagant soirees, currently being described in excruciating detail in an Italian court.

The former Premier of Italy is on trial for allegedly paying a 17-year-old Moroccan girl for sex (left), then using his influence in 2010 to cover it up.  He has denied the charges but details emerge daily about the parties he was either hosting or attending.  The key finding?  His entertaining style was more Girls Gone Wild than formal state dinners.

Yesterday’s revelation that the fetes involved female guests allegedly dressing as nuns and stripping for titillated guests will ensure this is what Berlusconi is remembered for.  His political legacy has now become permanently entwined with jokes about bunga-bunga, strippers nuns and Sister Act.

The PR Verdict: “F” for Berlusconi and his hope of imparting a political legacy.  These headlines will define his premiership.

PR Takeaway: Anecdotes kill reputations faster than any long-winded critical evaluation.  To permanently damage a person’s reputation all that is needed is a simple incident that can be forever used by detractors as shorthand for a wider moral failing.   Clinton had it with cigars, John Edwards had it with $500 haircuts, while corporate tycoons had it with ice sculptures looking like centurions and $6000 dollar shower curtains.  The anecdote is usually the opening paragraph to any story.  It’s an uphill and often unsuccessful battle to change the perception from then on.

To read more click here and here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

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