The Michelle Obama of China?

 The Michelle Obama of China?

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Peng Liyuan, China’s new First Lady.

Ever heard of Peng Liyuan? Watch out, she may soon become a household name. In a stark departure from regimes past, incoming Chinese President Xi Jinping is carving out an important role for his wife Peng Liyuan. Is she the new PR weapon for China?

China’s First Lady, Ms. Peng will have her own speaking engagement at an upcoming conference for the economic powerhouse nations of the new century.  The countries commonly known as BRICS include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Held in South Africa at the end of March, it’s an important venue for the new president and the promotion of Ms. Peng is a shrewd move.

A folk singer known for her passionate renditions of patriotic songs, Ms. Peng is far better known than her husband Mr. Xi, until his relatively recent political ascent. She is glamorous, reportedly a warm personality, and has already demonstrated her “issues-ability” in her role as Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization on HIV and tuberculosis. With this pedigree and the support of her husband, will she stand alongside Michelle Obama, Jackie Kennedy, and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy as one of the world’s most significant First Ladies?

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Peng Liyuan. She represents the “softer side” of China, a side that the world is curious to glimpse.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Charm charms. Even totalitarian states understand that in the age of smartphones and Twitter, they need to do more than issue propagandized press releases. Somehow they need to be likeable.  By giving his wife a profile, China’s new strongman is softening his own image and ultimately that of his country. In addition to giving his wife a PR platform, he has been recently quoted by the media joking with U.S. schoolchildren and kicking a football in Ireland. In old China, these media opportunities would not have happened, much less been publicized. This new president and his wife are already laying the groundwork for a PR charm offensive. Stay tuned.

PR Fit for a Princess

RADZTRUEELEGANCE 150x150 PR Fit for a Princess

PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Lee Radziwill.

The New York Times‘s redesigned T Magazine was published this weekend, and what a bumper issue: luxury advertisers, clever art direction, and a cover story on Princess Lee Radziwill, Jackie Kennedy’s equally famous and glamorous sister, who once married a Polish prince. With a somberly chic black and white cover, the headline quietly stated “True Elegance.” And so began the love-in to Princess Lee, published over several pages.

The first question of the first interview publicity-shy Lee has given in a long time? “Were you always aware of your beauty?” Lee responded immediately, “From the word go.”  This was an article that read more like a fawning press release than a NYT feature.  For Princess Lee, this was a PR dream come true.

The writer, English decorator (and Radziwill pal) Nicky Haslam describes the princess as “captivating the public,” “possessing a timeless aura that radiates now-ness,” a “figure of her time, our history.”  Gilding the lily further he added “Lee’s her own harbinger for an iconic future. Our and hers.” It’s a fair guess that Lee was going to love this profile from the outset. Always nice to have a close friend write the article.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Lee Radziwill and her blockbuster profile. She couldn’t have written it better herself.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Radziwill, whether deliberately or by fluke, has followed the golden rule of myth making: say little and focus on the distant past rather than the recent. The latter is often messy and complicated, with contradictory views. Haslam’s profile is geared toward making his subject a living legend. With only passing mentions of “dips into alcoholism” and the very real tragedies and deaths in her life, the article focuses almost exclusively on an earlier  life with sister Jackie and later Jack, her Hampton’s childhood, and later fun hanging out with Andy Warhol. Radziwill, high up in her Parisian apartment where she was photographed, has secured the sort of PR that will keep her as nearly famous as her legendary sister.

To read the article, click here.