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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Margaret Thatcher whose shadow continues to loom large. The Iron Lady was cited recently as a role model by the leaders of Japan and South Korea. While Thatcher might give both leaders a low grade for their economic policies, her renowned determination is giving her PR image a second renaissance. Japan’s leader Shinzo Abe told local media he was moved to tears twice in the biopic The Iron Lady, and in South Korea, Prime Minister Jung Hong-won has said that “Thatcherism” will “revive the nation from crisis.” While Thatcher may have been unloved by many at the time of her reign, anyone wanting PR associated with strong leadership need look no further than Maggie from some thirty years ago.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Rutgers University for the delay in firing Mike Rice, its head basketball coach. Rice was sacked this week after videos surfaced showing him shoving, kicking, and screaming anti-gay slurs at players during practice last winter. Unfortunately,  top brass at the New Jersey university knew about the behavior in November but elected to “rehabilitate” him with a fine and three-game suspension. A poor decision on every level, particularly so given that Rutgers became a poster child for bullying-related tragedy in 2010, when a student committed suicide after his roommate filmed him with another man and mocked him on Twitter. What was university leadership thinking?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO North Korea’s threats. At least, that’s the message coming from the US Defense Department, even as Kim Jong Un et al have announced that North Korea’s nuclear missiles are now aimed at US targets. The threats have been called rhetoric, though US officials have deployed stealth aircraft and assured the public that the threats are being taken seriously. Perhaps they’re not serious enough to warrant the “My fellow Americans” speech from the president just yet, but many must be wondering just how far these threats will go.

Boeing’s Bad Dream(liner)

 Boeings Bad Dream(liner)

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Boeing.

Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner is becoming a PR nightmare. Touted as a new super-efficient passenger plane when it debuted in December 2011, the Dreamliner has been plagued with problems ever since, ranging from oil and fuel leaks, a cracked cockpit window, and various electrical and mechanical malfunctions.

The plane’s most significant setback occurred this week when a burning smell in the cabin set off alarms and forced pilots to make an emergency landing in Japan, prompting two leading Japanese airlines to temporarily suspend all Dreamliner flights. On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration followed suit and said all of the planes should be grounded until a question about a fire risk related to a lithium battery is resolved. The move follows the FAA’s decision to conduct a thorough review of the Dreamliner’s design and manufacturing – an unusual move just a year after the model’s launch.

Prior to this latest incident, Boeing’s top brass said they were “fully confident” in the Dreamliner, while industry experts talked about “teething problems” inherent in any new and sophisticated jet airliner. Teething problems on an iPhone mean a dropped call; on an airplane, those problems are rather more serious. The Dreamliner’s glitches and negative media coverage have the potential to ensnare Boeing’s partners. Boeing’s Japanese customers are now getting to figure that out first hand.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Boeing. If your product is failing, you want to be the one to take it off the shelf – not your customer.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Leave PR room to calibrate. Boeing was right to initially express confidence in the Dreamliner; the plane did, after all, undergo intense testing and represents an enormous investment that shouldn’t be walked away from. However, there is a point where minor becomes major, and this may be it for Boeing. When your customers and regulators appear more concerned than you do – especially about something that potentially involves people’s lives – it’s time to revise your approach.