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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to US Speaker of the House John Boehner, who’s mad as hell – and his anger is translating into PR gold. For the first time, Boehner, a Republican, lashed out at conservative advocacy groups who criticized this week’s US budget deal. The agreement was (pleasantly) out of character for Washington: bipartisan, done early, and with both sides making significant concessions. Yet strict conservatives, who have assailed nearly every negotiation attempted by Republicans, say it doesn’t go far enough to rein in spending. Boehner blasted the groups, some of whom hadn’t even seen the proposal before commenting. “When you … have no idea what you’re criticizing, it undermines your credibility,” Boehner railed. “This is ridiculous.” The news media liked his candor, and pundits pondered whether it might suggest a new, stronger speaker. Time will tell.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the organizers and security detail at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, for allowing a fake sign language interpreter take center stage with speakers, including President Obama. Mistakes are understandable when a large event must be put together in days by bereaved organizers. But with heads of state in attendance, the fact that a random man who says he was suffering from a schizophrenic episode was allowed to take part in a high-level political ceremony is a serious breach, as well as a black eye on the event.

cruise kingsley 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Hollywood publicist Pat Kingsley, who “finally” talked about her former days repping Tom Cruise and revealed…well, not much. Kingsley, fired by Cruise in 2009, sat for an interview that hinted at  revealing details about her former cleint and his faith in Scientology. The story was billed as an interview with Hollywood’s “once-most-feared woman” who could be expected to dish on the firing and the role Scientology played in it. Alas, while she did describe disagreements she had with Cruise’s religious leaders, no real tidbits were delivered. The conflict with Cruise’s church “was taken care of very early in the game,” Kingsley said. Well, what did we expect from a publicist?

In Congressional Poker Game, Americans Lose

 In Congressional Poker Game, Americans Lose

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

As midnight approached on Monday evening, an end came to the high-stakes poker game the United States Congress has been playing. Specifically, Republicans threatened a government shutdown if President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act wasn’t rolled back for a year, and the President and Congressional Democrats said no. The clock struck twelve, and the United States government shut down for the first time in 17 years.

Government workers received emails telling them not to show up at their jobs and tourists visiting national parks and museums now find signs like the one on Washington DC’s Air and Space Museum: “Sorry for the Inconvenience.” Ironically while most of the government is closed, one thing that remains open is enrollment in the Affordable Care Act.

At the heart of the battle are the Tea-publicans, members of the Republican Tea Party like Sen. Ted Cruz, and Speaker of the House John Boehner, They are sticking to their guns claiming this bad medicine is good for the country. “This may hurt but it’s good for you”  is the PR pitch. A hard sell?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Ful Fiasco) for Republican members of Congress.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Short term harm only works if there is long term good . It’s difficult to say you’re working for constituents while causing them harm unless you can offer a rainbow at the end. As this contest escalates, the welfare of the public is increasingly lost. Political brinkmanship is what the debate has become and Republicans will need to claw back the PR fallout. As Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said, “Republicans are likely to get the blame”  and its not clear how this “will benefit us more.” Without a clear and happy rainbow at the end, the PR damage looks set to continue.

Guest Column: Boehner’s Bait and Switch

BOHENER 150x150 Guest Column: Boehners Bait and Switch

PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Speaker Boehner.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner wasted no time before the presidential election result was called, declaring, “With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates.” With polls still open in Alaska and Hawaii, the Republican leadership was drawing a line in the sand. No matter the outcome, some ideas were not going to be up for debate.

But election night was still young when Boehner made his statement. By Wednesday morning, he’d nuanced his position by stating Republicans were willing to accept new revenue, without  mentioning any further details. Perhaps he realized that following President Obama’s re-election, “no taxes” wasn’t going to fly.

A standard tactic in negotiations and PR brinkmanship is to set boundaries early on. These pre-emptive shots across the bow manage the other side’s expectations before the negotiations commence. Taking firm positions far in advance of a negotiation can be effective, but this type of bargaining tactic tends not to win friends and can create PR nightmares down the line. No one wants to have to publicly backtrack.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Speaker Boehner, who has now given himself some negotiating room. He might have been better off saying nothing on the big night.

The PR Takeaway: Careful when and where you draw your definitive line. Muhammad Ali gained PR notoriety for taunting and “trash-talking” his competitors before a boxing match. Competitive athletes now commonly use this tactic. It’s about getting the other side to doubt their strength, question their position, and to negotiate against themselves. This is no different than using bluffs, and was most likely Boehner’s tactic with Obama. There are PR advantages if you can remain firm, but if you can’t maintain your position, silence is always golden.

neilpatton2 150x150 Guest Column: Boehners Bait and SwitchGuest columnist Neil Patton is the President of Pre-think Strategic Negotiations, Inc. Pre-think is a consultancy focused on helping organizations and individuals improve their negotiation capabilities and outcomes. A professional labor negotiator for more than 19 years, his clients have included the Canadian Army , healthcare providers, and mining companies.