Total Arnold

 Total Arnold

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This week, Arnold Schwarzenegger began promoting his book, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. Schwarzenegger’s life is nearly unbelievable – he was a champion body builder who became the highest paid actor in Hollywood despite a heavyweight German accent and a nearly unpronounceable name. He then married a member of the Kennedy family and become governor of California. And the focal point of all his latest interviews? His affair with the housekeeper.

Surely Schwarzenegger didn’t want to include the chapter detailing his affair with housekeeper Mildred Baena, yet on some level he must have known this was the double-edged sword of PR: talk about the thing you don’t want to talk about, or no one will buy your book. In interviews, Schwarzenegger shows contrition, albeit insensitively, referring to the affair with Baena as “my screw-up” and “a disaster.” Arnie, it seems, is untroubled by how this might affect the result of this affair: his youngest son, Joseph. And it’s hard to tell whether he’s sorry for what he did to wife Maria Shriver, or sorry he got caught.

Schwarzenegger follows Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, and many others whose works and lives became defined by a single act: that of schtupping the maid, or the prostitute, or sexting the intern. Only Bill Clinton moved beyond Monica, though his career remains tarnished by the scarlet letter.  Yet what do we really expect from The Governator? Nothing other than what he’s giving, and gives well: He doesn’t care what you think about him, only that you think about him.

The PR Verdict: B (Good Show) for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The grade is based not on character but for his handling of the media and for canny self-promotion via contrition.

The PR Takeaway: Scandal always outlasts notable works. Whatever leads those in positions of power towards the scandalous is for the Psychiatrist’s Verdict. But for our purposes, as Arnie clearly shows, the public relations prescription is to own up; apologize with sincerity; pour barbecue sauce on yourself in preparation of being grilled by the media; and get back to the business of doing whatever good works were interrupted by your poor judgment. Finally, get on with counting the royalties, while remaining contrite at all times.

What do you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s media profile? Give us your PR Verdict!

Should John Edwards’s Mistress Tell All?

 Should John Edwardss Mistress Tell All?

The PR Verdict: “D” for Rielle Hunter, John Edwards’s mistress.

Rielle Hunter, former mistress of Senator John Edwards and mother of his love child, is ready for her moment in the sun. Having previously been moved to and from various safe houses to avoid media scrutiny, as though she was in a witness protection program, Hunter is now poised for interviews. The Justice Department has confirmed it will not retry the case of campaign finance fraud against her former beau, and Hunter’s publicist says she will now end her “silence.”

Hunter is no stranger to the media. A filmmaker herself, she bared all in an interview with GQ in 2010. Describing her affair with Edwards as  a “magnetic force field,” she told readers, “I know he loves me… I have never had any doubt at all about that.”

Hunter is setting the record straight with interviews on ABC’s  “20/20,” and a host of other media appearances. What’s new? Her tell-all book, What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me. Hunter’s PR said, “Ms. Hunter is looking forward to speaking the truth, and we believe [interviewer] Chris Cuomo will allow her story to be told with candor and respect.”

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Rielle Hunter and her forlorn stab at publicity. Hasn’t her moment passed?

PR Takeaway:  Choosing the right moment is just as important as realizing when that moment has passed. Despite her claim that she remains devoted to Edwards, Hunter risks pulling jurors’ reactions out of the woodwork and reigniting lurid details from the trial (and talk of Edward’s deceased wife Elizabeth) that Team Edwards is presumably keen to put behind it. Making the transition from “the other woman”  to something more neutral is where Hunter’s PR salvation lies. Our suggestion: Follow the Camilla Parker-Bowles PR template on how to rehabilitate an image.

What’s your PR Verdict–should Rielle Hunter capitalize on her claim to fame or move on? Tell us in Speak Your Mind, below.

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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