PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for his first act post-office: taking on the formidable US National Rifle Association. Bloomberg has pledged to spend $50 million this year on gun control, a topic that Americans continue to debate though nary a week goes by without a tragic shooting incident. The former mayor’s last initiative, curbing large-size sugary drinks, incurred jokes and charges of creating a nanny state. This issue is a far better fit for his bulldog approach and financial muscle.

HomelessGoPro PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Homeless GoPro project team, whose attempt to create empathy for the plight of the homeless succeeded mostly in creating enmity for themselves. The idea: give homeless people GoPro cameras to record their daily routines and interactions with the often-callous more fortunate. Though surely well-intentioned, the project comes off as exploitative, tone-deaf and not particularly helpful to those it would seek to help. As the Valleywag blog critically noted, the project says more about a tech-savvy “coding class” that needs a high-tech fad to experience empathy. “Poverty, homelessness, and inequality are bigger than any app,” they wrote. “Your tech isn’t helping.”

 PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to North Korea for its bizarre overreaction to a London hair salon that had a bit of fun at the expense of  the country’s leader Kim Jong-Un. Mo Nebbach, owner of M&M Hair Academy in Ealing, put up a poster of Kim with his characteristically closely shorn sideburns and the question “Bad Hair Day?” The next day Nebbach was visited by two apparent strongmen who demanded that the poster be removed, which Nabbach declined to do. One could be forgiven for thinking the visit a prank, but Nabbach contacted the police, only to find out that they’d already heard from the North Korean Embassy. It seems the diminutive leader’s feelings were, indeed, hurt.  Where’s Dennis Rodman when you need him?

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 security firm Codenomicon and Google researcher Neel Mehta, both of whom discovered the web security bug known as Heartbleed. The bug, a flaw that allows access to user information on what was thought to be safely encrypted websites and search engines, has been around for a while, but was found simultaneously by vigilant researchers Mehta and Codenomicon. All sounded the alarm, which may have circumvented breaches in the millions.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Katherine Heigl, who perpetuated her image as a cranky prima donna with a lawsuit against drugstore chain Duane Reade. The store’s transgression? Tweeting a photo of her walking with two of their shopping bags. Heigl is a “highly recognized celebrity… When plaintiff chooses to endorse a product or service, she is highly selective and well compensated,” the lawsuit sniffed. In other words, as one gossip web site snarked, “Basically: Katherine Heigl don’t do no free advertising. She can’t just have her grumpy, exhausted face freely associated with some drugstore FOR FREE..” Perhaps Heigl should invest in a good mirror. Duane Reade carries them, we hear…

kimjongun The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO the North Korean Parliament, who this week re-elected, to no one’s surprise, dictator Kim Jong-un as head the country’s top governing agency, the National Defense Commission. Kim’s election (if that really is the right word) means he is still in control despite political turmoil in the regime and can work to consolidate power by filling leadership posts left vacant by – you guessed it – his purges. The government-run news agency called his re-election a sign of  “the unchanged will of the military and the people” to support him.

The Worm Turns…Into a Diplomat?

 The Worm Turns...Into a Diplomat?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Dennis Rodman (pictured with Kim Jong Un).

Dennis Rodman has always been a maverick. And while few thought they’d seen the last of him when he retired from professional basketball, even fewer could have predicted that the ostentatious athlete would be making headlines for his  attempts at international “diplomacy” nearly 15 years later.

On the court, Rodman was known as “The Worm” and played an aggressive defense for several top-ranked US teams. Off the court, he was equally well known for his multi-hued hair, wild tattoos, and laundry list of wives and legal woes. After stints in acting and professional wrestling, the now 52-year-old Rodman has a new career: unofficial ambassador to North Korea and its young dictator Kim Jong Un, or – as Rodman put it this week – his “friend for life.”

Returning from a  second trip to see Kim, Rodman held a press conference this week to dutifully convey Kim’s message to the world: Hey, North Korea isn’t so bad! Kim, Rodman insisted, is “a very good guy,” and, really, just wants to talk. One presumes Rodman’s state-managed tours of the North Korean countryside did not include the millions believed starving and living in forced poverty, or the gulags where multiple generations of a family are imprisoned for a single relative’s transgression.

While a few naïve hopefuls continue to view Rodman’s visits as positive, the growing feeling is this “basketball diplomacy” is at best entertaining and at worst embarrassing. As one late-night comedian put it, “Not since Sea Biscuit and Hitler has there been a more strange pairing of athlete and dictator.”

THE PR VERDICT:  “D” (PR Problematic) for Dennis Rodman. US Secretary of State John Kerry need not fear for his position.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  There is a fine line between outrageous and oafish. Rodman’s antics have always pushed the envelope, and he has been rewarded with lots of attention. But there is something pathetic about this latest publicity grab: Rodman appears less a savvy envoy and more an aging ex-basketball player mesmerized by a young despot who flatters him and makes him feel important. “I’m not a joke,” Rodman insisted at the press conference, sitting next to a bust of his own head. “Take me seriously.” If only it were that easy, Dennis.

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.

The Onion Makes China Cry

 The Onion Makes China Cry

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for China’s People’s Daily news outlet.

What do Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Channing Tatum have in common with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un? They all share the global title of “Sexiest Man Alive.” The three actors, previously anointed  by People Magazine in its annual “Sexiest Man Alive” issue, now share their title with North Korea’s recently appointed dictator – courtesy of satirical magazine The Onion. Good one!

Not everyone got the joke, however. China’s leading online media outlet, The People’s Daily, immediately took up the story on its website and fawningly celebrated the universal appeal of its close ally – without realizing the story was a joke. The article included over 55 photos of Kim Jong Un, but unlike People, none of them showed the winner shirtless.

China’s paper of record unwittingly quoted extensively from The Onion‘s text, adding, “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.” Clearly not afraid to overpraise, the news organization went on to say that the dumpling dictator made the editorial board swoon with his “impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.” Channing Tatum, eat your heart out.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) to The People’s Daily, whose credibility reached a new low.

The PR Takeaway: Death by a thousand laughs. The serious mouthpiece of the Communist party just had one of its more embarrassing and funniest falls. The official response at the outset was that The People’s Daily “verifies all its sources,” but since then the story has been taken down. The Onion is understandably boasting, “We just fooled the Chinese government!” Credibility is at an all time low. In the PR arsenal, ridicule is far more damaging and long lasting than ongoing protest.

When Plastic Politicians Face the Nation

berlusconi surgery 150x150 When Plastic Politicians Face the NationKirchner cosmetic7 150x150 When Plastic Politicians Face the NationPUTIN SURGERY2 150x150 When Plastic Politicians Face the NationQaddaddfi surgery1 150x150 When Plastic Politicians Face the NationKIn Jong UN cosmetic 150x150 When Plastic Politicians Face the Nation

As the US elections edge closer, what is the PR obligation for a candidate to look his best? What price beauty? And who on the world’s stage might have already succumbed to the vanities of the knife?

Vanity Fair  thinks this an issue worth discussing. An article on the magazine’s website identifies who of the world’s leaders are most likely to have had “work done,” with a top Manhattan surgeon on hand to give his view. The undisputed winner, hands down, is former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, while Cristina Kirchner of  Argentina, with her signature bee-stung lips, seems an almost certain runner-up. The jury is out on Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who just seems to take a good photo–or do Botox injections give him that rested appearance? Kim Jong Un of North Korea seems the biggest puzzle. If he has had plastic surgery . . . It really doesn’t seem to have helped. Money back for Lil’ Kim?

And what should a politician’s PR minder say when word of facial work on a head of state leaks out? What is the right PR way to handle a candidate’s cosmetic improvement?

“Medical reasons” seems the most convincing explanation, which Berlusconi initially used. He had ample air cover: Italian officials said he underwent procedures to repair damage sustained in 2009 when he was hit in the face by a protestor. But then, Berlusconi gave his own game away when he said, “Improvements are a way of showing respect to those who share your life, your family.” So the hair transplant wasn’t a result of the protester’s attack after all? He gets high marks for being forthright about going under the knife.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Silvio Berlusconi and his ongoing cosmetic makeover. His work is never done, but at least he gave himself ample PR cover to go back for more.

The PR Takeaway: Honesty is not always the best policy. For the Kremlin’s strongman or Libya’s former dictator, collagen puffed bee-stung lips might provoke the hardest ridicule to suppress. Electorates are inherently suspicious of peacocks, and whether for a democratic candidate or a dictator, admitting to plastic surgery seems an unlikely electoral winner. From a PR point of view, this is one case where the “Never apologize, never explain” rule might be the way to go.

To see who else might have gone under the knife, check out Vanity Fair’s gallery here.

Should politicians admit to having plastic surgery? Should they even get it, since the results are usually obvious? Give us your PR Verdict!