Madonna on Madonna, by Madonna

hbz november 2013 madonna reem acra 2 de 150x150 Madonna on Madonna, by Madonna

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to Harper’s Bazaar and Madonna.

When you’re one of the most famous celebrities in the world, and have been for decades, what can there be left to say? This may have been the conundrum facing the American edition of Harper’s Bazaar once they got Madonna for their November cover.

The answer? Truth or dare: a game that has been around for ages and also the name of the 1991 documentary about Madonna. Anyone who has worked in the magazine industry can only imagine the staff fervently trying to come up with a fresh angle for the story. Truth or dare… Madonna has done many daring things in her life, hasn’t she? Let’s run with that.

And who better to examine a life lived daringly than the daredevil herself? “Madonna’s Back” reads as though Her Madgesty really wrote it; it’s not that smooth, more like a stream of consciousness. A simple idea but one that achieves the near impossible: a fresh take on a subject the world knows all too well.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to Harper’s Bazaar and Madonna.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Complex situations often benefit from simple solutions. Mark Twain once said, “When in doubt, tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.” Having Madonna talk about the daring art of being Madonna was a fresh take on what otherwise might have been an article that has been written before. In this age of the ghostwriter, one never knows who really wrote the story, but a look at the self-revelatory writing shows that for Madonna and her readers, this was a fresh take on a subject that has otherwise been well worn.

To read the article, click here.

Anna Wintour’s Game of Thrones

 Anna Wintours Game of Thrones

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Anna Wintour, for getting her perfectly coiffed head off the chopping block and fitted for a new tiara.

In the Game of Thrones that is magazine publishing, there is a cryptic new saying: Wintour is coming. That would be Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of Vogue, and now Artistic Director of Condé Nast. Only five years ago, rumors were swirling that Anna had reached the end of her reign; Carine Roitfeld, then Editor in Chief of French Vogue, was rumored to be the new queen. How things have changed.

Since taking over fashion’s biggest publication, part of Wintour’s work has been becoming a legend as notorious as she is famous. Runway shows did not start without her sitting front and center. She could make or break designers. She hardly bothered to brush off the outrageous allegations made in a former assistant’s novel, The Devil Wears Prada. Then, with the Recession and every magazine including Vogue taking deep hits, the speculation began: Was Wintour over?

Not by a long shot. Through a series of strategic moves, including allowing a cooly chic documentary, The September Issue, to record her quietly brutal taste-making process, Wintour has  strengthened her position as the premiere mover and shaker in the fashion universe. A New York Times article described Wintour’s influence as her publisher’s new artistic director, placing her gilded touch – or iron fist – on every magazine. Condé Nast Chief Executive Charles Townsend said, “Anna is the biggest talent we have, maybe the biggest in the business, and I am going to play that card for all it’s worth.”

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Anna Wintour, for getting her perfectly coiffed head off the chopping block and fitted for a new tiara.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: You don’t always need to play dirty, but you do need to play hard. When rumors began circulating that Condé Nast was considering a replacement for Wintour, she fought back. How? By doing what she does best: being Anna Wintour. She gained media space by contributing to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, creating new rumors of being rewarded with an ambassador position. She let the world have a peek inside her process at Vogue in a film that showed her as talking softly, yet carrying a large stick of influence. Now, Anna reigns supreme, and whether Condé Nasties like it or not, it’s going to be a very long Wintour indeed.

Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift is one of the biggest pop sensations ever, so that should translate to huge sales for the magazines that put her on their covers, right? The swift answer: no. Or, in the parlance of Swift’s teenaged fans: Like, totally nuh-uh.

Swift released a new album, Red, last fall and magazine bookers were working overtime. Swift, who is 23, has a fan base in their teens, but that didn’t mean she’d only rate the cover of Teen Vogue. No, her bookings included Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Elle, all in the space of one year, while her cover for Vanity Fair – whose demographic generally skews older than the parents of Swift’s fans – is out this month.

Swift Glamour1 150x150 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for MagazinesSo how did this multi-platinum selling artist perform for magazine sales? She sold reasonably well for Glamour (at left), okay for Vogue (above) and Bazaar, and, perhaps most surprisingly, made a terrible showing for Cosmo: the worst-selling cover for 2012 (below). Possible explanation? Swift is mightily overexposed in all media. It’s a knee-jerk reaction for PRs to book as many covers as possible.

 

 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Taylor Swift’s PR machine. Mainstream covers are good for both star and publication…except when the mag numbers turn out to be poor.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The all-you-can-eat buffet does have its price. It’s great to have a star that every magazine wants on its cover, but should PRs say yes to every offer? While Swift’s PRs presumably enjoyed credit for booking “mainstream” covers, they now have to contend with the negative press that comes with the revelations that she was a worst-seller. Plum bookings in the future may be harder to come by. Next time, all parties should consider a celebrity’s fan base, and act accordingly – or face Swift retribution.

THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Week’s Winners & Losers

This week: Three mothers–one venerable, one vulnerable, and one insulted and avenged in a fashion smackdown. A typical week in the world of PR…

 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losers

PR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR Perfect) to Mother Jones Magazine. At a time when most are ringing the death knell of print, this small, socially-conscious, 36-year-old nonprofit publication may have changed election history by bringing the now-infamous “47 Percent” video to light. Bravo for hitting the headlines and shaping the national conversation. It’s the rule for effective PR!

 

 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Lohan Clan. If there was an award for Brand Consistency, it would go to this family; while daughter was arrested yet again this week, this time for clipping a pedestrian with her car, mother made a spectacularly awkward appearance on Dr. Phil (seen here on PerezHilton.com). Among the many, many questions we have: Is there a Lohan publicist in the house? Why did anyone (including Dr Phil himself) agree to this interview?

And a special mention…

 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losers

L to R: Tesoro, Eymere, Susskind-Jalou

THE “NOW YOU KNOW” PR AWARD FOR STAYING ON MESSAGE: When Jalouse Magazine editor Jennifer Eymere discovered that her mother, Marie-Jose Susskind-Jalou, had been moved from the front row of a Zac Posen fashion show, Eymere found the publicist in charge, Lynn Tesoro, and registered her displeasure – by slapping Tesoro in the face. Denials? Mais non; Eymere stayed on message. “It was a small slap,” she told Women’s Wear Daily. “She humiliated my mom, and I humiliated her in front of her crew. I said at the end, ‘Now you know you don’t [expletive] with French people.” Point taken. As is Tesoro’s counterpoint: A $1 million lawsuit. Ah…Happy Days.

Putin Admits He’s a PR Poser

putinshirltess3 Putin Admits Hes a PR PoserYes, its true: Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, is guilty of staging absurd PR stunts. The world has always had its suspicions that Russia’s de-facto dictator was guilty of cynical media manipulation. Now none other than Putin himself has confirmed same… Which may be the most bizarre stunt he’s pulled yet.

The BBC recently reported that the nice version of Vladimir (not Vlad the Imprisoner of Pussy Riot) came clean to a journalist who previously suspected some of the presidential trips were nothing more than PR stunts and refused to cover them. Putin conceded that some of the stunts were staged, telling Bolshoi Gorod magazine, “Of course, there are excesses. And I’m annoyed about it,” he confided.

He was referring to news stories of him tagging whales, flying with Siberian cranes, and, most dramatically, saving a TV crew from a tiger. “The leopards were also my idea,” Putin added, referring to a photo op that had him fooling around with a rare snow leopard. Vlad kindly lets us know this was not a cynical PR exercise; on the contrary, he was doing this to draw attention to animals under threat. Apparently the President of Russia, commenting on the topic without an extravagantly staged photo, might have gone unnoticed.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Vladimir Putin and his PR confession. His reason doesn’t sound credible, nor do any of the other unmentioned PR shots of Russia’s President.

The PR Takeaway: PR is not a smorgasbord; you can’t  pick and choose what you want people to believe. By coming clean, Putin hoped that he would clear up a number of derisory rumors about his program of photo opps. His confession leaves unmentioned photo opps, including Vlad fly-fishing shirtless and Vlad recovering historic relics from the seas, as deeply unbelievable. To admit to staging some photos but implicitly expecting the public to believe others is wishful thinking.  Vladimir’s reputation as being an untrustworthy manipulator just got reconfirmed. Hardly smart Putin PR.

What’s your PR Verdict?  Read here for more.

 

 

Joan Juliet Passes the Buck on Vogue

 Joan Juliet Passes the Buck on Vogue

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Joan Juliet Buck.

Pity poor Joan Juliet Buck, Vogue stalwart and roving editor, who has come under intense scrutiny following her now infamous Vogue article on Asma Assad, wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. Written and published shortly before civil war broke out, Buck’s glowing profile, entitled “A Rose in the Desert,”  now looks impossibly ill judged. History will remember Asma as the consort of a ruthless dictator, and Vogue as being on the wrong side of the story.

But now Buck is fighting back. Sick and tired of having her name ridiculed as the author of the ultimate PR puff piece, she has broken her silence and given her version of how the article came about. It seems her editors at Vogue  misinterpreted the Arab spring as a storm in a teacup, as did the rest of the world. Buck’s explanation makes compelling reading. Published on The DailyBeast with an accompanying broadcast interview, Buck portrays herself as a writer uneasy with what she has been tasked to do but who went on regardless.

The blame, it seems, lies in equal parts. Buck is very clear that politics and foreign relations were not her area of expertise. She writes that she visited Syria “and understood nothing.” Though not entirely seduced by her hosts and wary of phone taps and hacks into her laptop, she was more concerned with filing her story than exploring simmering discontent. Buck paid the price, with Vogue severing relations with her after more than twenty years.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) to Joan Juliet Buck for an insightful and fascinating read. She lets the facts speak for themselves. No one is covered in glory.

The PR Takeaway: In matters of setting the record straight, focus less on blame and more on letting facts speak for themselves. Buck has endured substantial personal and professional ridicule since her article was published. Her version of events is a thrilling read. She portions little blame but makes the point that it’s easy to be wise after the event. The Assads were visited by Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Sting, Angelina and Brad, and Francis Ford Coppola during their PR push. Hindsight is a wonderful thing; Buck’s reputation may not be so damaged after all.