Today Show Scores a Great “Get” With Deen

 Today Show Scores a Great Get With Deen

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) to The Today Show. (Pictured: Paula Deen and Today Show host Matt Lauer)

How quickly PR fortunes can change. Last month, NBC’s The Today Show was facing a PR fiasco, with falling ratings, a scathing cover story in New York Magazine, and a tell-all book that painted a rather unflattering picture of host Matt Lauer. At the same time, Paula Deen was enjoying success with shows on The Food Network, her own magazine, many cookbooks, and heading a multi-million dollar empire. This month, everything has changed for both.

Last week, Deen’s PR began to flame out amid allegations that Deen used racist terms and condoned a racist atmosphere at her restaurant. She quickly scheduled a damage control interview last Friday on The Today Show, which she then blew off, citing exhaustion. After being dropped by The Food Network and one of her sponsors, Deen rescheduled her Today interview for this morning.

Ratings are sure to be high, and it’s a great “get” for Today, even if it’s a “re-get.” In addition to having to answer questions about the allegations, Deen must address blowing off Matt Lauer, as well as her apology videos that have been criticized as widely missing the right PR mark. The only better “get” would be missing NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – and no one will be surprised to see Today get him first.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to The Today Show for reversing their poor PR.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Nothing kills bad PR like success. The Today Show took its lumps, but it kept right on going, and when opportunity knocked, it pounced. Having been a friendly interrogator in the past – Deen chose Today when she revealed she had Type 2 diabetes, known to be caused or aggravated by the high-fat cuisine she’s famous for – Today was a natural choice for Deen’s public mea culpa. The lesson presented: When hit with bad PR, you can’t afford the luxury of pain. Get up and find every opportunity to get back to what you were known for.

Cuisine Queen Burns to a Crisp

 Cuisine Queen Burns to a Crisp

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Paula Deen and her PR team.

In the annals of PR freefall, celebrity chef Paula Deen is now a case study. Last week, the queen of Southern cuisine faced a deposition by a former employee who charged that Deen used racial slurs in the workplace. Problematic, to be sure – yet that was only the beginning.

During the deposition, Deen was asked if she had ever used the “n” word. Her answer? “Of course” – one can only imagine a member of her PR team having heart palpitations – “probably when a black man burst into the bank I was working at and put a gun to my head.” This came across rather like justification. The deposition stated that Deen used the slur more recently, in reference to servers for a Deen-planned wedding reception with a Plantation theme.

But wait, it gets better, or rather, worse. Deen scheduled a damage control appearance on the Today Show, but come Friday morning, she was a no-show. An irked Matt Lauer reported, “Her publicist says she’s exhausted.” Probably from the news that the Food Network, on which Deen has several shows, was not renewing her contract.

Then came the apology videos. The first, slickly produced by Deen’s team, lasted a single derided hour before being replaced by an unedited video that came across the same as the first: Deen was sorry – mostly, it seemed, because she got caught.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Paula Deen and her PR team.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Damage control shouldn’t cause more damage. Only last year, Deen’s credibility took a hit when she revealed her previously hidden diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, often caused by the kind of cooking Deen’s multi-million dollar empire is built on. With her credibility already stretched, this was the time to let cooler heads prevail. How about proper coaching prior to the deposition that would have stressed bewilderment about why this issue has surfaced? While in legal matters, the truth must be told, in this case it might have sweetened with contrition, best served simply and without qualification.

To watch the Paula Deen apology videos, click here and here.

Martha Stewart and Match.Com: Is It Love?

 Martha Stewart and Match.Com: Is It Love?

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Match.com.

You must have heard about it by now – after all, Saturday Night Live has already done a skit on it – but in case you haven’t, Martha Stewart, domestic diva-turned-entrepreneur, is turning to the Internet in the hopes of finding true love. Ms. Stewart has joined millions of other singles by posting a profile on dating website Match.com. She shared this tidbit last week in a candid conversation about her love life with NBC Today show host and longtime friend Matt Lauer.

What you may not have heard in the rush-to-coverage that followed, however, was much of a response from Match.com. At first blush, this seems a bit odd. After all, having one of the world’s most successful and recognizable businesswomen touting your product on national television is a dream come true. Indeed, the PR team over at Match must still be reeling from such unexpected good fortune.

Or are they? Matchmaking is a tricky business – even more so when your new unofficial spokeswoman is a global celebrity whose happiness depends on your company coming up with the goods. Sam Yagan, the CEO at Match.com, agreeably appeared on an episode of Today to help Ms. Stewart write and post her profile, but other that the Match.com response has been very low-key: no press releases, interviews, or big social media blitz. This is the right approach: Save the champagne for the engagement party.

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) for Match.com. By staying out of the media limelight now, Match leaves itself room to take credit if Martha does find Mr. Right, as well as to graciously split with her if she doesn’t, without taking an unnecessary PR hit.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When it comes to PR, it’s the marriage that should be celebrated, not the courtship. Dating is an uncertain phase;  success is far from certain, whether in love or in business. The big PR push should come when quantifiable results are produced and stand the test of time. Until then, it’s just another concept that, like new love, could go south in a heartbeat.

Another Bad Week for “Today” Show

 Another Bad Week for Today Show

is THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Today Show publicists.

There hasn’t been a truly good morning for NBC’s Today Show in months. Ratings have been slipping steadily, advertising millions have been lost, and the media seems not to tire of reporting both. Then, this past week, a behind-the-scenes feature in New York Magazine threw a harsh glare on the morning show’s troubles.

For PRs reading the article, the dilemma becomes apparent quickly: grant access to a reporter who is starting from a negative place, or refuse access, knowing the story will be written anyway? In this case, access was granted and control of some sort established via the presence of two PRs in the interview with Today heavy hitters.

One can only imagine the amount of prepping the PRs did with hosts Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and, in particular, Matt Lauer. He has been in the media’s sights, portrayed as the architect of former co-anchor Ann Curry’s ouster, and everything from the cornerstone of the program to a controlling tyrant. Also last week, a former Today Show intern tweeted that Lauer was “not so nice,” and a story circulated that co-host Guthrie gave Lauer the finger after he teased her on set. Access or not, Today‘s negative press is turning into a bad dream the show’s PRs can’t wake up from.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Today Show publicists. Damage control is being handled, but with the issue of falling ratings and whispers of host changes, PR options are limited.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Choose battles carefully, and know when to fight. Negative press was inevitable due to the ratings slide, the revelation of Lauer’s negotiations with rival network ABC, and Curry’s awkward departure. In this case what was needed was new news to change the conversation. This article might have begun the turnaround that Today needs, but in the absence of a big bright idea, sometimes a PR just has to hope things look better tomorrow.

To read the New York Magazine article, click here.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (GOLD STAR!) TO Mike Tyson, who spoke this week about the day he found his then-wife Robin Givens in bed with “some little beach-bum-looking dude,” otherwise known as Brad Pitt. The true punch line is that there was no punch thrown; “I wasn’t thinking of attacking him,” Tyson told Global Grind. “I was just depressed I couldn’t bone [Givens] no more.”  Once known as throwing a punch or even a bite at the slightest provocation, his new PR image is that of the vegan, reflective giant.  With this amusing head-shaker of a story, his previous PR image of the unhinged boxer continues to recede and his PR rehab continues.

 

 

NY Post1 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO The New York Post, which came under fire from readers and the media alike for printing a front-page photo of a man seconds away from death after being pushed onto subway tracks. (Out of respect for the family of victim Ki-Suck Han, the PRV will not show the photo.) The photographer said he was too far away from the victim to help, and that he was trying to warn the train driver with the flash from his camera. The Post did not bother defending its decision to run the photo with screaming headline DOOMED. With the Murdoch press still under the glare of phone hacking and other scandals, it’s silence on the issue leads to the inevitable question: Have they learnt any lessons?

 

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO NBC’s Today Show, for a bizarre mock-segment featuring host Matt Lauer as the “victim” of sexual harassment. The faux story, spawned after host Willie Geist swatted Lauer’s bottom with a newspaper, got more cringe-worthy by the minute as NBC investigative reporter Jeff Rossen was brought in report the “facts” and the camera cut to Lauer quietly questioning what he’d done to provoke the attack. Anyone on the receiving end of real sexual harassment couldn’t fail to be offended. An ill-conceived idea to stem Today’s recent ratings decline? Whoever dreamed this one up needs to return to Sensitivity 101 class. (For more, here.)

GMA Weather Report: Sunny for Gay Marriage & Ratings

s SAM CHAMPION large300 150x150 GMA Weather Report: Sunny for Gay Marriage & Ratings

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Good Morning America. (Pictured: Rubem Robierb and Sam Champion)

Last Friday, Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion was singled out by his cheering co-hosts as having good news to share: He was engaged. During hearty congratulations from a crew that seems closer than most morning show personnel, it was easy to miss one slightly surprising aspect: Champion was not only engaged, but also coming out.

The announcement of Champion’s engagement fit right in with GMA’s congenial, family-like vibe, and the fact that he will  his marry longtime boyfriend Rubem Robierb did not merit the batting of a single on-air lash. Outside GMA’s studio in Times Square, Champion was met by viewers from all over America who congratulated him like extended members of the GMA family.

The hosts on Good Morning America have been positioning themselves as a family for a while now, especially since co-host Robin Roberts decided to publicly share her battle with MDS, a rare bone marrow disorder. Video segments have been devoted to her bone marrow transplant while co-host George Stephanopoulos has struggled to maintain composure as he reads her blogs to GMA viewers. And the ratings keep on climbing.

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Good Morning America winning ratings with team chemistry, not sensationalism.

The PR Takeaway: Keep it in the family. Gone are the days when GMA could only dream of approaching the ratings of the mighty Today Show. Now, GMA has overtaken Today. In the wake of an uncomfortable public dismissal of Ann Curry and reports that Today host Matt Lauer is losing popularity with viewers, GMA’s folksy, seemingly sincere family approach is winning hearts – and ratings. Team chemistry is the main drawcard here, and sharing the good and the painful is what makes this more than just a slick marketing gimmick. Viewers seem to be liking it, and they keep on coming back for more.

What’s your opinion of GMA’s “family style” approach? Give us your PR Verdict!

What Did Ryan O’Neal Describe As Pointless?

ryan oneal1 What Did Ryan ONeal Describe As Pointless?

The PR Verdict: “C” for Ryan O’Neal for an interview he was struggling to get through.

Why was there a band-aid on Ryan O’Neal’s nose during his interview with Matt Lauer on Today?  The former film icon has just published a memoir of his thirty year relationship with the equally famous Farrah Fawcett, called Both of Us.   The book he said is not a tell all – but rather a tribute to the highs and lows of their volatile relationship.   Bizarrely, the distracting band-aid remained on his nose for the entire interview and was never mentioned.

This was however the second attempt at an interview.  The first interview never got off the ground with O’Neal leaving the studio in a frantic hurry after what he later conceded might have a been a panic attack.  “I don’t know what was wrong,” he confessed to Matt Lauer second time around. “I just broke out into a terrible sweat, so I just went home.”

His second interview was emotional and full of stops and starts.  He talked of his family’s problems including Fawcett’s addiction to antibiotics.  Lauer quoted O’Neal in the memoir as saying the couple’s behaviors arose because “we both had a feeling of leading pointless lives.”  O’Neal looked genuinely startled.  “Did I say pointless?” he asked rhetorically.  Even Matt Lauer didn’t know where to turn.

The PR Verdict:  “C” for Ryan O’Neal for an interview he was clearly summoning all his energy to get through.  A gentler print interview might have been a better route for this client.

PR Takeaway:  This interview had the hallmarks of a sympathetic therapist talking to a troubled patient.  Sometimes it might be better to give the PR prize of a national interview a pass, and stick with some gentler, less exposing forms of publicity.

To read more and see the interview click here.

What ‘s your PR Verdict?

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What Does Christie Brinkley Recommend For Extreme Narcissists?

christiebrinkley What Does Christie Brinkley Recommend For Extreme Narcissists?

The PR Verdict: “F” for Christie and an interview that went horribly wrong.

Christie Brinkley, ageless super model and former wife of Billy Joel, declared on the TODAY program that all she wants is peace.  In the middle of a divorce from business man Peter Cook, Brinkley took the morning interview way off course and spoke for eight captivating minutes about marital discord and her ex husband’s allleged strategy of sapping joy from her life.  It was a PR nightmare but absorbing television.

Scheduled to talk of her upcoming role in the Broadway musical Chicago, she sidetracked herself into discussing her divorce from a “malignant narcissist” and its emotional toll.  She nearly broke down in tears and called for government legislation to intervene in divorce cases of “extreme narcissists.”

This was a spectacular interview.  Rarely has anyone been off message so brilliantly and so thoroughly.

The PR Verdict: “F” for Christie and an interview that went horribly wrong.  Even the host, Matt Lauer,  had the grace to apologize for not talking about her Broadway debut.

This was a perfectly structured interview but way off subject.  It had an emotional call-to-action for the viewer (just google divorcing a narcissist!) and a broader demand (legislation to protect against malignant narcissists!).  The tearful crescendo at the end and the plaintive cry of  “all I want is peace” could not have been scripted better.   What her Broadway backers and costars think however is a different matter.

To read more and see the interview click here.

Whats your PR Verdict on this interview?

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