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

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Cory Booker, the charismatic Democratic mayor of Newark, NJ, who this week became the state’s first African American US senator. True, he was unlikely to lose; New Jersey hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate in 40 years. Still, the media-savvy 44-year-old ran a carefully calibrated race. Early on, he laid low and campaigned via his Twitter feed and Instagram videos. He artfully handled shrill questions about sexuality and his communications with a West Coast stripper. When opponent Steve Lonegan turned up the heat, Booker came out swinging with an aggressive TV ad (but still spent less than $1 million on television). Booker’s next challenge will be navigating the US Senate where, as The New York Times put it, “show horses tend to stumble.”

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the man behind the ban on large-sized sugary drinks and increasingly limited public smoking areas. While those “nanny state” actions could be called beneficial, this week the mayor directed NYC police to find and arrest the artist known as Banksy, who is currently “defacing” the buildings of Bloomie’s burg. Banksy’s art routinely sells for millions, and other cities have treated his graffiti-style work as valuable contributions. Nevertheless, in a town that has recently suffered a spate of violent attacks on gay men, cops are being ordered by Hizzonor to focus on apprehending this hooded painting bandit. That’s a Big Gulp of nerve.

bachmanncruz The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO any number of US Congressional Republicans, for statements during the 16-day government shutdown crisis that gave “spin” a bad name, even after the crisis ended. When it did, the meekly even-handed media coverage broke decidedly against the Republicans, but that didn’t end their attempts to save face and subvert reality. Thus we have statements like House Speaker John Boehner’s “We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win,” Sen. Ted Cruz’s “Washington is not listening to the people,” and Rep. Michele Bachmann’s “This was a fight worth having.” After setting out on an obviously dead-ending path, they followed to its natural conclusion and somehow kept going, perhaps walking their party right into the political wilderness.

Guest Column: On Your Mark, Get Set… Stop!

nyc marathon 150x150 Guest Column: On Your Mark, Get Set... Stop!

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the decision to cancel the New York City Marathon.

Yes, let’s go ahead with the marathon! Wait a minute – let’s not. Late on Friday, Mayor Bloomberg reversed his previous position to go ahead with Sunday’s NYC marathon, an event involving thousands of runners, after coming under tremendous pressure. By Friday, Sunday’s Marathon had been cancelled.

Why the turnaround? In the days following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation on the New York area, it was remarkable to hear the rhetoric from the Mayor – namely, that going on with the race would be a show of strength by New Yorkers. Could Mayor Bloomberg have been more misguided in thinking that holding the event anyway, despite a city torn in half by those who had power and those who did not, would be good for New York morale? What he completely missed was a more careful look at the details. The world could see what apparently only he and the event’s sponsors could not:  This was not September 11.

As the severity of Sandy’s impact grew more apparent, focus sharpened on the redeployment of services to support the race. The New York City Marathon is not a simple run in the park. It includes the use of multiple generators, the very same generators that could now power darkened, cold neighborhoods. Police and Fire Department professionals could also be reassigned from controlling traffic to recovery work. This was one case where the show must NOT go on.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the final decision to cancel the New York City Marathon.

The PR Takeaway: One size does not fit all. Mayor Bloomberg’s original decision to create a” life should go on” platform (as happened with September 11) was the wrong comparison to make. He might have been better guided by the mistake of Condoleezza Rice’s much-maligned visit to Manhattan immediately following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when she caught a Broadway show and bought a pair of Ferragamos. Then as now, the message was not carry on as normal but rather, stop what you are doing and get help fast to where it is most needed. And that doesn’t include running a marathon.

Coke: Don’t Sugar-coat the Issue

RhonaApplebaum 28750 011 300x200 Coke: Dont Sugar coat the Issue

The PR Verdict: “F” for Coke and Rhona Applebaum.

Pity Dr. Rhona Applebaum, Coca-Cola’s vice president of science and regulatory affairs.  She has the uphill battle of giving Coke’s response to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to ban the sale of sodas in containers larger than 16 oz.  The ban, which would apply only to places other than grocery or convenience stores, has the food and drink lobby agitated. So what does Coca-Cola think?

Applebaum says the issue is about public health.  Appearing on CNN and talking in confusing metaphors, she said “Being gusty does not mean being right,” and “Stepping into traffic is not a leadership moment.”  Whatever that means, bottom line, Coke’s PR message is that obesity is about physical activity and a balanced diet.

With a long list of celebrities and opinion formers coming out in favor of the ban, Coca-Cola might be on a losing streak.  No one disagrees that smaller portions are part of a logical solution to obesity.  The smarter tactical move for Coke would be to make a conciliatory gesture and get on board.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Coca-Cola.  Claiming you are as concerned about diabetes and obesity as the next person while advocating the sale of jumbo sodas is a hard sell.  Why resist the flow toward health for consumers?

PR Takeaway:  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. In any PR issue, it’s important to follow the groundswell of public opinion.  On this one, despite some nanny state concerns, Bloomberg seems to be winning the day.  Applebaum’s comments might have sounded so much more convincing if she had simply conceded that this was an interesting first step.  The ban, after all, is limited in scope.  Why not agree with it, and then move the conversation onto the broader issues that ultimately take soda drinks out of the direct firing line?

To read more and see the interview, click here.