Former US VP Cheney Opens Up in “Heart”

 Former US VP Cheney Opens Up in Heart

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to former US Vice President Dick Cheney.

How do you revamp the image of someone accused of being heartless? Show that he has a heart – literally. Former US Vice President Dick Cheney’s new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, was published this week. Cheney, who served for eight years under President George W. Bush, kicked off the media on CBS’ 60 Minutes and continued on to the major morning shows.

Cheney is something of a cardiac miracle: he’s suffered five heart attacks and has had surgery to place stents, a pacemaker, and a pump. Finally, in 2012, he had a heart transplant.He waited 20 months for a new heart, nearly double the waiting time of most transplant recipients. No special treatment there.

The book has also provides interesting tidbits about Cheney’s tenure in the Bush White House. For one, his health history prompted him to sign a resignation letter in advance should he ever be alive but incapacitated. His cardiologist also had Cheney’s pacemaker altered so it couldn’t be hacked by a would-be assassin.

But the book serves another purpose. In the twilight of their lives, politicians have been known to contemplate their legacies. Heart shows that the now 72-year-old Cheney, whose nicknames include Darth Cheney and the Dark Lord, is, indeed, human – flesh and blood, just like the rest of us. At least, that’s what the book says.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) to former US Vice President Dick Cheney. Nobody wants to go into that good night known as Dr. Evil.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: (Almost) no one is beyond redemption. When public figures open up about personal struggles or admit to fears, it can often blur the edges of a sharp character or reputation. Perhaps it’s through a memoir (safe but labor intensive) or on Oprah’s couch (riskier, but with a wider audience). In that sense, Cheney is lucky: His bad ticker has given him rich material to mine for such an effort. But can one book soften so many years of harsh criticism? That’s a tall order, and not one for the faint of heart.

PR Jury Still Out on Foxy Knoxy

 PR Jury Still Out on Foxy Knoxy

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Amanda Knox, who hasn’t quite moved the PR dial of public opinion.

Has America made up its mind yet about Amanda Knox? The college student from Seattle, who was convicted in Italy of murdering her housemate Meredith Kercher during a sex escapade gone awry, has just published her memoir. Random House paid upwards of $4 million for Waiting To Be Heard, and advance reviews indicate that despite some gruesome tales about Italian prison life, America remains undecided about the young woman whom the European tabloids named “Foxy Knoxy.”

There’s enough new material to make sure this case stays in the headlines: prison officers were hitting on her while prosecutors bullied and threatened her, telling her she was HIV positive to destabilize her mood. She depicts a world of torment, being utterly unable to process and deal with the shock of events as they unfolded.

Knox describes how she coped with her original conviction and those harrowing four years in an Italian prison until her conviction was overturned. She also gives her version of some of the more notable stories that circulated after she was charged, including the famous one about doing handstands while in custody and being charged. The next step is in an exclusive interview with ABC news and Diane Sawyer. Might this be the deciding moment for the American public?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Amanda Knox, who hasn’t quite moved the PR dial of public opinion.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Being talked about is not the same as being liked. The public continues to be confused by this case, even more so now that the Italian courts are retrying it. Amanda Knox still captures headlines, but given her tale of undeserving punishment, there remains an inexplicable lack of sympathy for the young photogenic and educated woman. Part of the PR debate remains stalled in confusion about what really happened that night. In her forthcoming interviews to promote the book, Knox will need to break new ground on this decisive point. That’s where her PR pardon lies.


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 Adele for reportedly declining a seven-figure offer from publisher HarperCollins to write a memoir. The 24-year old superstar allegedly described herself as wanting to live a bit more before chronicling her life – imagine that! In turning down the deal, Adele is taking a different tack than many of her peers, including Miley Cyrus, who penned a tell-all at 16; Justin Bieber, who at 19 has two memoirs under his belt; and, at 28, ancient Katy Perry, whose autobiography is due out this year. Kudos to Adele for wisely realizing that she’ll likely have a more interesting story to tell – and sell – in a few years’ time.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the PR team for Christine Lagarde of the IMF. Red faces at the PR office of Lagarde, who failed to make the recent list of Time Magazine’s top 100 people. The usual suspects were there, including Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, and even Chrstina Aguilera of talent reality show The Voice. But the rariefied list strangely didn’t include the widely travelled head of the IMF, who has been busy trying to save the euro and halt the ongoing European banking crisis. We doubt it bothered Lagarde herself, but it was a curious omission that someone in the IMF PR department might want to take a look at before the next staff meeting.

BRADLEYCOPPER 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Bradley Cooper.  The actor voted “Sexiest Man Alive” by People  in 2011 has just given an interview to Details that was immediately picked up by surprised media everywhere. The news hook? Bradley lives with his mom. Apparently he moved in with his mother Gloria following the death of his father two years ago and since then, they live in rooms next door to one another. Admirable though that may be, it does work against some of the PR positioning as one of Hollywood’s leading men. Explaining to Details, Cooper said, “She’s in the next room. But here’s the thing: She’s a cool chick. We can hang, and she can roll with the punches.” Bradley’s PR presumably winced when reading…



Will She, Or Won’t She? Hillary Gets Coy

 Will She, Or Wont She? Hillary Gets Coy

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Rodham Clinton was so determined to succeed in her run for president, there were doubts that cooperation between her and the man who would be President, Barack Obama, was even possible. Vice President was out; would she even accept Secretary of State, or would she pack up her toys and go home? Everyone knows the answer to that one, as this week Secretary of State Clinton leaves her post having logged more flight miles than any of her predecessors. Now that her consolation prize post is over, is she setting her laser-beam sights again on the big chair?

There are no indications coming from her directly, though there are enough indications swirling around her to give political pundits much to speculate about. First came a positively chummy interview Sunday past, with Hillary and President Obama on 60 Minutes. When asked if she was considering another run in 2016, Clinton replied, “I don’t think either [Obama] or I can make predictions about what’s going to happen tomorrow or next year.” The interview was seen by many as an endorsement, despite the president’s attempt to laugh that off.

Clinton was more direct during an interview with CNN yesterday, during which she said she had “absolutely no plans to run.” A forthcoming memoir may provide a few more interesting clues – or not. For now, the former First Lady and outgoing Secretary of State will keep everyone wondering whether she’ll try to add the ultimate title to her resume.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Hillary Clinton. Altogether more intriguing than any other politician.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep people guessing, and you keep people thinking about you. Clinton knows when to give, as she did during her very real testimony on the attack on the American consulate in Libya. She also knows when to withhold, with a blithe smile, as she does whenever she’s asked about another attempt at the presidency. Hillary Rodham Clinton has become a master of giving and withholding information, ensuring that the public, love her or hate her, will snap to attention whenever she speaks. Give a little . . . but not too much, and you’ll get the lion’s share of attention.

Guest Column: A Wulff at Google’s Door

BettinaWulf2 150x150 Guest Column: A Wulff at Googles Door

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Bettina Wulff.

Bettina Wulff may not be a name known to most Americans, but her claim to fame is that she was the former First Lady of Germany. Her husband, the former German President, Christian Wulff, resigned in early 2012 amidst a scandal involving personal favors from wealthy friends. The couple’s joint demise was particularly hard after the intense media honeymoon they initially enjoyed. The magazines had loved Bettina.

But resignation did not result in obscurity. Gossip recently reached new heights, or lows: prior to her high-profile marriage, Mrs. Wulff is alleged to have been an escort. The rumors spread like wildfire on the Internet – with the alarming result for Frau Wulff that if you typed her name into Google, the search engine’s auto complete function suggested “Bettina Wulff escort.” Google’s helpful service was now a slanderous PR issue.

Mrs. Wulff, formerly in PR, launched an aggressive campaign to clear her name. In September, she published a memoir rebutting speculation about her past. Next, she followed up with a lawsuit against Google Germany, requesting the deletion of 3,000 search results and the suppression of its derogatory auto complete results. Critics said this was a publicity stunt to sell her book, another sign of her craving for media attention – and a counterproductive one that kept the rumor alive. Was it better for Frau Wulff to take her lumps or fight the fight?

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Bettina Wulff. Who says what goes online stays there forever?

The PR Takeaway: To fight the rumor, change the conversation. In spite of endless gossip about her past, Bettina has turned the attention of media experts to another prominent player: Google and the debate about the monopolist’s responsibility for content. The court has temporarily ordered Google to eliminate eight search results. While this has not fully restored public sympathy for Bettina Wulff, it diverted the national conversation from “Was she really?” to a different question about Google and its content polices. Also, Bettina Wulff has changed her online history. Even for a First Lady, that’s something.

Why He Left Goldman Sachs, and Why They’re Not Worried

 Why He Left Goldman Sachs, and Why Theyre Not Worried

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) to Goldman Sachs.

Breakups are never easy, and today sees the publication of a very long breakup letter. Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story is a memoir written by former Goldman employee Greg Smith. It follows up on Smith’s poison pen editorial of the same name, published in The New York Times in early March 2012. The consensus? Goldman Sachs’ board members can sleep easy.

Greg Smith used to be in equity derivatives sales. In upper management, he earned a more than respectable living of around $500k. Disillusioned by the alleged cynicism and hypocrisy of a culture that did not put clients first (supposedly referring to them as “Muppets”), Smith became more and more disenchanted, so goes his narrative, until one day the moral bankruptcy of the firm caused him to quit.

With Smith receiving a reported $1.5 million book advance for a memoir about his time at the firm, Goldman Sachs was presumably worried. But his former employer is now indicating that Smith’s memoirs are not as damaging as originally expected. Some of his reminiscences may not be pretty, but there’s nothing illegal or that surprising about them. As for Smith’s credibility, it seems GS has had its own well-executed PR plan to raise a cloud over their ex-employee’s widely reported griping.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Goldman Sachs’s softly-softly response in advance of publication.

The PR Takeaway:  Say what you need to say once, and then let others do the talking. In advance of Smith’s book launch, Goldman Sachs made available its 18-page internal report on Smith’s allegations to newswire Bloomberg.  The report reveals that prior to resigning, Smith allegedly wanted a 100 percent pay raise, was denied a promotion, and may not have been long for the firm. The report’s contents were widely repeated – not by GS, but by the media. The nagging doubt is now that Smith may have just been a disgruntled employee. No on the record comment from Goldman Sachs, but a volte face from the very media that covered the story in the first place. Now that’s effective PR.

To read more click here.

What’s your opinion of Greg Smith’s book, and Goldman Sachs’s response? Give us your PR Verdict!

Rodney King: Few Answers, One Important Question

 Rodney King: Few Answers, One Important Question

The PR Verdict: B (Good Show) for Rodney King.

Rodney King was never an easy hero to love. The man who became a symbol of racial tensions that led to a week of deadly riots in Los Angeles twenty years ago was found dead in his pool last weekend after living a complicated life. The media has been trying hard to recap that life, but what seems to have had the most resonance in the national discussion were five simple words that became a philosophical plea.

Rodney King was no PR dream. After publishing a memoir in April, his life was an open book of drug and alcohol abuse. Arrested multiple times, he told the LA Times that he blamed politicians and lawyers “for taking a battered and confused addict and trying to make him into a symbol for civil rights.” He was in every way the reluctant activist.

While the reluctant activist in life, his death has provoked widespread debate about race relations. King’s famous quote at the time of the riots,” Can we call get along?” is the tag line that followed him. He is remembered for what he said, but perhaps he should be remembered for what he asked.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Rodney King and his legacy. Despite complicated personal circumstances, with one simple question he opened up a conversation that continues after his death.

PR Takeaway: Sometimes asking a question has more impact than answering one.  For a man whose chaotic ups and downs have been tracked by the media over the last twenty years, King’s press coverage was noticeably respectful and thoughtful. The statement he made at a packed news conference, pleading for calm at the time of the riots, became not only a headline but a philosophical question. A presumably unplanned PR moment, but one with staying power.

To read more, click here.

What’s your PR Verdict on the media’s coverage of Rodney King, both in life and at the time of his passing? Leave a comment, below.

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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Have you slept with JFK? Mimi Alford and “Once Upon a Secret”

mimialford3 Have you slept with JFK? Mimi Alford and Once Upon a Secret

The PR Verdict: "A" for Grandma Mimi

Hands up if you HAVEN”T slept with JFK?

Membership of the small club of amours who JFK turned down, seems to have dwindled even further, given the recent revelations of former intern Mimi Alford. Mimi, now a 69-year-old grandmother, has written a tell-all book called Once Upon a Secret, currently blitzing the morning chat shows.

Mimi’s revelations concerning her 18-month affair make racy reading.  While she concedes that it was not a romantic affair, JFK did teach her a thing or two.  Readers will be pleased to know he was generous in encouraging her to share her recently acquired skills with top aides who needed occasional relaxation.  She helpfully adds JFK had a playful side, playing with rubber ducks in his bathtub.

The PR Verdict: “A” for Grandma Mimi. Considering that almost everyone seems to have slept with JFK, Mimi has done an excellent job generating news buzz, despite an overwhelming sense of déjà-vu for the rest of us.

Despite the absence of a stained blue dress, Mimi has captured the airwaves. “When you keep a secret, and when you keep silent about something, you do it because you think it’s keeping you safe, but in fact, it’s deadly,” she said in one of her many interviews.   With alchemy, Mimi has transformed her affair from decades ago into gold. Clearly some secrets are more profitable than others.

What’s your PR Veridct? Tell us your rating.

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