Football Team Avoids a Foul

 Football Team Avoids a Foul

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for the New England Patriots. (Pictured: Former Patriots team member Aaron Hernandez.)

When an employee is arrested for a crime, should the company stand by the person? That was the question facing US football team The New England Patriots recently when police began investigating one of their star players, Aaron Hernandez, in the death of an acquaintance.

At first, team management was quiet on the matter. As details began to emerge, however, they moved into damage-control mode. Shortly after Hernandez’s arrest, the Patriots announced they would release him. A few hours later, Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder.

From a PR perspective, the Patriots did three things right: They fired Hernandez (at significant financial expense) before he’d been charged; their statement expressed both condolences to the victim’s family and their horror that a Patriots player might be involved; and they offered to exchange, for free, team jerseys inscribed with Hernandez’s name, many of which are owned by the team’s younger fans.

Arrests of professional football players are on the rise so the Patriot’s decision was an important one. In 2013, at least 39 players have been charged with serious crimes. The Patriots are one of the most well-managed and competitive teams in the league. By cutting ties to Hernandez, they sent a powerful message: criminal activity won’t be tolerated, even by lucrative star players.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for the Patriots, whose swift decision saved face.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  “Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t apply when it comes to the brand. The decision to walk away from beleaguered employees sounds heartless, but an employee’s misconduct – real, perceived, or as yet confirmed – can cast dark shadows on an organization. These unusual situations must be decided on a case-by-base basis; there may be times when evidence is less than compelling, or a suspension makes better PR and legal sense.  As a general rule, though, the sooner a company parts ways with the accused, the better.

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.

 

Same Old Snoop Dogg Song and Dance

Snoppdogg 150x150 Same Old Snoop Dogg Song and DanceSnoop Dogg, the infamous hip hop singer, has been rehabilitated and now re-launched with a new name, new film, and new album. It’s a full agenda; the “Snoop Dogg” name has been discarded. His new one? Snoop Lion. The spiritually re-birthed Snoop Lion is no longer “singing about smoking weed and killing people.”  Instead, his new message is about smoking weed and then “smoking some more.”

Snoop Lion, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, is a 41-year-old rapper who was acquitted, along with his bodyguard, of the murder of a gang member. He is now launching a new album called Reincarnated, as well as a feature length documentary with the same name. The central theme? His love of weed, the power of weed, and the history of weed.

His re-launch seems puzzlingly similar to his previous persona, which centered around weed. Not known for puritan living, he tells GQ that he would like to spread the word about his favorite pastime. “It’s actually grown from the ground straight to you, so its like eating a vegetable,” he explains. Snoop Lion then takes the interviewer to his favorite physician, Dr. Dina, who provides “medicinal weed” in a place where a “baby faced blonde” employee named Rachel does a handstand. Is this really a reincarnation?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Snoop Lion, né Dogg. His metamorphosis into Snoop Lion needs a more radical script.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: A different script for a different image.  Snoop Dog was the shorthand for all things “weed related,” says the singer, claiming, “I partake in all things Snoop Dogg” (ie, weed). His re-launch is meant to be coincide with his spiritual reincarnation, as explained in the album and the film documentary. But his GQ interview only reinforces everything we previously knew. From a PR point of view, and without anything new to say, this was a 360 degree reincarnation. Reinvention, or reincarnation, is ineffective if the allegedly new person just keeps saying the same old thing. From Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion and back to Dogg again…

To read the interview, click here.

What In “God’s Plan” Was George Zimmerman Thinking?

screen shot 2012 07 19 at 11 53 58 am 300x254 What In Gods Plan Was George Zimmerman Thinking?

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for George Zimmerman.

Who knows what George Zimmerman was thinking when he went on Fox yesterday for an hour-long interview? He clearly had messages he wanted to convey but in the end, his sit down interview probably made matters worse. The self-appointed neighborhood watchman, who made national headlines for murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, looks set to continue being an ongoing lightning rod.

Presumably Zimmerman wanted to set the record straight ahead of his trial. His key message, “I’m not a racist, I’m not a murderer,” got ample airtime, but it was his other responses that made headlines. Zimmerman was asked if there was anything he regretted about the night he killed Trayvon Martin. “No sir, “ was the response. “I feel that it was God’s plan and not for me to second-guess or judge it.”

Zimmerman tried to make some amends by saying he prays for the parents of Martin daily and that he would “tell them again that [he is] sorry.” The interview concluded with Zimmerman looking into the camera apologising that his actions have polarized America. The key takeaway? The only thing guaranteed was that the interview further enraged Martin’s parents. What a mess.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for George Zimmerman. Apologies don’t work when you invoke the work of others, perhaps even blaming them, and that includes God. Where was his prep before this interview took place?

The PR Takeaway:  There was so much wrong with this interview. An hour-long television interview is the wrong way to apologize. If you do choose this route, say you are sorry in a short interview without bringing God into it to reduce your culpability. After this interview aired, Trayvon Martin’s father issued a statement saying, “I simply really don’t know what God George Zimmerman is worshipping, because there’s no way that the God that I serve had in his plans for George Zimmerman to murder my son.” With this sound bite, the worth of Zimmerman’s lengthy interview was reduced to zero.

Should George Zimmerman have done this interview? Should he have been better prepped? Is there anything at all that went right with this God-forsaken interview? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

BREAKING NEWS FROM THE VATICAN’S CHIEF EXORCIST:

fatheramorth BREAKING NEWS FROM THE VATICANS CHIEF EXORCIST:

The PR Verdict: “A” for the Vatican's Chief Exorcist.

Father Amorth, Head Exorcist at the Vatican (yes really), has hit the headlines.  He has shed scandalous light on a long running mystery concerning the unsolved disappearance of a fifteen-year-old in Rome, Italy during the 1980s.  Speaking to the Italian media he alleged yesterday that schoolgirl Emanuela Orlandi, a name well known in Italy, was kidnapped three decades ago, murdered and her body disposed of by officials who worked for embassies to the Vatican.

But wait, Father Gabriele Amorth, who is also the the honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists  (yes REALLY!) says the disappearance of the  young girl was a “crime with a sexual motive”.  He claims she was most probably kidnapped and forced to take part in sex parties.  Based on recent findings from a mysterious Vatican archivist he says, “…parties were organized, with a Vatican gendarme acting as the ‘recruiter’ of the girls.  The network involved diplomatic personnel from a foreign embassy to the Holy See.  I believe Emanuela ended up a victim of this circle,” he told Italian media.

Father Amorth, aged 85 is no stranger to controversy.  Previously he has described yoga as satanic, because it leads to the worship of Hinduism.  Ever vigilant he has also warned against the dangers of Harry Potter novels, urging caution as the texts encourage children to experiment with black magic and wizardry. The reasons he has turned his attention to solving murder mysteries is unclear but oh boy, he always gets his headlines.

The PR Verdict: “A” for Father Amorth and a well managed media hit almost entirely devoid of content. Is the mystery any closer to be solved or could the Vatican’s chief exorcist be a fame junkie?

PR TAKEAWAY:  For the perfect media storm: throw together key words and let the content look after itself.   Is there anything sexier than words that include; sex scandal, sex parties, murder, foreign officials and yes, the Vatican?  When these words come from the Vatican’s “Chief Exorcist” headlines are guaranteed. Content is a little trickier though and despite the rather sensational claims it is not obvious that this mystery will be solved anytime soon. This is one case where a little content has gone a long way. Could higher powers be at work?

To read more click here and here.

The PR Verdict returns on Tuesday, after the Memorial Day Weekend.

 

 

What To Think About Bo Guagua’s Letter?

bo guagua story top2 300x168 What To Think About Bo Guaguas Letter?

PR Verdict: “C” for Bo Guagua, son (left) of Bo Xilai (right)

The Bo Xilai scandal and hints of a Chinese power struggle continue to grip those who understand it while the rest of us wonder why everyone involved in the scandal has such complicated names.  The plot has thickened yet again.  Bo Guagua, son of the once powerful Bo Xilai and a student at Harvard, has sent an open letter to his university’s newspaper to set the record straight.

Missing in action for several weeks, twenty-four year old Bo Guagua’s letter in the Harvard Crimson disappoints, reading as no more than a feeble attempt to drown out claims he was a party boy.  Were these the details we were waiting for, given that Chinese media have connected him tangentially with the suspected poisoning of British businessman Neil Heywood and his mother a key suspect?

The key points from the letter:  No, he does not drive a red Ferrari.  He did not get favorable treatment at Oxford or Harvard.  He is studious!   And his education was partly paid by scholarship.  What a good boy!

PR Verdict: “C” for Bo Guagua.  The Crimson was always a going to be a bigger pushover than the NYTimes or one of its peers, so it was wise to go there and have his message published without edits and additional questions.  But to what end?

PR Takeaway:  Moving the dial in the public arena requires taking a stand. This letter speaks only of peripheral issues and oddly focuses on the author only.  Not a word in support of either parent, concerns regarding the Chinese judicial system or conversely public support for the system, to curry favor with Chinese authorities.  The world is only too eager to hear from the son of both a powerful government official and a mother under investigation for murder.  He has the power to throw unwelcome spanners in the works.  Next time he might want to give the media a little more to go on.

To read the letter click here and to read more click here.

What’s your PR Verdict on this open letter?

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