Pelosi Makes Old News, New News

Screen Shot 2013 05 20 at 7.14.18 AM 139x150 Pelosi Makes Old News, New NewsNot everyone likes Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives. That much is clear. She is described by the Financial Times as “a kind of liberal piñata for Republicans,” and “a ready-made hate-figure for conservatives.” She recently gave an interview to the paper in its informal weekend format, Lunch with the FT.  Was this interview an attempt to set the record straight? An informal make over?

There are many reasons to give interviews to the media. Sometimes it’s to make an announcement, to launch and idea, or to set the record straight. Sometimes it is to simply make your case again. Nancy Pelosi, at the age of 73, gave her lunch interview to the Financial Times with one key message: business as usual.

What’s noteworthy about the interview is that there is no new PR messaging and no real news. Given her age and her congressional seniority the key takeaways were that she remains a defiant and unapologetic liberal (“proudly so”) and that she continues in her role as the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, a task of endless complication. Described as “brutally effective” in her role, the FT claims Obama’s “signature legislative achievements such as healthcare reform would have never become law” without her. At this point in her tenure, the need to establish a base and to outreach with new messaging now seems to be behind her.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Nancy Pelosi and an interview that was more of the same.

The PR Takeaway: Simply staying on track can be the message. What’s noteworthy about this article is how little new ground it breaks. Pelosi’s messaging is exactly as one might have expected but packaged in an interview format that revolves around an informal lunch, makes the messaging sounds less political and self promotional. In PR, if you want to make your point but don’t have anything new to say, change the venue and the format and keep the messaging on track. What is old news can pass as new news.

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.

 

Ralph Lauren’s Olympic Disaster

 Ralph Laurens Olympic Disaster

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Ralph Lauren

Oh no! The blue blazers and white trousers of the US Olympic team aren’t made in the USA? The clothing that athletes from Team USA will wear was actually made in China? Outrageous! Ralph Lauren, who has proudly supplied the US Olympic team with its uniforms over the years, suddenly found itself in the ugly crossfire of the outsourcing debate.

The fracas started when both Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi got wind that the uniforms were made in China. What a great media opportunity! The clothes have been Chinese-made since 2008, but oddly enough no one seemed to mind then, when outsourcing wasn’t such a hot political issue. This time around, everyone wanted to get on board. And when Donald Trump becomes the latest to start publicly opining, it’s definitely time to take remedial action.

Ralph Lauren issued a statement late on Friday night, presumably to kill weekend drumbeating, saying that the clothes will be made on US soil next  time:  “We have committed to producing the opening and closing ceremony Team USA uniforms in the United States that will be worn for the 2014 Olympic Games.”

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Ralph Lauren for recognizing this was an issue with no winnable defense. Take corrective action, quickly, and move on.

The PR Takeaway: Issue your response and then elevate the topic to wider macro concerns. There is no upside in advocating outsourcing, particularly when it involves national symbols. No matter that other US fashion houses of similar standing would have done the same. Next step, make it clear that this is a wider issue. The firm said it will take the lead in the  “conversation” within the industry and government  about “manufacturing in the United States.” See? This issue wasn’t about Ralph Lauren… it was about the state of US manufacturing! Nothing personal.

What’s your opinion of the US Olympic team uniform debate? Give us your PR Verdict!