Client 9 Seeks 2nd Chance

 Client 9 Seeks 2nd Chance

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Eliot Spitzer.

In his heyday, former New York State Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer crusaded for strict regulations on Wall Street, incurring the wrath of the rich and powerful while fighting the good fight for the little guy. By night, he was known as Client 9 to the madam who supplied him with prostitutes. Not an isolated incident, nothing that could be put down to not knowing better. The word hubris replaced talk of a future in the White House.

Ah, but look at the shelf life of political shenanigans, and we may see why Spitzer is taking another shot in politics, announcing his run for Comptroller of New York. After all, Bill Clinton was reviled during the Monica Lewinsky episode, and now he’s an elder statesman that current president Barack Obama couldn’t wait to have in his corner. Another politician testing the waters for Spitz is Anthony Weiner, who waited not terribly long after his naughty-texting downfall to climb into the race for mayor of New York City. Was anyone terribly surprised that he quickly rose in the polls? Perhaps not.

The public has a short memory, or perhaps a shorter tolerance for politicians in general these days. Those whose transgressions err on the side of the personal, rather than keeping the little guy down and out, tend to be forgiven. The odds seem good that Joe Public will give Client 9 another shot.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Eliot Spitzer. Penance done, he stands a good chance of being re-elected.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: After you’ve done wrong, do the right things. Step 1: apologize. Step 2: gracefully resign from your post (hopefully with your still-supportive wife by your side). Step 3: Lay low for a while, giving other politicians a chance to grab the negative headlines. Step 4: begin reinvention and let the search engines associate you with something else apart from scandal. (In Spitzer’s case, this meant a a stint as a TV pundit.) Step 5: Let others go before you to test the waters. And finally, Step 6: return to the job you were good at, pledging to reward forgiveness. Voila! Happy days are here again.

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.

The New York Times and When Not To Publish

 The New York Times and When Not To Publish

The PR Verdict: C (Distinctly OK) for The New York Times. (Pictured: Times editor Jill Abramson.)

When does The New York Times decide it won’t publish something on the grounds that it might impinge on national security? It’s a question the paper of record has had to address recently. An angry Congress wants clarification, as do some readers. What to say?

The controversy stems from recent articles published in the NY TImes about President Obama’s “kill list,” as well as the U.S. government’s computer virus warfare against Iran.  Obama’s critics claim the information came directly from the White House in order to bolster the President’s tough image on national security. Obama’s PR says this is dead wrong and that the President is intent on cracking down on staff leaking classified information.

The Times‘s defense? It always consults with government officials prior to publication. The paper confirms that government officials had not asked the paper to spike the two stories in question, and it rejects any suggestion that national security was endangered. “No story about details of government secrets has come near to demonstrably hurting the national security in decades and decades,” is the official quote. Case closed for The New York Times (for the moment).

The PR Verdict: C (Distinctly OK) for The New York Times, whose response still keeps the decision to publish or not in the realm of a high level of discretion. Something more objective might help the debate.

PR Takeaway: Freedom of speech and public interest rest on a continuum of interest and competing concerns. The Times has chosen to portray the issues as relatively straightforward – dangerous to release, or not? Why not talk about the issue as a long continuum with transparency at one end and secrecy on the other. List and weigh factors that might have a bearing on publication. Think of it as a point system; it will undoubtedly be imperfect, but it would change the debate from a discretion-based decision to something more independent and apolitical.

To read more, click here.

Is The New York Times releasing information that could compromise national security, or exercising the freedom of press? Give us your PR Verdict, below.