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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the teams in the World Cup. Whether they won, lost, or bit opposing team members, they created drama, last-seconds goal tension, and must-see games. Gone was the bad PR facing Brazil in the weeks leading up to the games, all of it replaced by football frenzy the world over—even in the US, where it’s still called soccer.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to United States Speaker of the House John Boehner and Congress, who tied this week for new lows in partisanship. House Speaker Boehner confirmed this week that he intends to sue President Barack Obama for unlawful use of executive order. The announcement was made soon after Congress nearly came to a brawl over an IRS scandal involving missing emails with sensitive information—a perfect opportunity to point fingers and cry “J’accuse!” at the other side. At a time of historically low levels of trust in government, these elected officials should think twice about their choice of focus.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Chen Guanbiao, the Chinese millionaire who took out an ad in The New York Times to tell the world he would treat 300 homeless New Yorkers to a fancy luncheon and give each of them $300 in cash. Chen, a recycling businessman with a penchant for publicity stunts, was asked by his charity liaison for a donation of $90,000 instead, to protect the homeless from using the money for drugs. At the lunch, Chen had homeless people pose for photos of him giving them cash—that they had to return—so he could maintain his business card statement, “Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China.”

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury for combining forces to fight human trafficking. The Pope, leader of over a billion Catholics worldwide, and Archbishop Justin Welby, leader of over 80 million Anglicans, pushed aside doctrinal differences and met at the Vatican to discuss a unified strategy to combat “a crime against humanity.” Yet another sign that Pope Francis is committed to doing far more than just presiding over holiday services.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to President Obama, who finds himself on the receiving end of campaign of blame for the current situation in Iraq. Republicans seized upon news that Iraqi soldiers, trained by the US at a cost of $25 billion and many lives, turned and ran from encroaching ISIS militants. However, the tide may yet turn: media pundits are denouncing former Vice President Dick Cheney’s accusations against Obama, reminding the public of Cheney’s role as architect in the Iraq war. Touché.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to American Apparel, which voted this week to unseat founder Dov Charney after years of accusations of sexual harassment of employees. Charney also hired photographer Terry Richardson to do American Apparel’s ad campaign; Richardson has been accused of harassment of models, and the campaign blasted as pornography. These issues have been going on for long enough to drive American Apparel’s stock price below a dollar; perhaps that, and not the numerous accusations, finally led the board to take action. The move is long overdue – and perhaps too late to change the company’s falling fortunes.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Joni Ernst, the conservative Republican senator from Iowa whose victory in her state’s senate primary this week may be due largely to a shockingly candid political ad. While her bona fides (growing up on a farm, serving in the military) made her a good contender in her home state, her 30-second spot put her in the national spotlight. “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm,” Ernst begins, “so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork… Washington’s full of big spenders. Let’s make ‘em squeal.” What more need be said?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the National Football League, which faces a lawsuit now joined by football Hall of Famer Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins. The legendary quarterback, along with over 40 others from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and thousands of other players, charge that the NFL concealed information about the effects of concussions on the brain. The league continues to deny wrongdoing while seemingly unable to back up their claims.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to detractors, and supporters, of President Obama’s prisoner exchange for POW Bowe Bergdahl. Republicans have been focusing on the possibility that the exchange of one American soldier for the release of five members of the Taliban may cause grievous harm in the long run. Democrats are leaning on the patriotic credo of leaving no man behind. Both sides seem to be going through expected motions, though, because as pundits point out, there may be far more to these negotiations than the general public will ever know.

Is Sochi Safe for the Olympics?

 Is Sochi Safe for the Olympics?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Sochi and the winter Olympics.

The winter Olympics aren’t set to begin for another two weeks, but they’re already off to an uneasy start. Yesterday, video was released to the media by alleged terrorists who threatened to target the games and the Russian host city of Sochi.

These winter games and their setting already had a controversial relationship. As Russia passed laws hostile to homosexuals and lesbians, athletes both straight and gay protested. When tensions between US President Obama and Russian President Putin mounted over NSA file leaker Edward Snowden, Obama said early on that he’d be a no-show at the games. Then, in January, two deadly suicide bombings in Volgograd cast a bleak shadow over the impending competition and provoked questions about safety.

Yesterday, video of two men allegedly with Anars Al Sunna, an Islamist group, was released to the media. The men claim responsibility for the attacks in Volgograd, calling them “only a little example, a little step,” of what may come. President Putin promised to “do whatever it takes” to protect all attending the games. But US Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) said American officials working with Russia “found a departure of cooperation that is very concerning.”

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Sochi, host city of the winter Olympics and target of terrorists.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Truces can be temporary and lead to victory. Russia and the United States have always had uneasy relations and will likely continue to do so. But in times of crisis, such as when terrorists are openly threatening, there is an opportunity for both sides to come together and win. Shake hands, forge forces and work as a team. When the games are done, everyone can go back to the way things were. But the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics could go down in history for an entirely different, and positive, reason.

Former Secretary of Defense Declares War

 Former Secretary of Defense Declares War

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Could PR get any worse for the Obama administration after the HealthCare.gov debacle? Last week, former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates released Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, which reads like a secretary declaring war on a sitting president.

Highlights include Gates writing of a meeting on the war in Afghanistan in March 2011. “I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [Afghan president Hamid] Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his… For him, it’s about getting out.” Similar candor was used to describe Congress and US Vice President Joe Biden.

Why write a scathing memoir about a sitting president and a war in progress? The media’s verdict is that Duty could be retitled Betrayal.  In interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Gates obliquely said, “My objective was to…try and provide a non-partisan look at the kind of issues that have riven our country and riven our government for the last number of years.” Which doesn’t explain the need to do it now as much as another statement: “Why was I so angry all the time? …because getting anything done in Washington was so damnably hard.”

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Candor guarantees media time. While Gates has been criticized for the harshness and timing of his book, he has dominated the media. In a sea of watery apologies from politicians, Gates comes off as a strong and outraged voice. He may inflame, but if nothing else he’s seen the trend of growing impatience with politics and has acted on it. Right or wrong? Immaterial; the answer is, effective. 

 

The PRV 2013 Final Grade: And the “F” Goes to…

Healthcare Exchanges The PRV 2013 Final Grade: And the F Goes to...THE PR VERDICT’S “F” (FULL FIASCO) grade goes to HealthCare.gov, the website hub for US citizens to sign up for government-supplied health insurance. A long hoped-for dream of affordable healthcare for Americans, and what Barack Obama surely thought would be his presidential legacy, has turned into what is generally described as a nightmare.

Getting the Affordable Health Care Act bill passed seemed the hard part. The next step was constructing a website that would be easy to navigate and able to handle an onslaught of Americans in need of insurance. But surely this would be a cinch for Microsoft or Apple or any of America’s tech giants. Maybe, if they’d gotten the contract, or even been consulted.

From the start, HealthCare.gov was a disaster. The site bounced users off, refused to save their data, or was impossible to log onto. Worse, the few who did manage to get on and didn’t want to change their plans suddenly found themselves without insurance. The President’s angry promises to get the site fixed were empty next to facts emerging from a commission (yes, things went that bad). Not enough testing, wrong mainframe, blah tech excuse blah. Only this week has Microsoft been called in, but help arrived too late to save this story.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Under-promise and over-deliver. It’s easy to see why President Obama would have wanted to offer affordable healthcare as soon as possible. Now, in hindsight, it’s easy to see why he should have waited. The achievement is one thing, implementation an entirely different animal. Whether looking at a presidential legacy or a small business breaking sales expectations with a big account, plan. Factor in worst-case scenarios. Hire the best consultants. When the back-slapping over a major win is done, take a hard look at what’s ahead to see that your promise doesn’t become an error fail.

Obama Administration’s Epic Tech Fails

 Obama Administrations Epic Tech Fails

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Obama administration’s technical advisors. (Pictured: NSA leaker Edward Snowden)

Earlier this week, President Obama had to call French President Francois Hollande and explain, if he could, why the US was spying on the phone records of over 70 million French citizens. The issue was brought to light by former US National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed NSA secrets to several news agencies months ago. Now more than ever, it is imperative that President Obama’s technical administration locate the fugitive tech expert. Not just to save face; they could actually use his help.

Aside from being unable to locate Snowden, a man of Bourne-movie level abilities to erase every trace of his movements, the Obama administration has lost credibility over the technical glitches on Healthcare.gov, the main portal to signing up for mandatory Obamacare. Yesterday, another gaffe: a Twitter feed that has been revealing embarrassing inside information about foreign policy for the past two years was traced back to Jofi Joseph, an official in the White House’s National Security Staff. #howembarrassing.

Americans have grown uncomfortably accustomed to government failures. A lack of regulations allowed the collapse of the economy. Bipartisanship led to a shutdown. Now the website to register for healthcare doesn’t work, prompting the president to record a video encouraging people to sign up “the old fashioned way,” via phone or in person. Presumably, this video was made around the time of the  call to the French president about the tech guy the CIA can’t find, and before the Twitter revelation.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Obama administration’s technical advisors.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: If you want to do your best, surround yourself with the best. America is not exactly short on technical excellence, yet the president’s cabinet signed off on using ten-year-old technology for Healthcare.gov. The military stands by the accuracy of its drones, yet the US can’t find one guy who’s talked to several major international newspapers, or another guy dissing the White House from inside the White House. The PR solution would be obtaining the best and the brightest to fix the glitches and increase security. Maybe Snowden could provide a reference.

Health Exchange Site Needs Intensive Care

Healthcare Exchanges Health Exchange Site Needs Intensive Care

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Healthcare.gov’s rocky rollout.

Among the great gifts US Congressional Republicans gave to President Obama in their 16-day quixotic government shutdown was deep cover for the abysmal rollout of Healthcare.gov, the website where uninsured Americans can (and must) sign up for health insurance. The federal government site is the go-to for the 6-in-10 uninsured consumers who live in states that, for political reasons, refused to set up their own healthcare exchanges.

Regardless of where one stands on Obamacare, the rollout has been a slow-motion disaster plagued by technical glitches, politics, restrictive government contracting requirements – there’s a long list. And now that  the foundering ship of state has been righted and set back on course, attention is shifting to the implementation problems, and criticism is crossing party lines.

In remarks Monday, Obama hit the “no excuse” soundtrack for the technical problems and vowed a quick and substantive fix, but repairs could take weeks. The administration has highlighted the volume of site traffic (overwhelming) and successful registrations (respectable) but is still playing off its back foot amid rising calls for someone’s head – perhaps even that of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sibelius. A quick fix is mandatory.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) to the Obama administration, for not responding fast or loud enough to address Obamacare’s web-based woes.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Own the conversation on your product or service. Admirers of the nimble, shoot-and-move communications strategy of Obama’s presidential campaigns surely wish the same could be seen in how his administration has addressed the healthcare rollout glitches. Obama & Co. need to redirect the conversation. They’ve taken the first step with Obama’s “mad as hell” mea culpa. Now it’s time to find and promote successes, get ahead of the critics, provide a date for when things will be fixed – and prepare for someone to take the fall.  

 

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to President Obama for his artful handling of Congress regarding possible military involvement in Syria. Global concern about the Syrian civil war soared after more than 1500 civilians were believed killed in government-led chemical weapons attacks. Taking a political gamble, Obama announced he supports limited intervention but would require Congressional approval to move forward. The savvy move effectively forces Republicans to align themselves with the White House on an issue that’s far from popular with the American people. Within days, senior Congressional Republicans lined up behind the prez. If the measure passes in next week’s vote, the US will present a united front. If it fails, it will be due to Republican leaders’ inability to garner support. Either way, Obama wins.

John McCain plays on iPho 010 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to US Senator John McCain, caught playing poker on his iPhone during a Senate committee hearing to discuss US military intervention in Syria. The hawkish Arizona Republican is a strong proponent for use of force in response to the gassing of civilians in that country’s two-year civil war, and his advocacy is likely to be critical in upcoming Congressional votes to authorize military action. But at the hearing Tuesday, his mind was apparently elsewhere, as an alert Washington Post photographer discovered. “Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing – worst of all I lost!” McCain posted on his Twitter feed. But the attempt at deflection only drew more criticism. “That hearing sounds so boring though. Hope it wasn’t about anything important,” tweeted one.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to JCPenny, for dumping their embattled Martha Stewart line of home goods. The colorful kitchen and home collection caused was a disaster from the start, when Stewart assured the venerable retailer that her exclusive contract with Macy’s wasn’t that exclusive. Actually, yes, it was, ruled a judge. The lawsuit cost millions, as well as JCP’s then-CEO Ron Johnson his job. This week, the whole magilla was resolved when current JCP CEO Mike Ullman cleared shelves of Stewart designs that, after all was said and nearly done, weren’t selling anyway. That, apparently, is the way the cookie plate crumbles.

Another Trump-ed Up Lawsuit

 Another Trump ed Up Lawsuit

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly Okay) for Donald Trump.

The Donald is at it again. Real estate magnate and reality TV show star Donald Trump announced yesterday that he is suing comedian and talk show host Bill Maher for $5 million dollars. Why? Maher jokingly asked Trump to prove via a birth certificate that he wasn’t fathered by an orangutan.

This was, of course, Maher’s take on Trump’s infamous “birther” challenge, in which Trump offered to donate $5 million to the charity of President Obama’s choice if he would show a birth certificate proving he was born in Hawaii. The President refused to engage and the whole thing blew over faster than Trump’s hair at the helipad.

Now Trump has risen to Maher’s bait, brandishing a birth certificate that lists his father as Fred Trump (not an orangutan). He announced the lawsuit to – where else? Fox & Friends, and – when else? Just as his reality show, The Apprentice, is starting another run. Trump says he’s going to donate the money to charity, and no, he didn’t think Maher’s comment was a joke. Maher’s Tweeted response: “What?? Really? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha,” endquote.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly Okay) for Donald Trump. This is just business as usual in his PR stunt-ridden world.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The old saw about there being no such thing as bad publicity is a lie. Drumming up publicity for one’s TV show with a news-grabbing stunt is a wise move, but why always be the man we love to hate? Instead of humorlessly producing a birth certificate and ordering Maher to pay up, why not turn the joke to advantage by offering to donate the $5 million to the charity of Maher’s choice? Then Trump would have his publicity and appear to be the bigger man, and a generous one – as everyone knows he can afford to be. By doing it his way, Trump comes across as a bully and a blowhard. Well, at least he’s on brand.