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 Lupita Nyong’o, whose star continues to rise with this week’s announcement that she won the cover of People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful” issue. This can be attributed to Nyong’o’s obvious beauty – a welcome sign that the days when magazines shied away from putting women of color on covers are over – her Oscar-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave, and doubtless a team of PRs and managers who have kept Nyong’o in the public eye, steadily but not to the point of over-saturation. Congratulations, Team Lupita.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Bryan Singer, director of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Singer pulled out of publicity appearances at last week’s WonderCon and will likely remain behind the scenes after a lawsuit was filed accusing him and three other men of sex abuse of minors. “I do not want these fictitious claims to divert ANY attention from X-Men,” Singer’s PR statement read. 20th Century Fox, which will release X-Men next month, issued a terse comment a week ago: “This is a personal matter, which Bryan Singer and his representatives are addressing separately.” Time to distance a director accused of abusing teenagers from a product marketed to teenagers.

rove The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Karl Rove, Bill Kristol and other Republican-Conservative strategists/pundits, for stepping in to “unskew” a New York Times poll favorable to Obamacare and Democratic Senate candidates. The Times poll, conducted with the Kaiser Family Foundation, found Democrats running ahead of or, at worst, neck and neck with GOP opponents in traditionally conservative Southern states. “Badly done,” Rove said of the poll. Kristol and the Republican National Committee were more snarky. But none, including Rove, who famously freaked when Fox News called the Presidential election for Obama two years ago, offered more than opinion to refute the poll.

US Health & Human Services Secretary Resigns

 US Health & Human Services Secretary Resigns

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Affordable Care Act. (Pictured: President Obama, former US Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius)

After a mortifying rollout, the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is finally in place. Over 7 million Americans have signed up, a number higher than the original goal, and President Obama’s legacy – healthcare for all – seems underway. The act narrowly survived constant attack by Republicans, not to mention its own faulty website. However, one casualty that no amount of healthcare could fix was the reputation of US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and its effect on the ACA.

Obamacare was under Sebelius’s watch, and she largely took the fall, rightly or not, willingly or not, for the severely flawed rollout. It was Sebelius, facing an angry mob of senators, who had to admit that Healthcare.gov, the ACA website where most Americans were to sign up, had barely been tested before going live. Damage control appearances caused even more damage, especially an uncomfortable appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. All of it was fuel for Republicans determined to repeal the ACA.

Sebelius, a former governor of Kansas who was once a contender for vice president in 2008, was a likely candidate for termination after the ACA rollout fiasco. The question is now whether the falling ax will do further harm to an already tarnished initiative.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Affordable Care Act.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know when to let sleeping dogs lie, especially when they’re vicious. Letting Sebelius go during the worst of the ACA’s rollout would have caused even more turmoil for Obamacare. Her resignation comes on a high note of above-goal enrollment; the best timing for a bad situation. Now Sylvia Mathews Burwell, formerly director of the Office of Management and Budget, suits up against Republicans bent on finding chinks in the armor of the ACA. It’s a tough job; just ask Kathleen Sebelius.

PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

obamacare logo  PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, whose supporters, including its namesake, had reason to celebrate Monday when enrollments pushed slightly past the original sign-up target of 7 million. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that target for initial sign-up period through March 31. Despite a horribly marred start and with withering opposition at every turn, the mandated healthcare program saw sign-ups somehow make their numbers. And while public opinion is still hardly enthusiastic, one poll did find for the first time that public support for the healthcare law surpassed opposition. Perhaps the rally will prompt lukewarm supporters to stop apologizing and start cheering.

  PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to General Motors’ chief executive Mary Barra, for a defense statement best summed up by “I don’t know.” As the head of GM faced a House subcommittee investigating what the car company knew and when regarding flaws that led to numerous deaths and injuries, Barra’s responses infuriated senators and the families of the deceased alike. PR is in freefall, and GM is still recalling millions of cars and facing possible criminal charges. In leaving Barra to claim ignorance or hang herself and her company, GM’s legal and PR teams register a complete fail.

  PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Britain’s Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, whose editorial boards told a parliamentary science committee they believe humans are negatively impacting global climate conditions. Really? That’s rather confusing considering, as the committee chairman put it, “some papers regularly give a platform to lobby groups or indeed conspiracy theorists – many not even qualified scientists – who pooh-pooh the evidence and attack UK climate scientists.” We are shocked, shocked, to find out that publications, looking to increase readership, might take one view in their papers while believing the exact opposite. Yawn.

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

kentucky attorney general jack conway gay marriage 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Jack Conway, the Attorney General of Kentucky who refused to appeal the lifting of a ban on gay marriage in his state. Conway said he could not support this last bastion of discrimination, despite many voters supporting the ban and his plan to run for governor. “There were plenty of people who advised me this is very risky for me politically,” Conway said. “But I talked it over with my wife, and she said, ‘You know what Jack, you really stink when you are insincere.'” This sincere move, which goes against Conway’s Catholic background but aligns with his political ideals, makes him smell like a rose.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the various entities searching for seemingly ill-fated Malaysia Airlines 370. The plane, with more than 230 passengers, was last reported over the Gulf of Thailand. For family and friends, the probable disaster has been compounded by a barrage of incomplete, incorrect and contradictory information about the plane’s whereabouts, how long it was in the air, and who was aboard. It’s true that no one has any answers yet. But a basic tenet of crisis communications is to designate a single point of contact through which all information will flow. That’s no easy feat when there are multiple countries and agencies  involved. By bungling communications, however, an already terrible situation has been made even worse.

barack obama between two ferns 580 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO President Obama, who submitted to a fake interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis last week, to inconclusive effect. Appearing on the “Between Two Ferns” web series, Obama ostensibly came to plug Obamacare to an audience of young people. The appearance was funny enough, but gave even the most passionate Obama supporters pause for its irreverence. His detractors rolled out the big artillery: The dignity of the office, national security and Lord knows what else we hold dear was put at stake, they declaimed. Hardly, but Obama did look like he was doing a B-movie cameo. The joke might be more on a nation that needs its sitting president to play for laughs to promote policy.

AOL CEO’s Remarks on Benefits a Detriment

tim armstrong aol AOL CEOs Remarks on Benefits a Detriment

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for AOL CEO Tim Armstrong.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong is back with another PR blunder that contributed to, if not prompted outright, an embarrassing corporate about-face. His latest gaffe came last week after AOL made a change to its 401(k) matching policy for employees, revealing that it would only match employee contributions at year’s end instead of throughout the year, and only for employees who are “active” through December 31.

Bad enough to adopt a miserly policy that robs employees of potential stock market gains in their retirement portfolio, but Armstrong added to the firestorm by blaming the change on Obamacare and on two “distressed” pregnancies that cost the company $1 million each in healthcare expenses. “We had to decide, do we pass the $7.1 million of Obamacare costs to our employees? Or do we try to eat as much of that as possible and cut other benefits?” Armstrong said, digging a deeper hole by going on to discuss the expensive pregnancies.

Too bad for Armstrong that AOL announced, at virtually the same time, a 13 percent increase in quarterly revenues, its best growth in a decade. The next day, he announced that AOL would reverse its 401k decision and apologized for singling out the two new mothers, but not before one observer recalculated his salary in terms of distressed babies per year.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Tim Armstrong and AOL for bad timing, bad policy, and bad employee relations.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Avoid scapegoating. Armstrong, like so many other CEOs, looked stingy in blaming Obamacare for forcing cuts elsewhere  – especially with AOL’s simultaneous rosy earnings announcement. (Is anyone managing communications flow at the company?) He doubled down by essentially blaming two specific employees for having the audacity to need expensive health care – pregnant women at that. Why not blame black rhinos for being hunted to near-extinction for their careless habit of having horns that poachers will kill for?

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.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the makers of “The Power of Adobe Photoshop,” a 37-second video that was made months ago and went viral this week. The time-lapse clip shows a model posing without makeup, then being styled, and then being turned into a creature of literally unreal beauty – or what passes for a normal woman in magazines. The video has been re-blogged and reported on so many times that the original makers are unknown, though after the Today Show report on it, it’s likely they’ll surface soon.

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the continued debacle that is the Obamacare rollout. Today’s one-month anniversary of the national health system’s launch caps a week in which several administration officials were called to the Congressional carpet to account for the problems that continue to plague the the healthcare.gov website. President Obama was also on the defensive over media reports that a vast number of people may lose existing insurance plans on Dec. 31 despite his assurances that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” The PR lesson? If it’s not ready, don’t launch it. The best PR in the world can’t make a half-baked pie taste good.

cornyn The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to US Senate Republicans, for their specious arguments to support blocking President Obama’s nominees to the second-most important US court. Republicans this week charged “court-packing” by the President on three nominees to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The reference dates to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 gambit to neuter a politically antagonistic Supreme Court by adding seats. Promising a filibuster, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas claimed federal poverty: “The last thing we need to do is throw more money on unneeded judges on this court.” Except that these are court vacancies, not new seats – and no one previously fussed over a Republican president’s nominees. “I can’t think of anything more ridiculous,” Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

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 the International Association to Save Tyre, a charitable organization that came up with a most innovative fundraiser: a raffle to win a Picasso. Sotheby’s Paris will host the drawing, in which one lucky ticket holder will win Picasso’s “Man With Opera Hat,” a cubist illustration valued at $1 million dollars. Tickets are available online, worldwide, for $135/€100. After the publicity the raffle received, it’s a cinch the ceiling of 50,000 available tickets will be met, bringing in a raft of donations and awareness in this artfully crafted fundraiser.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who committed an uncharacteristic PR misstep this week. Christie told The Record, a NJ newspaper, that a “low-level manager” at NJ Transit was responsible for deciding to move more than 300 trains to a facility that wound up flooding during Hurricane Sandy last year, causing more than $100 million in damage. The governor suggested that the manager went rogue and didn’t properly vet his decision within the transportation agency. The call-out alone would have been bad enough, but it turns out that The Record has emails showing that this poor unfortunate’s decision was, indeed, approved by more than a dozen supervisors, including the agency director. Bad intel and poor form, governor.

kochs The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Charles and David Koch, for denying any role in the anti-Obamacare government shutdown but not disavowing the Republican-led effort. The conservative billionaire brothers, who bankroll numerous right-wing causes, figured prominently in a Sunday New York Times article  that traced how Koch-funded conservative groups and politicians plotted the shutdown strategy to block the Affordable Care Act. On Wednesday, in a blanket letter to US Senators, the Kochs said although they oppose Obamacare, they had “not taken a position” on the shutdown strategy nor lobbied Congress to defund the program. So in other words, they’re not to blame for a shutdown, which they have no opinion on, anyway.

 

 

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Shutdown, Tragedy, Looming Default: Welcome to Washington

 Shutdown, Tragedy, Looming Default: Welcome to Washington

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the United States government.

The fictional town of Sunnydale was the site of the Hellmouth in the popular TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but it’s starting to feel like the true location of the portal to Hades is Washington, DC. Look at the events of the past week alone. First, the government shut down. A few days later, a delusional woman went on an automotive rampage near the Capitol and was shot and killed by Capitol police – who were receiving no pay at the time due to the shutdown. Earlier this week, a man self-immolated on the Washington Mall, motives unknown. And next week, should Congress fail to come to terms, America will hit its debt ceiling and go into default. End times, or what?

The game of high-stakes poker between Congress and President Obama saw much sweat on the Republican side and no blinking from the Oval Office. As of yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner said “I’m not drawing any lines in the sand” about budget issues – a far softer message than was broadcast merely one day ago.

Meanwhile, Congress and the government in general are coming under increasing pressure to get past this problem. Citizens are shouting at their representatives. Petitions to put Congressional paychecks on the same freeze as those of government workers are gaining signatures. And the stock market is flattening as a result of the impending default. How deeply will Washington peer into this abyss?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the United States government. They would have earned an “F,” but we’re saving that for next week.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Remember who you’re fighting for. While Democrats say they’re trying to give Americans affordable health care, and Republicans are saying Americans don’t want it, both sides are receiving substantial paychecks, unlike some of their constituents. The longer the standoff, the more Americans become united – in their increasing ire at their own elected officials. Seems likely that, come voting time, Congresspeople will have hell to pay.