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

acton The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, the cross-platform mobile messaging service that claims more than 400 million active users. After 11 years at Yahoo!, Acton left the company in 2009 and was looking for work. First Twitter turned him down, then Facebook. “It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people,” he tweeted after the Facebook rejection. “Looking forward to life’s next adventure.” And what an adventure! Acton teamed up with former Yahoo! colleague Jan Koum to start WhatsApp. Last week, Facebook bought Acton’s messaging service for $19 billion in the largest ever venture-backed deal — creating a perfect PR story that requires no embellishment.

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Under Armour, official outfitter of the US Olympic Speed Skating Team – until very recently. Under Armour’s “Mach 39,” which the company called the fastest-ever speed skating suit, has been blamed for the US team’s rather disappointing showing in Sochi. The suits were worn in practice runs and seemed fine, but after failing to even place in Olympic games, the team switched back to their old gear for final runs. While they still failed to medal regardless of outfits, the damage is done: Under Armour’s stock fell 2.4 percent on Friday.

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair. After months of speaking to the press about the “epic takedown” feature the magazine planned to run on Gwyneth Paltrow, and talking of Paltrow’s alleged attempts to get all of Hollywood to boycott the magazine, here at last is…much ado about nothing. No epic takedown article appears in the March issue, but a 1500-word explanation does. “Not to bore you with the details,” Carter begins in his editor’s letter. We’ll stop right there, thanks.

NBC’s Cooper Medals in Insensitivity

 NBCs Cooper Medals in Insensitivity

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) to NBC for making Bode Miller cry.

It’s always a safe bet that American Olympic skier Bode Miller will make headlines. But an interview that went off the journalistic rails at this week’s Olympic Games in Sochi grabbed more attention than usual.

The drama unfolded following the men’s Super-G alpine skiing event, for which Miller had just won the bronze medal. NBC’s Christin Cooper asked Miller how the recent death of his younger brother was affecting the skier’s performance. And asked. And asked. And asked. To a point where Miller hung his head, dissolved into tears and walked away. The camera stayed on him well after he broke down.

Viewer backlash against Cooper was fierce. Criticism mounted after NBC made clear it didn’t mind capitalizing on the uncomfortable exchange. The taped segment could easily have been edited, but the network chose to show it in full.

As bad as the interview made NBC look, it may have been a PR plus for Miller. Skiing’s bad boy has been undergoing an image rehab since the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, when he blamed his mediocre performance on being “wasted” and said he used the games “to party and socialize at an Olympic level.” A custody battle for a child he sired during a fling also inspired ire. This interview humanized him more effectively than any PR campaign could.

THE PR VERDICT:  “D” (PR Problematic) for Christin Cooper’s Olympic-sized ambush.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Reporters shouldn’t become the story. Know basic tenets of PR, one of which is “There’s a time and place for everything.” Cooper obviously didn’t delve into NBC’s archives to watch Jim Gray’s 1999 interview of Pete Rose after he made the Baseball All-Century Team, which devolved as Gray relentlessly harped on Rose’s gambling past. Asking celebrities or athletes about personal issues isn’t off limits, but doing so at a celebration is bad form. Save the probing questions for the talk show couch.

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 Canadian Olympic ski coach Justin Wadsworth. When Russian competitor Anton Gafarov broke a ski during the Men’s Sprint Free Seminfinals, he had no chance of winning a medal or even making it across the finish line – humiliating, especially on his home turf. But Wadsworth ran onto the slope and quickly attached a fresh ski to Gafarov’s boot so he could finish. In a highly politicized Olympics, Wadsworth’s gesture demonstrated the good sportsmanship that exemplifies the spirit of the Olympics.

Bernie Herpin The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Colorado Republican State Sen. Bernie Herpin, for saying it was “maybe a good thing” that accused Aurora, CO, theater shooter James Holmes used a 100-round magazine in the gun massacre that killed 12 and injured 70. The remarks came amid continuing Republican efforts in that state to roll back tougher gun laws passed after the 2012 shooting. Herpin’s logic-defying point? The high-capacity magazine jammed. As a state political blog noted: “The idea that anyone would count on product defects to protect the public in an actual shooting is, of course, ludicrous beyond words.”

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Shia LaBeouf, whose recent antics have folks scratching their heads. First, he responded to accusations of plagiarism by putting out a series of mea culpas, also seemingly plagiarized. Then he tweeted the phrase “I am not famous anymore” multiple times before scrawling it on a paper bag and wearing it over his head at a film premier in Berlin. On Tuesday, the 27-year-old kicked off #IAMNOTSORRY, some kind of performance art installation wherein he and his bagged head sit silently across from curious visitors (itself an apparent rip-off of Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist Is Present” in New York in 2010). Personal meltdown? Cultural commentary? Odd way of diverting attention from the plagiarism charges? Sadly, there may be no answers to these questions because no one cares.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers PR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to CVS Caremark, the national drugstore chain, for its decision to stop selling tobacco products. Cigarettes in particular have been linked to diseases from cancer to high blood pressure and stroke – something that the country’s largest retail pharmacy just couldn’t reconcile with its broader mission of making its customers healthier. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark. The announcement was immediately hailed by everyone from President Obama to the American Cancer Society. CVS is the first such retailer to take the plunge and it will cost the company an estimated $2 billion in revenue, a small fraction of overall sales but no chump change.

SOCHI DOG 570 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Sochi Winter Olympics organizers and host city, where countless stray dogs are being killed ahead of today’s opening of the games. The strays were pets or offspring of pets left by families whose homes were razed to make way for Olympic venues. A Russian billionaire is financing belated rescue attempts but the culling continues – a grisly counterpoint to the festive atmosphere organizers would rather we see. The government claims the strays came for the food construction workers gave them, and stayed. The International Olympic Committee says no “healthy” dogs are being destroyed. Maybe, but this is certain: the round-up is just another PR fail for the most expensive (and worst planned) games ever.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Bill Nye, more popularly known as “The Science Guy,” who bothered debating science vs creationism with Ken Ham, President of the Creation Museum. The argument had rather predictable results –  no one was swayed from their original side. But apparently geeks and religious types still enjoy a good argument: the 800 audience tickets sold out in minutes, and 3 million people tuned in to watch on television.

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.

Nike’s Risky PR Move?

 Nikes Risky PR Move?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nike.

Everyone loves a winner – especially Nike. The company has just launched a PR campaign via social media after Tiger Woods recently won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The campaign includes a photo of Woods with his quote, “Winning takes care of everything.” Cheeky! Especially since it was Woods’ original retort when asked by the press about his extramarital affairs with prostitutes.

That rather public scandal, which came after the death of his beloved father and which resulted in divorce from his wife, led to Woods’ downfall. Previously a golfer who couldn’t be beaten, he had a fall from both grace and rankings. His sponsors, all but Nike, left him.

The world-famous sportswear brand has had a tough time with its athlete representatives. When Lance Armstrong admitted that he’d cheated to win all his Tours de France, Nike raced to drop him as it did with Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius who shot and killed his girlfriend. But in the case of Tiger Woods, Nike’s market research must have shown Woods was still resonating and worth spending the $20 million a year. The reaction so far? Media and online responses seems to be suggesting that Nike is more in love with its representative than the general public, particularly the female half.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nike. Is this latest controversy on-brand?

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Consider language in its broadest context. Yes, everyone loves a winner, and while it’s well known that winning does, in fact, take care of everything, some female customers buying Nike products may not be on the same page. Perhaps, in consideration of Woods’ transgressions, it might have been better if Nike had simply congratulated Woods using the single word by their swoosh – VICTORY – and allowed the public to be happy about a sports legend’s return. Instead, Nike may have inadvertently sent a message to female customers who don’t see it Tiger’s way. The right wording, more than winning, really does take care of everything.