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

brewer veto 300x168 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer for saving her state from national condemnation by vetoing a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay customers on religious grounds. True, the fiery Republican governor had little choice: Boycotts were threatened, companies said they would leave, and the National Football League reportedly considered moving next year’s Superbowl if the bill became law. But Arizona is socially conservative, and Brewer’s decision is not popular in many camps. In the end, she met with both sides before brandishing the veto stamp and issuing a no-nonsense statement: “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value [but] so is no discrimination.”

pdeen The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Paula Deen, for comparing her effort to rebuild her battered reputation to NFL hopeful Michael Sam’s decision to come out as gay. Deen was fired from the Food Network last year for racial slurs revealed amid a lawsuit filed by a former employee. (The suit was dismissed.) In an interview, Deen said she fears that words like “embattled” or “disgraced” will always follow her. “It’s like that black football player who recently came out,” Deen told People. “He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player’.” Pity her much? With a recent private equity infusion of  $100 million, her path to redemption will hardly be a slog.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Alec Baldwin, for his article “I Give Up” in the latest issue of New York Magazine. Baldwin’s glib wrath is fired upon the paparazzi who hound him, Broadway co-star Shia LaBeouf, his producers at MSNBC, right-wing media, America, the world – release the Kraken! It’s not all negative; Baldwin makes sure to mention his charitable donations and the sensitivity training he’s undertaken. At the end, Baldwin says, “I’m done with it,” and then admits, “This is how I feel in February of 2014.” You can practically see this consummate performer smirking.

Will Nigella’s Saucy Image Burn in Court Case?

Nigella Lawson 150x150 Will Nigellas Saucy Image Burn in Court Case?

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

It’s been a grim year for the queens of cookery. First Paula Deen was disgraced when part of a court deposition brought down her multi-million dollar empire and cost her all but one of her many sponsorships. Now Nigella Lawson finds herself in court, facing accusations of being a cocaine addict.

The case is not against Lawson herself. Charges have been brought against Francesca and Lisa Grillo, two sisters who were housekeepers to Nigella Lawson and her now ex husband  Charles Saatchi.  The sisters worked for the famous couple for over ten years, but were recently accused of fraud after spending nearly $1.15 million on Saatchi’s credit cards. The Grillos allege that they were allowed to use the cards by Saatchi to cover up Lawson’s drug abuse.

Will the accusations cause the same fall from grace that Deen suffered? It’s unlikely. PRs have analyzed both women and point first to Nigella’s saucy image as a saving grace. With her sexy cookery presentations, tales of drug use will hardly shock her constituency. Her following may even excuse it in sympathy for putting up with an abusive husband.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nigella Lawson. While no one needs a day in court, she may walk out of chambers unscathed.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know when to employ PR damage control. In the case of Paula Deen, outside PR experts should have been hired immediately; bad press after all can be minimized. Is Nigella Lawson the next Paula Deen? No. The news is scandalous but such is her brand equity she can take a couple of hits, after all she  has public sympathy on her side. Weigh image, consumer, and reaction; then decide if it’s time to let a pro step in.

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

hersman 300x300 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, for maintaining the accident investigation agency’s impeccable record of transparency and candor. Led by Hersman, the agency has gushed a steady torrent of salient findings on last weekend’s deadly crash of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco, prompting journalists to express “amazement at the unusual amount of detail flowing from the federal bureaucracy.” Her daily briefings have not been universally welcome. Pilot groups have decried premature disclosure of data that suggest pilot error, while other critics have clucked about Hersman’s intense ambition as the driving factor for her high visibility. Maybe, but so what? As Hersman noted this week, the NTSB’s unassailable credibility derives from its transparency: “We believe it is important to show our work and to tell people what we are doing.”

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, who announced he is divorcing his wife, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. The soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Saatchi was the one expected to start divorce proceedings photographs of Saatchi choking her during lunch at a restaurant hit the media. After minimizing his repeated attacks as “a playful tiff” to the press, Saatchi gave a statement saying he was “disappointed that [Lawson] was advised to make no public comment to explain that I…have never abused her in any way.” No doubt all who read it were not merely disappointed but frankly aghast that Saatchi was not advised to keep his mouth shut.

female force paula deen1 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Bluewater Productions, which said it will go ahead with a planned comic book featuring that legendary icon of female empowerment…erm, Paula Deen? Yes, the company said “Female Force: Paula Deen” will  hit the stands in October despite the celebrity chef’s plummeting stardom. Deen’s empire began to crumble after she admitted to using racial slurs, something she attributed to having grown up in the South. Bluewater said it chose Deen as its next superhero because she “changed Southern cooking for women” (meaning, now even more will develop diabetes?) and that it will somehow incorporate Deen’s fall from grace into the storyline – that should be interesting. Apparently, Bluewater doesn’t need its heroines’ consent to publish; the company admitted Deen hasn’t returned its calls. Given that corporate sponsors are dropping the 66-year-old chef like a hot butter-and-sour-cream-laden potato, however, that could change.

 

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 Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis, for filibustering to block an anti-abortion measure in the Republican-controlled Texas Senate. Davis spoke for 10 hours without water, food, or bathroom break, and when Republicans cut her off on shaky procedural grounds, her fellow Democrats delayed a vote on the measure past a midnight deadline. By then the statehouse overflowed with her supporters, #standwithwendy was trending on Twitter, and 180,000 people watched the proceedings live. Republican Gov. Rick Perry has called another special legislative session to win passage, but the onetime teenaged single mom who went on to graduate from Harvard rallied a national audience around the plight of Texas women harmed by the bill and put an embarrassing spotlight on a dysfunctional Legislature.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO celebrity CEOs. It’s been a bad week for corporate figureheads in the public eye. At press time, Paula Deen’s sponsors were lining up to drop her, making her the new Lance Armstrong. Earlier in the week, George Zimmer, founder, CEO, and spokesman for fashion chain Men’s Wearhouse was dethroned by his own company. And Martha Stewart revealed on a chat show that she’s sent sexy text messages and “maybe” had a threesome – the sort of information she’d once have paid good money to keep under wraps. And then, she spanked the chat show host with a paddle. Considering Martha’s conservative homemaking audience, the PR strategy there would be . . .?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO News International. Or News UK. Or is it News Corporation? Rupert Murdoch’s array of corporate entities receives this award for the baffling announcement that News International is becoming News UK, while News Limited will undergo a similar metamorphosis in Murdoch’s native Australia. Both will become part of “the new News Corp,” ie the parent company, whose name hasn’t changed. Got that? The rebrand, which comes in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal in Britain, seems to have fallen short of its stated goal to achieve a “more coherent and logical identity.” In any event, the “news” failed to impress. As one online wag noted, “New name – same ethics.”

Today Show Scores a Great “Get” With Deen

 Today Show Scores a Great Get With Deen

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) to The Today Show. (Pictured: Paula Deen and Today Show host Matt Lauer)

How quickly PR fortunes can change. Last month, NBC’s The Today Show was facing a PR fiasco, with falling ratings, a scathing cover story in New York Magazine, and a tell-all book that painted a rather unflattering picture of host Matt Lauer. At the same time, Paula Deen was enjoying success with shows on The Food Network, her own magazine, many cookbooks, and heading a multi-million dollar empire. This month, everything has changed for both.

Last week, Deen’s PR began to flame out amid allegations that Deen used racist terms and condoned a racist atmosphere at her restaurant. She quickly scheduled a damage control interview last Friday on The Today Show, which she then blew off, citing exhaustion. After being dropped by The Food Network and one of her sponsors, Deen rescheduled her Today interview for this morning.

Ratings are sure to be high, and it’s a great “get” for Today, even if it’s a “re-get.” In addition to having to answer questions about the allegations, Deen must address blowing off Matt Lauer, as well as her apology videos that have been criticized as widely missing the right PR mark. The only better “get” would be missing NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – and no one will be surprised to see Today get him first.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to The Today Show for reversing their poor PR.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Nothing kills bad PR like success. The Today Show took its lumps, but it kept right on going, and when opportunity knocked, it pounced. Having been a friendly interrogator in the past – Deen chose Today when she revealed she had Type 2 diabetes, known to be caused or aggravated by the high-fat cuisine she’s famous for – Today was a natural choice for Deen’s public mea culpa. The lesson presented: When hit with bad PR, you can’t afford the luxury of pain. Get up and find every opportunity to get back to what you were known for.

Cuisine Queen Burns to a Crisp

 Cuisine Queen Burns to a Crisp

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Paula Deen and her PR team.

In the annals of PR freefall, celebrity chef Paula Deen is now a case study. Last week, the queen of Southern cuisine faced a deposition by a former employee who charged that Deen used racial slurs in the workplace. Problematic, to be sure – yet that was only the beginning.

During the deposition, Deen was asked if she had ever used the “n” word. Her answer? “Of course” – one can only imagine a member of her PR team having heart palpitations – “probably when a black man burst into the bank I was working at and put a gun to my head.” This came across rather like justification. The deposition stated that Deen used the slur more recently, in reference to servers for a Deen-planned wedding reception with a Plantation theme.

But wait, it gets better, or rather, worse. Deen scheduled a damage control appearance on the Today Show, but come Friday morning, she was a no-show. An irked Matt Lauer reported, “Her publicist says she’s exhausted.” Probably from the news that the Food Network, on which Deen has several shows, was not renewing her contract.

Then came the apology videos. The first, slickly produced by Deen’s team, lasted a single derided hour before being replaced by an unedited video that came across the same as the first: Deen was sorry – mostly, it seemed, because she got caught.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Paula Deen and her PR team.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Damage control shouldn’t cause more damage. Only last year, Deen’s credibility took a hit when she revealed her previously hidden diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, often caused by the kind of cooking Deen’s multi-million dollar empire is built on. With her credibility already stretched, this was the time to let cooler heads prevail. How about proper coaching prior to the deposition that would have stressed bewilderment about why this issue has surfaced? While in legal matters, the truth must be told, in this case it might have sweetened with contrition, best served simply and without qualification.

To watch the Paula Deen apology videos, click here and here.