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 2013 Final Grade: And the “A” Goes to…

 The PRV 2013 Final Grade: And the A Goes to...THE PR VERDICT’S “A” (PR PERFECT) grade for 2013 goes to Pope Francis, the Argentinian priest who appears to be single-handedly revamping the priorities – and image – of the Catholic Church.

What a difference a year makes. The church was in chaos in February when Pope Benedict XVI resigned the papacy – something not done in over 600 years. Benedict cited advanced age, though the media speculated his decision was linked to an alleged secret gay network within the Vatican and/or depression after his personal assistant leaked confidential information to the media.

Enter Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the first Latin American and first Jesuit priest to be named pope. He was an upstart from the beginning: standing to accept his cardinals’ congratulations instead of sitting on the papal throne; sporting a simple white cassock at his first public appearance; and becoming the first Pope Francis, a name he chose to honor St. Francis of Assisi, himself known for his dedication to the poor.

Pope Francis has sent a consistent message to his flock: get back to basics. On Easter, he bathed and kissed the feet of a group that included women and Muslims. On his first trip official trip abroad, he carried his own bag and insisted on limited security. He recently issued a blueprint for the church that denounced “the idolatry of money” and urged Catholics to stop obsessing over issues like same-sex marriage and contraception. Both Time Magazine and The Advocate, a gay and lesbian publication, named him “Person of the Year.”

THE PR TAKEAWAY: If you can’t reinvent, reinvigorate. No pope can rewrite the Old Testament, but he can take the church in a new direction. It’s no secret the Catholic Church – sullied for more than a decade with child-molestation scandals and a dwindling base – desperately needed a leader who could help close old wounds and inspire new hope. Pope Francis has all the  ingredients for great PR: conviction of his beliefs, consistent messaging, and a personality brimming with charm and enthusiasm. For the Catholic church’s PR, Pope Francis is a nothing short of a godsend.

Has Rush Limbaugh Gone Too Far?

 Has Rush Limbaugh Gone Too Far?

PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Rush Limbaugh.

While it may seem that there is nothing politically conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh won’t say, his recent rant against Pope Francis may have just crossed a line.

On his radio show, Limbaugh railed against the Pope’s recent 50,000-word Evangelii Gaudium, or “The Joy of the Gospel,” in which the pontiff laid out his interpretation of the Catholic Church’s mission. Pope Francis urged his followers to relinquish obsessions with issues like same-sex marriage and contraception and instead return to the fundamentals, e.g. helping the poor. He denounced “the idolatry of money” and criticized “trickle-down economics …[which] expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

The Pope’s words thrilled many Catholics who have felt the church has strayed from its core values. But his clear dig at more capitalist societies irked others, including Limbaugh. In typical fiery style, he called the Pope’s views “pure Marxism” and said the Holy See was “dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong.” He also struck a paranoid note, wondering if someone “got to him” (God, perhaps?).

A sticky wicket for Limbaugh. His listeners are conservative, but so are many Catholics –  and a lot of Catholics really, really like their new Pope. Is Limbaugh really asking his fans to pick sides?

PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Rush Limbaugh, who risks alienating an important segment of his fan base.

PR TAKEAWAY: Even if your job is to be controversial,  avoid sacred cows. Indeed, Limbaugh seemed to acknowledge as much, saying “I gotta be very careful” during his tirade. We know how much Rush hates to be referred to as “an entertainer,” but the truth is that’s exactly what he is, and insulting a wildly popular Pope is about as PR un-savvy as it gets. Rush doesn’t have to endorse everything that Pope Francis says, but he would be wise to temper his papal tirades – lest he find some of his flock straying.

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 for continuing to stoke the ardor of the Catholic faithful on the first official papal trip abroad. In stark contrast with Pope Benedict’s drop-by in 2007, the pope was met by rapturous crowds in Rio de Janeiro on this week’s trip to Brazil for World Youth Day, which attracts hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from around the world. Seen carrying his own bag onto the plane in Italy and cruising around Rio in a mini-van with the windows rolled down and a limited security detail, Francis’ humble nature has charmed and reinvigorated his 1.2 billion-strong flock.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Anthony Weiner, who had to admit to and apologize for more sex-related emails again. The ones that most recently came to light show that Weiner – excuse us, “Carlos Danger,” his online handle – continued sexting even after such activity forced him to step down from his congressional seat, and while posing for glossy redemption stories in People and the New York Times Magazine. One would think that the hopeful mayoral candidate would have put down the keyboard and pulled up the zipper if only to avoid headlines by the New York Post such as WEINER: I’LL STICK IT OUT.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO THE US National Security Agency, whose Orwellian ability to eavesdrop on electronic correspondence practically anywhere in the world apparently doesn’t extend to its own email system. ProPublica, the non-profit investigative news organization, filed a Freedom of Information request for emails between NSA staff and a film crew working on a TV documentary on the superspy agency. NSA’s response? We don’t have the technology to do that. The system is “a little antiquated and archaic,” a spokeswoman said. Forget for a moment that this is borderline preposterous. If in fact true, a detailed explanation is decidedly merited. Financial services firms, among others, routinely search companywide email systems in response to subpoenas. If the NSA can’t do the same, it needs to explain why. Or maybe that’s classified.

New Pope: Better Than Classic Pope?

 New Pope: Better Than Classic Pope?

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star) for Pope Francis and his PR launch.

And the new pope’s PR machine is off and running. This past Sunday was Pope Francis’s first Easter, and his first opportunity to show the world how he is going to change the image of the papacy. So how did he do?

The headlines were impressive. There was Pope Francis with 12 inmates at a juvenile detention center on the outskirts of Rome for an Easter ceremony. Kneeling before the group, including women and Muslims, he bathed and kissed their feet. The news reverberated around the world with Pope Francis saying, “The one who is highest up must be at the service of others.”

Other news: He has declined to wear the golden cross reserved for popes and has said no to the traditional red papal shoes. He continues to live in modest accommodations instead of the regal papal apartments and is talking of an outward-looking church being of service to others. So far, the Vatican is using these simple, humble tactics to position Pope Francis as a breath of fresh, revitalizing air for the Catholic church. Yet there has been no real change of policy. The new Pope feels different, but the papal message remains unchanged.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Pope Francis and his PR launch turning the media spotlight away from well-worn negative allegations.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Tactics over substance. No one doubts the conservative credentials of the new pope. His doctrinaire views on the traditional hot button issues – abortion, ordination of women, and birth control – are in no way a break from popes past. But tactically, he is changing the conversation about the Catholic Church. With a return to humility and service, he has shifted the focus from doctrinal issues to something less contentious. With no change to policy, this Pope has changed the communication of his message to something far more inclusive and less contentious. Tactical PR battles are often overlooked by the weight of substantive issues, but often it is the tone and emphasis in communication that makes all the difference.  The Republican Party, currently looking to refashion its image and messaging, may want to take note.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the Vatican. The seat of Catholicism gets our top grade – but not without qualifications. Our simple advice to the new Pope? Enjoy the honeymoon. The appointment was a big PR hit, no doubt: Francis, the first Pope from the Americas and a humble man who embraces a vow of poverty, gave the Vatican the forward-thinking PR page it is looking for. But storm clouds are already gathering. His age (76) will inevitably mean his tenure is abbreviated, while rumors are already surfacing about how he allegedly turned a blind eye to torture abuses during Argentina’s military rule. A high grade for a good start, but the challenge will be staying there; just ask Pope Benedict.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the TSA. The Transportation Security Administration continues to stand by their decision to allow small knives and other potentially dangerous tools and devices aboard aircraft, despite rising hue and cry from flight attendants, passengers, and politicians. Their defense? They want to turn attention to finding the hundred larger, deadlier threats – like the stun gun one passenger packed in his carry-on baggage this week (missed by security) or the fake bomb strapped to the leg of a security agent during a test (also missed). They have a point, but it’s blunted by another, oft repeated: the 9/11 attacks were begun by box cutters that would be waved right on through with this order.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Kanye West and Justin Timberlake. Enthralled by their current imbroglio? Yeah…neither are we. For those who missed it: West, in his own inimitable and unprintable way, criticized Timberlake’s single “Suit & Tie” at a concert last month. Timberlake struck back this week while hosting Saturday Night Live by changing a line of the same song, crooning  “My hit’s so sick got rappers actin’ dramatic.” Take that, Kanye! Who knows how the unpredictable West will respond – and does anyone really care? Ho-hum. We’ve come a long way from the East Coast-West Coast rap wars of the 1990s, folks. Maybe they should, too.