Elizabeth Warren: Champion of US’ Disappearing Middle Class

 Elizabeth Warren: Champion of US’ Disappearing Middle Class

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

You know your PR is on the “stun” setting when the question about the presidential election goes from whether Hillary Clinton will run to whether you’ll run with her. Welcome to Elizabeth Warren’s new world.

Warren, the Democratic Senator of Massachusetts who chaired the government oversight panel on the 2008 bailout, released her latest book, A Fighting Chance, this week. The book is part memoir of her childhood in rural Oklahoma, part commentary on the plight of America’s middle class. (An article in The New York Times about America’s middle class no longer being the richest in the world could not be better timed.) Warren’s plainspoken indictments of political and corporate actions that led up to the financial collapse will likely be read raptly by many a disenchanted American.

Now Warren’s is one of the names being bandied about for 2016. She says she has no intention of running for president herself, nor has Hillary Clinton committed to a run. But Warren is already taking another step in her role as champion of America’s ailing middle class.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Check the weather and step out accordingly. Since the economic collapse that still has the US (and the world) reeling, Americans have grown mistrustful of politicians and banks. Enter Warren, daughter of a janitor and a minimum-wage earner who became a Harvard law professor, who seems to speak the same fed-up language that average people do, basher of big banks and crusader for the little guy. The 2016 election is a while away, but Elizabeth Warren’s message is right on time.

A Serious Storm, A Simple (and Effective) Message

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The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for a President’s speech that reassured and activated.

Hurricane Sandy has managed to do the unthinkable in terms of media coverage: moved the last ten days of electioneering off the front page and turned national attention toward disaster recovery. President Obama joined the conversation on Monday morning, and with a coupe of clearly honed messages at a hastily-convened press conference, he made the transition from electioneering President to President in Charge.

Obama’s short speech is worth watching for anyone wanting to know how to craft a simple message. What started off with a slightly wordy and lengthy introduction soon became clear. Yes, preparations were in place and the East Coast was as ready as it could be, but the main takeaway? “Listen to what officials are saying – this is a serious storm.”

Obama’s speech was designed to reassure, and to manage expectations. He flagged the  inevitable issues that will arise post-storm, including long-running power outages and transportation delays. But the main lesson from the speech is that reassuring the public that everything’s under control is not enough; a call to action is needed and grabs attention. Getting the public directly involved takes the conversation to a higher level of engagement.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for a President’s speech that reassured and activated.

The PR Takeaway: To get the public’s attention, give the public something to do. President Obama’s speech included a roll call of what was intended to reassure a nervous public. What made the difference was clear instruction. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a similar speech following September 11, when he asked New Yorkers to go back to their lives, the streets, and shopping. A call to action from someone in authority got attention then, as it does now.

Trump Too Easily Trumped

 Trump Too Easily Trumped

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Trump PR machine.

What was always going to be the most likely follow-up question to Donald Trump following his challenge to President Obama over his academic transcripts? The Guardian newspaper asked it and inadvertently scored a PR coup by getting the Trump organization very ruffled. It’s now clear: The Donald wants others to show theirs, but he won’t show his.

Michael Cohen, Executive Vice President at the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump, had a wildly unsuccessful but widely released phone call with Guardian journalist Adam Gabbat. The straightforward request from Gabbat? Would Mr. Trump make his own college transcripts available? The conversation went south from the get-go, with Cohen quickly turning defensive and changing PR tack no less than three times. Cohen breathlessly defended his boss, saying there are thousands of books written about Trump, adding with bravado that there is more information available on Donald Trump than “pretty much anybody on the planet.”

A journalist asking Trump for his own transcripts was always going to be the most likely outcome of Trump’s much-hyped challenge to the President. Following the PR basics of simple scenario forecasting might have been step one in an overall PR strategy. In this case, Trump’s counsel did his client no favors.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Trump PR machine.

The PR Takeaway: Don’t just expect the unexpected; expect the expected. There is nothing surprising about a journalist making the same challenge that Donald Trump just issued to the President of the United States. This was one contingency that should have been easily anticipated. Making Trump’s transcripts publicly available before the announcement would have taken the wind out of the sails of Trump’s critics. Standing on a platform of transparency and access to information inevitably results in reciprocal demands. This was a Q&A and scenario plan that even a PR intern would have known to prepare in advance.

To listen to the conversation, click here and scroll down to the end of the page.

What’s your opinion of Donald Trump’s challenge to POTUS, and the subsequent PR gaffe? Give us your PR Verdict!

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

 

conradblack 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK:  “A” (PR Perfect) to Conrad Black (left). For sheer entertainment value, the former media mogul’s interview with BBC’s Newsnight wins hands down. Black breaks almost every PR rule of thumb for media interviews, yet emerges defiant and singularly unmovable. His first interview in the UK since he was released from prison, Black never gives in and never explains, responding to aggressive questioning with one splendid insult after another. By the end of the Q&A, there is some begrudging admiration for the man. This is Conrad Black unfiltered and unrepentant. Watch the interview here.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Richard Mourdock (at right, with Mitt Romney), the Republican Indiana Senate candidate whose platform includes denial of abortion to rape victims. “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said during this week’s Indiana Senate debate. Mitt Romney did not distance himself from the controversial candidate, giving Democrats ammunition and the PR world further proof that staying on message is key. Saying little keeps the PR options open while being frank creates needless complications.

 

Minniemouse 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” PR AWARD TO: Plus Size activists, who garnered over 120,000 signatures for a petition arguing that the latest marketing campaign from NY retailer Barneys should be dropped. What’s causing offense? A revamped super-skinny Minnie Mouse. Advocates are angry, claiming it sends a disturbing image of body shape, despite the fact that in the campaign, the “new” Minnie briefly walks the runway as a model  in a dream sequence. So the Plus Size movement targets a dream had by a cartoon character; was it really worth the effort? Choose your battles, and your cartoon mice, carefully.

Donald Trump, Master Buffoon

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The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Donald Trump.

The art of buffoonery hit new highs yesterday with the announcement by Donald Trump of what he had been promising for three days would be HUGE news. Trump hit Trump-friendly airwaves such as Fox earlier in the week, saying that on Wednesday he would make a BIG announcement concerning the President. Speculation was rife. What could The Donald know that every political operative in a closing election race hadn’t already hoped to find as political ammunition? The big reveal was yesterday at noon on YouTube.

The Donald’s BIG news was… nothing of the sort. Continuing with a variation on the birther argument, he called Barack Obama “the least transparent President in American history” (Richard Nixon might have sprung to mind). The Donald then congratulated himself in the video for having “gotten the President to release his long-form birth certificate – or whatever it may be.” He now says he has a deal for the President.

If Obama “hands over” his college records and passport application records to Trump, he will give $5 million to a charity of the President’s choice. As long as this is done “to my satisfaction,” says The Donald immodestly, he will deliver the check immediately. The forms must be in by October 31. He urged the President to meet the challenge and added that he was speaking on behalf of the entire US population.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco ) to Trump. Donald, you’re fired.

The PR Takeaway: Big talk and bluster equal buffoonery. Donald Trump, the Master Buffoon, has sealed his own PR image with this latest YouTube insanity. His video and language give no reason to suggest this is anything other than a self-serving publicity stunt. Does he know something we don’t? The much anticipated news “from the Desk of Donald Trump” was well-packaged as an unreservedly ego-driven publicity stunt, but the more publicity (of this type), the lower his credibility falls. At this rate, it may soon be political suicide to be publicly aligned with Trump. The sneaking suspicion is that he may not care.

To see the video, click here.

What’s your opinion of The Donald’s latest publicity stunt? Give us your PR Verdict!

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

bidenryan2 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR Perfect) to Joe Biden. Now this was a debate!  If Obama had previously brought a knife to a gun fight, Biden brought a cannon. Throughout the debate he aggressively debated Ryan, who seemed at times unable to keep up with Biden’s derisive comments. Biden’s ongoing smirks at what Ryan was saying was a PR object lesson in undermining an opponent.  A fine line to be sure  and presumably not everyone saw it this way, but frankly whatever your political color, this debate was very entertaining.  The Twitter-verse was on fire with Biden’s opening shot “That’s a lot of malarkey!” and later putdown”Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?” Brutal.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Lindsay Lohan. The girl can’t help it; she’s in the news constantly, but rarely for what she first became famous for – acting. This week, Lohan allegedly placed an emergency call about her mother’s erratic behavior to…her father? As a scandal-headline grabber himself, Michael Lohan is hardly the most reliable source of assistance. Lohan needs to hire the celebrity version of Harvey Keitel’s Pulp Fiction clean-up character.

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE “FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE” PR AWARD TO: The US Anti-Doping Agency, which revealed that nearly all of Lance Armstrong’s former teammates have signed affidavits saying that Armstrong won his seven Tours de France by doping. They say he doped, they doped – even Armstrong’s former wife took performance-enhancing drugs. But Armstrong relinquished rights to his Tour titles months ago. Okay, he probably did take the drugs; does anyone still care, other than the USADA, which is determined to say “told you so”? Again and again.


The First Wives PR Club

 The First Wives PR Club

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) to Ann Romney and “B” (Good Show) to Michelle Obama.

Still undecided about who to vote for on November 6? Tired of thinking about tax rates and foreign policy? Just turn to Woman’s Day and US Weekly for some guidance. Women’s magazines have just been enrolled into the election battles. The result? Ann Romney and Michelle Obama are everywhere.

Woman’s Day broke the news that Michelle Obama’s favorite food is mac n’ cheese, while Ann Romney’s favorite film is The Sound of Music. Michelle told US Weekly that her favorite guilty pleasure is French fries while outlining to Good Housekeeping the Obama family’s daily exercise program. Family Circle took a poll of the ladies’ recipes: Michelle Obama’s chocolate chip cookies won over Ann Romney’s M&M cookies. Oprah has interviews with both couples in October’s O Magazine.

From a PR perspective, how and where to do the interviews? Solo, or as a couple? What to talk about, and to whom? Ann is doing most interviews with her husband Mitt and focusing on magazines such as Good Housekeeping that have a median readership age in the mid fifties. Michelle, on the other hand, is going for the hipper vote. Doing interviews as a couple but then breaking out solo, she is talking to Elle and People en Espanol.

The PR Verdict:  “B” (Good Show) to Michelle Obama and “C” (Distinctly OK) to Ann Romney. Michelle has the edge in appealing to a wider audience.

The PR Takeaway: Have your cake (or, in this case, cookies) and eat it; be traditional and hip at the same time. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are courting older female voters by giving insights into their respective domestic bliss, but Michelle is also playing to a younger crowd, with solo interviews in their favorite magazines. Ann Romney is doing well in her established segment, but so far her appeal to young fashion- and celebrity-reading females remains untested. It may be time to stop concentrating on the base she already knows and take a leaf from her opponent’s PR handbook.

What’s your opinion of the first wives’ PR tactics? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Week’s Winners & Losers

This week: Three mothers–one venerable, one vulnerable, and one insulted and avenged in a fashion smackdown. A typical week in the world of PR…

 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losers

PR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR Perfect) to Mother Jones Magazine. At a time when most are ringing the death knell of print, this small, socially-conscious, 36-year-old nonprofit publication may have changed election history by bringing the now-infamous “47 Percent” video to light. Bravo for hitting the headlines and shaping the national conversation. It’s the rule for effective PR!

 

 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Lohan Clan. If there was an award for Brand Consistency, it would go to this family; while daughter was arrested yet again this week, this time for clipping a pedestrian with her car, mother made a spectacularly awkward appearance on Dr. Phil (seen here on PerezHilton.com). Among the many, many questions we have: Is there a Lohan publicist in the house? Why did anyone (including Dr Phil himself) agree to this interview?

And a special mention…

 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losers

L to R: Tesoro, Eymere, Susskind-Jalou

THE “NOW YOU KNOW” PR AWARD FOR STAYING ON MESSAGE: When Jalouse Magazine editor Jennifer Eymere discovered that her mother, Marie-Jose Susskind-Jalou, had been moved from the front row of a Zac Posen fashion show, Eymere found the publicist in charge, Lynn Tesoro, and registered her displeasure – by slapping Tesoro in the face. Denials? Mais non; Eymere stayed on message. “It was a small slap,” she told Women’s Wear Daily. “She humiliated my mom, and I humiliated her in front of her crew. I said at the end, ‘Now you know you don’t [expletive] with French people.” Point taken. As is Tesoro’s counterpoint: A $1 million lawsuit. Ah…Happy Days.

A Tip for Eastwood’s Next “Empty Chair” Speech:

 A Tip for Eastwoods Next Empty Chair Speech:

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Dirty Harry.

Why did Clint Eastwoood’s puzzling speech to the GOP faithful at the Republican Convention in Tampa, FL, last week get such a resounding thumbs down? Eastwood’s now famous address–talking to an empty chair–did little to capture the public imagination in the right way. It was obviously not the warm-up act Team Romney was hoping for. Was this cold shower one of Dirty Harry’s worst performances?

The reviews were not kind. Eastwood’s failed motivational opener was invariably described as “rambling” by the commentators. Even Ann Romney damned Eastwood with faint praise by saying on morning television that Eastwood did “a unique thing last night.”

Eastwood’s problem was that his speech seemed too much like hard work. Talking to an empty chair, with its overtones of Gestalt therapy, seemed better suited to the analyst’s couch than national television. Above all, the exercise diffused Eastwood’s own anger, which is what was always going to connect with the audience. Despite the botched delivery, he made a case about why he is unhappy with the present administration. It could easily have been the temperature-setter for Romney’s later key speech, but instead Romney had to claw back the audience’s attention and start afresh.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Dirty Harry. Not a bad speech content wise, but why was its delivery so complicated?

The PR Takeaway: Speak from the heart and connect with the audience; any actor knows that. Eastwood’s speech read like an open letter to Obama, and what better way to have delivered it than to stare straight into the camera? Eastwood could have channelled the steeliness of Dirty Harry rather than taking a leaf out of the therapist’s handbook. Connecting with the audience and issuing the President with a series of ultimatums might have made Dirty Harry’s day, as well as Mitt Romney’s.

To see the speech click here.

What’s your opinion of Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” speech? Give us your PR Verdict!

Rice for Vice? Condi Cancels Her Date with Mitt (Nicely)

 Rice for Vice? Condi Cancels Her Date with Mitt (Nicely)

The PR Verdict: “A” for Condoleeza Rice.

Condoleeza Rice for vice president? Maybe, just maybe . . . But then, NO. What started as a news item on the Mitt Romney-friendly website The Drudge Report  went quickly mainstream. Would Condi make the move? But two days later the general consensus was, “Let’s call the whole thing off.” Case closed.

Rice was always a long shot. If Romney’s PR problem is that he is considered too remote to galvanize the grassroots, then adding Condi Rice would have made a tough campaign even tougher. Besides, given that Romney has tried to steer clear of the Bush legacy, having a stalwart of the Bush years as the Number Two on the ticket would be walking into a host of problems.

Cynics have suggested that Rice was put in the headlines to take news editors minds’ off Romney’s tax filings and his leadership of Bain capital. As a PR strategy, this has merits. But no campaign can have brides publicly rejecting the ring. This had to be limited to a quick diversion. As for Condi, the PR dilemma was this: How do you decline a proposal without offending?

The PR Verdict: “A” for Condoleeza Rice turning down an unofficial vice presidential proposal politely. No one likes rejection, but this issue needed to be cut short before it gathered too much steam.

The PR Takeaway: Dating rules apply in PR. Condi took a leaf out of the old breakup book: It’s not you, it’s me. Publicly turning down the Republican Presidential candidate could seriously impair his campaign and make the next person who accepts look like an also-ran. Without commenting directly, her flaks reiterated her previous comments that she prefers policy over politics. Campaigning for public office is not for her, they said, while Condi herself was nowhere to be seen. With such an elegant TBNT (Thanks, But No Thanks), Romney felt no rejection, and the door remains wide open to a potential candidate. Would that more politicians could handle things so nicely . . .

Did Condoleeza Rice handle rejecting Romney well? Was the rumor of her being asked to consider the VP slot a PR diversion away from his tax issue? Tell us your PR Verdict!