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 French authorities for pursuing criminal charges against those responsible for last year’s topless photos of Kate Middleton. The photos, which not only infuriated the Royals but also privacy advocates, were taken from afar, then published in French magazine Closer, owned by Mondadori, and eventually in several other European publications. If convicted, Mondadori CEO Ernesto Mauri and the as-yet-unnamed photographer could spend up to a year in jail, be forced to cease business for five years, and/or face a fine of 45,000 euros. Yes, this may be a little over the top, but given the long term abuses of the tabloids (as seen in the hacking scandals in the UK), the charges send an unmistakable message: Invasions of privacy will not be tolerated ici.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to KPMG Chairman Michael Andrew, who told the Financial Times that a recent insider-trading scandal involving a former partner was a ”one-day wonder” that generated coverage only because it was a “slow news week.” We love keeping calm and carrying on, but in cases like this, too much sang-froid just looks downright careless. If JP Morgan regrets CEO Jamie Dimon’s comments about a “tempest in a teacup” regarding the $6 billion London Whale trading loss, then Andrew’s equally cavalier comments may end up haunting him. In the new age of corporate contrition, this was a misstep. Both clients and staff must have been wondering: What was he thinking?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO the George W. Bush Library dedication ceremony. Timing is everything, and whether this was a good week or a bad one to dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum was debatable. The event was a patriotic photo op for sure, with all five living presidents – Bush father and son, Carter, Clinton, and Obama – there to open the center. But the same event was candy for detractors, who pondered whether the Bush legacy of war and financial foundation for the recession was grounds for commemoration, and if a library was really the most apt choice for Dubya. Considering the past two weeks of North Korean missiles at the ready, ricin-laced letters to politicians, and a terrorist attack in Boston, this celebratory move seemed somewhat oddly timed.

 

 

The People’s Prince

 The Peoples Prince

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Prince Harry – excuse us, Captain Wales.

It’s a long way from Las Vegas to Afghanistan. That’s the distance Prince Harry has come from the mortifying nude photos that made headlines a few months ago to the somber, candid interviews he did this week as the prince’s tour of duty in Afghanistan came to a close.

Harry gave a series of interviews to world media, and in them, he seemed happiest when speaking about his time as “Captain Wales,” as he is known in his military unit. Rather than bragging about his ability to be a regular bloke, he was relishing it.

Of course he was asked about those revealing photos from Las Vegas, and Harry’s answer was PR perfection. “I let myself down, I let my family down,” he said. “But it was probably a classic example of me being too much army, and not enough prince.” Nice one! For a royal scandal, there could be no better solution than an honorable stint in the military. It is after all, the great leveller.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Prince Harry , excuse us Captain Wales and the art of humility.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Sincerity is the PR buzzword. Lance Armstrong’s maneuver of confessing about doping to Oprah Winfrey largely flopped because of his complete lack of heartfelt emotion. By contrast, Prince Harry comes off as human. The Vegas scandal? It’s what people his age do all the time. The military? He’s honored and wishes he could continue. The Crown hasn’t had an easy time of PR management of late but sincerity can save the day. The trouble with Harry? After this media blitz? None at all.

All Apologies

 All Apologies

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the Australian DJs who staged the tragic Kate Middleton prank call.

The two Australian DJs who made the prank call to Prince Edward hospital have broken their silence with an explanatory interview with Australian media. Solemn and deeply apologetic, Michael Christian and Mel Greig, the two DJs behind the Kate Middleton-related hospital prank call that led to the suicide of the nurse who put them through, say they are “incredibly sorry” for what transpired. Speaking on behalf of the pair, Christian said both were “gutted, shattered, heartbroken.”

The fourteen-minute interview covered the predictable: Whose idea was it? Was this terrible outcome ever anticipated? What was their reaction on hearing about the suicide? And what happens now? At every turn, both gave a good interview. Prank calls have been around for years, they said, and they had no idea how this could happen. The call was meant to be nothing more than a funny routine prank. And, of course, they said they were very sorry.

The interviewer asked if responsibility stops with the DJs or with management, which approved the prank before the segment aired (as did the radio station’s legal department). The answer? No one could have expected the tragic outcome. While neither DJ blamed management, both pointed out that they had not acted alone. The interview ended with confirmation from management of the radio station that it has banned any future prank calls. Might this be the end of the matter?

The PR Verdict: “B” for DJs Michael Christian and Mel Greig. A redeeming interview for the pair, and quite possibly for management.

The PR Takeaway: Take Your Lumps and Don’t Blame are the right tactics in a case such as this. This interview improved both DJs’ personal standing. By the end, it is clear that they’re stunned the prank caused the damage it did. With advertisers leaving the station in droves and the company’s share price falling, the temptation might have been to blame the radio station’s management for what happened. Instead, management might now want to thank its two employees. They avoided adding another layer of blame that would have shifted the focus from personal blame, but prolonged the crisis by looking at management’s role in the whole debacle. With this apologetic interview from the two protagonists, management might have just saved its skin.

For the full text and video excerpts of the interview, click here.

 

How to Stop Royal History from Repeating Itself?

 How to Stop Royal History from Repeating Itself?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. (Pictured: Left, Kate Middleton; right, Princess Diana.)

There has been much agita concerning the photos of a topless Duchess of Cambridge taking a break while on a recent private summer holiday. So far, a French and Italian magazine have each said they will publish the topless photos, as has an Irish tabloid. Taken by a lone paparazzo hiding in bushes over 1.5 km away from the pool at the estate where the couple were staying, the photos have created a groundswell of concern. Is this the beginning of history repeating itself with a whole new Diana saga?

The young Royal couple has announced they are fighting back. Unhappy about the invasion of their privacy, they are now seeking an injunction against publication and have also announced they intend to pursue charges against the as yet unknown photographer. The warning shot has been fired and the media is now on notice that the couple will defend themselves.

The PR handbook for dealing with breaches of privacy is limited, and despite legal remedies there is no silver bullet when it come to reclaiming privacy. Other than total withdrawal from public life, what else might the Royals have up their sleeves to muzzle what could become an insatiable media curiosity?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Using the established legal rulebook makes sense but is unlikely to change the long-term narrative.

The PR Takeaway: Borrow from history to make a striking point. The ghost of Princes Diana wafts in and out of the press coverage regarding the topless photos.  By referencing Diana’s own haunted relationship with photographers, Prince William in particular could change the relationship dynamic with the media. Appealing to the public for privacy, rather than the media, is likely to meet a more receptive audience. A PR strategy that educates the public and chokes off demand for invasive press coverage may be what’s needed if legal remedies disappoint.

Can public sentiment, rather than insatiability for scandal, be used to regain celebrity privacy? Give us your PR Verdict!