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 US Speaker of the House John Boehner, who’s mad as hell – and his anger is translating into PR gold. For the first time, Boehner, a Republican, lashed out at conservative advocacy groups who criticized this week’s US budget deal. The agreement was (pleasantly) out of character for Washington: bipartisan, done early, and with both sides making significant concessions. Yet strict conservatives, who have assailed nearly every negotiation attempted by Republicans, say it doesn’t go far enough to rein in spending. Boehner blasted the groups, some of whom hadn’t even seen the proposal before commenting. “When you … have no idea what you’re criticizing, it undermines your credibility,” Boehner railed. “This is ridiculous.” The news media liked his candor, and pundits pondered whether it might suggest a new, stronger speaker. Time will tell.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the organizers and security detail at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, for allowing a fake sign language interpreter take center stage with speakers, including President Obama. Mistakes are understandable when a large event must be put together in days by bereaved organizers. But with heads of state in attendance, the fact that a random man who says he was suffering from a schizophrenic episode was allowed to take part in a high-level political ceremony is a serious breach, as well as a black eye on the event.

cruise kingsley 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Hollywood publicist Pat Kingsley, who “finally” talked about her former days repping Tom Cruise and revealed…well, not much. Kingsley, fired by Cruise in 2009, sat for an interview that hinted at  revealing details about her former cleint and his faith in Scientology. The story was billed as an interview with Hollywood’s “once-most-feared woman” who could be expected to dish on the firing and the role Scientology played in it. Alas, while she did describe disagreements she had with Cruise’s religious leaders, no real tidbits were delivered. The conflict with Cruise’s church “was taken care of very early in the game,” Kingsley said. Well, what did we expect from a publicist?

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

Jamie Dornan 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers“A” (PR PERFECT) to Universal Studios and Focus Features, for beating back the bad news of losing their lead actor in the highly anticipated film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. The BDSM-themed movie is set to begin filming next month, but two weeks ago a painful setback was suffered when actor Charlie Hunnam, a hotly debated pick for Grey, freed himself from the role. PR flaks tortured fans with a variety of possible replacements. Yesterday,  rumors hit the media that former Calvin Klein model turned actor Jamie Dornan (pictured) was nearly tied down for the role. Far from being spanked by adversity, the studios managed to keep the film’s buzz hot and have fans begging for more.

mcds The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to McDonald’s, chastised again last week for appearing indifferent to the plight of its lowest-paid workers. Activists seeking higher wages in the fast-food industry embarrassed the super-sized chain with a recording of a call one worker made to the company’s employee help line. The worker, who after 10 years as a cashier earns $8.25 an hour, was advised to sign up for food stamps to supplement her income. McDonald’s, playing defense, said all its employees, which number in the hundreds of thousands, have opportunities for advancement within the company. But it continues to lose the PR war on this issue: With more than half of its workers on public assistance, its low wages cost taxpayers $1.2 billion annually – an easy number to contrast with the $1.5 billion in profits it earned last quarter.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO THERE THERE” AWARD to a rather bizarre discussion about the physical build of one Captain Robert Durand, who runs public affairs for the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a recent piece about reforming the base’s checkered image, The Washington Post described Durand as “thickset.” One presumes an indignant phone call begat the correction that followed this week, which flatly stated that the adjective was incorrect and should have said “muscular” instead. The New Republic jumped into the fray, opining that Durand looked neither thickset nor muscular in a recent photo. Slate, the online magazine, offered “fit” as a more appropriate descriptor. Whose image were we worried about again? Oh that’s right, the base’s….

Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” Is a Recipe for Marketing Success

  Chipotles Scarecrow Is a Recipe for Marketing Success

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Chipotle for spicing up the fast-food wars with creative marketing.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Moonbot Studios have wowed consumers and advertising critics with “The Scarecrow,” a beautifully produced animated short film accompanying  Chipotle’s new anti-Big Food game.

The three-minute film, backed by a Fiona Apple track and described more than once as “haunting,” looks at a bleak world where people mindlessly ingest edible products supplied by “Crow Foods,” an industrial farming giant that secretly pumps up its chickens with hormones and stuffs its cows in tiny cages. The film’s hero is a scarecrow who realizes the injustice to all animals – both two- and four-legged – and establishes his own fresh food business, David to Crow’s Goliath.

Already hailed as “Oscar-worthy,” the short is a tremendous PR win for Chipotle – despite the fact that it shows the company’s name only once, at the very end. That’s very intentional, Chipotle Chief Marketing Officer Mark Crumpacker told USA Today, because the company sees its target diners as young adults who “are skeptical of brands that perpetuate themselves too much.” For that reason, Chipotle has generally avoided TV advertising and focused instead on more creative hooks, like this film and the game that is played on Apple products, to grab customer attention. With this campaign Chipotle has positioned itself as not only the thinking man’s Taco Bell but the healthier and more morally comfortable alternative to most fast-food options.

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) to Chipotle for spicing up the fast-food wars, too long the domain of gray hamburgers, factory farming, and boring commercials.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know what your customers want – and what they don’t. Chipotle’s campaign may seem unorthodox, but the company didn’t blindly speculate about what their patrons might like. They expertly blended their target demographic’s entertainment, idealogical, and tech preferences with the company’s well-established core message: our food is fresh and from sustainable sources. Where they took chances was in creative expression, and for that they partnered with an award-winning graphics studio and singer to tell their story. For Chipotle, “The Scarecrow” is a recipe for successful marketing.

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 Al Gore, who declined to comment following some puzzling comments from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She recently went public with her doubts about the now infamous case of Bush v. Gore, wondering if maybe the court should never have heard the case in the first place. Gore declined to comment, saying he would stick by his decision back then to stand by the referee’s conclusion. Any comment, Gore claimed, could bring the Supreme Court “into a political squabble where the outcome would not change at all in any case.” Agreed. Tempting as it may be, this is one instance where Gore needs to let others do the talking and ignore the bait.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) for Brad Pitt. The actor may be flashing his million-dollar smile on Vanity Fair‘s cover this month, but the story inside about his new $200 million movie isn’t nearly as pretty. The feature is ostensibly about Pitt’s World War Z, which accurately describes the atmosphere on the zombie flick’s set. One producer used the word “nightmare,” not about the apocalyptic scenario but about making the movie. Features like this are a crapshoot: Who doesn’t want the cover of Vanity Fair on the eve of the release of a summer blockbuster, yet one that will focus on the massive issues that plagued the film? The good news for readers is that it won’t be the same ol’ puff piece. The bad news for Pitt is that it won’t be the same ol’ puff piece.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Washington DC Council Member David Grosso for proposing that the football team of the nation’s capitol – the Washington Redskins – change their name to the less offensive Redtails (hey, it’s close!). The team’s name, considered a racial slur against the Native American population in the US, has been hotly debated for years. Those who might actually do something about it, including lawmakers, team owners, and the National Football League, have largely avoided the issue. What a weak way for Washington to weigh in. Grosso gets points for having enough conscience to address the matter, but his proposal will go nowhere even if it passes unanimously: as a “non-binding resolution,” which is Beltwayspeak for “pointless,” it carries no force of law. If proponents of a name change really want results, they would do well to abandon the ineffectual pols and instead aim their PR arrows at the stadium box office.


J.C. Penney: Everything Old is New Again

 J.C. Penney: Everything Old is New Again

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the board of J.C. Penney.
(Pictured: ousted CEO Ron Johnson.)

Shareholders may be asking the board of J.C. Penney “Penny for your thoughts?” Or perhaps demanding it, after the startling news of a CEO switcheroo this past Monday. That CEO Ron Johnson was ousted is not a surprise. The real surprise came when the board announced Johnson’s replacement: his predecessor, Myron Ullman, who was fired by that same board in 2011.

When Johnson arrived he moved forward with a radical makeover for Penney: boutique stores under one roof. This idea included securing Martha Stewart, who assured Johnson she could step out of her exclusive contract with Macy’s. That plan blew up like a bad soufflé, with Johnson in court admitting he’d never read the fine print of Stewart’s contract with Macy’s, and thousands of Martha’s products being court-barred from shelves.

Now comes news that Johnson is being replaced by the very predecessor he took over from, ostensibly because the man wasn’t doing a bang-up job to begin with. JCP’s price tumbled 10.3 percent after a brief spike when Johnson’s termination was announced. Shareholders aren’t just calling for a replacement for him, but for the entire board. This is practically a textbook example of PR “dont’s.”

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the board of J.C. Penney.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When playing poker, keep your hand facing in – no need to show all cards to the other players. A new CEO, a drastic new plan; where were the checkpoints along the way? With only one of the ten J.C. Penney board members having retail experience, no wonder the organization is in trouble. The board clearly realized that it needed to oust Johnson to stem the falling revenues and bad publicity, but the answer is rarely to go back in time. As Plan B is nothing more than a return to former issues, then it may be worth delaying until a more palatable alternative is found. If the board insists on reuniting with a former CEO, then coach the ill-chosen replacement not to admit that he was re-hired only last weekend and has no plan to speak of. Showing the losing hand is always a losing tactic and in this case, likely to cost JCP a pretty penny.

Two and a Half Men Trouble Again

 Two and a Half Men Trouble Again

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the “no comment” response. (From left: Angus T. Jones, Ashton Kutcher, Jon Cryer.)

What’s the PR tactic to take when the star of a hit TV show bites the hand that feeds? PRs could only watch in horror at the no-holds-barred fighting that occurred when Charlie Sheen, star of CBS’s cash cow Two and a Half Men, slung criticisms and even religious slurs at the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre. Sheen was fired, Ashton Kutcher was hired, ratings soared, and advertisers and the networks slept soundly.

For a while. The next issue was a comparatively smaller bump in the road: Kutcher’s highly publicized split from wife Demi Moore after an affair. Of more concern was the ratings drop after Kutcher’s first top-rated appearance, but both problems ultimately smoothed out with little need for damage control.

Hopefully the show’s PRs were well-rested enough to deal with the latest flap. The “Half” man, ie the 19 year old teenager who is the third character in the show, Angus T. Jones, has taken a page from the Sheen hand-book. Jones, who has starred in the series for nine years, has appeared in a video posted by a Christian church, criticising the show as “filth.”  He added, “I’m not OK with what I’m learning, what the Bible says, and being on that television show . . . Please stop watching it.” The response from CBS and Warner Bros.? No comment.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) from the network, the studio, and all involved with the show for sticking with “no comment.”

The PR Takeaway: The hand that feeds holds the power. There are a few PR tactics available when when a star goes violently off message. One is to plead insanity or addiction; that worked well with Sheen. The second is to quietly persuade the actor to recant, claiming that the video was a joke, or that the statements were taken out of context. The third is to wait for the news to move on – which it will more quickly when fuel is not added to the fire. The Sheen/Lorre battle escalated because both spoke too plainly to the media. This issue with Jones could die down fast if the only response is “no comment.” It’s a tactic Jones may also wish he’d followed when his contract is up for renewal this year.

Donald Trump, Master Buffoon

404232 542890259059818 265212859 n 150x150 Donald Trump, Master Buffoon

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!

Will Tony Robbins’ Feet Be Held to the Fire?

firewalk 150x150 Will Tony Robbins Feet Be Held to the Fire?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Tony Robbins.

These are embarrassing times for one of America’s most loved personal development gurus. Attendees at a recent seminar hosted by the self-actualized Tony Robbins not only found themselves in the headlines but cooling their feet in ice water as well. The reason? A fire-walking episode that failed to go to plan.

Late last week, over 20 attendees at a recent Tony Robbins personal development seminar suffered burns while walking across hot coals. The famous fire walk is part of Robbins’ “Unleash the Power Within” seminar, aimed at helping participants understand that they can overcome personal challenges. Participants are encouraged to tackle their fears, feet first.

“I just heard these screams of agony,” one witness relayed to the media, presumably to the horror of the Robbins’ PR machine. While many left the seminar feeling elated and transformed, others weren’t so lucky and left with second-and third-degree burns, caused by coals heated up to a cozy 2,000 degrees. As for Robbins himself, he has been nowhere in the subsequent media coverage. Where is our guru, and will his feet be held to the fire?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Anthony Robbins and his handling of a personal transformation exercise that went wrong. Next time, how about more leadership from one of America’s leading gurus?

The PR Takeaway: Unleash the Power Within and say SOMETHING. Tony Robbins has been noticeably absent from media coverage concerning this mishap. His organization, Robbins Research International, issued a bland CYA statement saying, “We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel … ” Perhaps, but  wasn’t this the time for one of America’s leading advocates of personal responsibility to explain–personally–what happened? A company statement is fine, but his name, after all, is on the billboard. Might we suggest a refresher fire walk to reaffirm his commitment to personal responsibility and accountability?

Should Tony Robbins have personally addressed this PR mishap, or should he continue to lay low? Give us your PR Verdict!

How About A Pulitzer for Beyoncé?

essencebeyonce1 How About A Pulitzer for Beyoncé?

PR Verdict: “F” For Essence’s cynical and embarrassing ploy.

Does anyone else find something vaguely ridiculous about Beyoncé being awarded a prize for journalism by Essence magazine? On May 15th, the New York Association of Black Journalists in association with the magazine, will award Beyoncé first-place prize in “arts and entertainment writing” in its magazine category.  There are 39 other winners who will also receive an award on the night.  What a surprise to realise that award winning journalism is being written at the rate of one article every nine days!

Beyoncé’s cover story from last year, called derivatively,  “Eat, Play, Love” has been named best in category and chronicled her 9-month sabbatical from her hectic recording career.   Written in the first-person, the article  gave readers an insight into the breakthroughs Beyoncé enjoyed while travelling the world.

Readers looking for insights will be delighted to know that Beyoncé discovered  she “loved artichokes and that a salad and fresh fish are not only healthy choices but incredibly delicious.”   In the article she also noted that “All over Italy, the streets smell like gelato.”  Did even she realise that this was award winning stuff?

The PR Verdict: “F” For Essence Magazine and its cynical and embarrassing ploy to garner publicity for its award show.  Column inches have been secured but most are vaguely derisory.  Bad move.

PR Takeaway:  Not all publicity is good publicity.  This is one case where the snarky tone of most of the coverage of the upcoming event has already diminished the value and integrity of the 39 other prizewinners.  Getting a celebrity to attend is one thing, giving her a prize for journalism is quite another.   Does Beyoncé need another prize?  She could have been easily comforted by one of her 16 Grammy awards if she was feeling blue.

To read  more click here and here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

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