Martha Stewart and Match.Com: Is It Love?

 Martha Stewart and Match.Com: Is It Love?

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Match.com.

You must have heard about it by now – after all, Saturday Night Live has already done a skit on it – but in case you haven’t, Martha Stewart, domestic diva-turned-entrepreneur, is turning to the Internet in the hopes of finding true love. Ms. Stewart has joined millions of other singles by posting a profile on dating website Match.com. She shared this tidbit last week in a candid conversation about her love life with NBC Today show host and longtime friend Matt Lauer.

What you may not have heard in the rush-to-coverage that followed, however, was much of a response from Match.com. At first blush, this seems a bit odd. After all, having one of the world’s most successful and recognizable businesswomen touting your product on national television is a dream come true. Indeed, the PR team over at Match must still be reeling from such unexpected good fortune.

Or are they? Matchmaking is a tricky business – even more so when your new unofficial spokeswoman is a global celebrity whose happiness depends on your company coming up with the goods. Sam Yagan, the CEO at Match.com, agreeably appeared on an episode of Today to help Ms. Stewart write and post her profile, but other that the Match.com response has been very low-key: no press releases, interviews, or big social media blitz. This is the right approach: Save the champagne for the engagement party.

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) for Match.com. By staying out of the media limelight now, Match leaves itself room to take credit if Martha does find Mr. Right, as well as to graciously split with her if she doesn’t, without taking an unnecessary PR hit.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When it comes to PR, it’s the marriage that should be celebrated, not the courtship. Dating is an uncertain phase;  success is far from certain, whether in love or in business. The big PR push should come when quantifiable results are produced and stand the test of time. Until then, it’s just another concept that, like new love, could go south in a heartbeat.

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!

Wall Street Journal’s Cowardly Response

 Wall Street Journals Cowardly Response

The PR Verdict: "D" for the Wall Street Journal.

Is that as racy as love letters get?  E-mail correspondence between Brett McGurk, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and his then-paramour Gina Chon, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has members of Congress very excited. For the rest of us it’s hard to see what the fuss is about.

The e-mails, dating from 2008, were posted anonymously this week on Flickr–bad timing for McGurk, a top adviser on Iraq who is currently going though congressional approval for the job of US ambassador. Congressional members are concerned that while McGurk was working on tough negotiations with Iraqis, his future wife Chon covered the talks for the WSJ. Could he have leaked to her classified information?  If so, they’ll have to try to stay awake while reviewing e-mails such as McGurk’s “I had a very good day with the Iraqis–the best yet. Can’t tell you about it of course. But you should definitely stay past Sunday.” Chon’s reply: “Stop being such a tease!”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland breezily washed her hands of the issue, telling CNN, “I’m not going to get into e-mails between Mr. McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife.” The WSJ had a more cowardly reply to CNN,  “We are looking into the matter.”

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Wall Street Journal who could have tried harder to defend its journalist. If the State Department can sound annoyed, why can’t the WSJ?

PR Takeaway: Where’s the beef? The WSJ might have tried publicly shifting the burden of proof onto the accusers: “Which article does the committee think contains leaked information? We would be happy to look into the matter.”  Then sit back and wait for the response.  And while we are there, how about privately suggesting to members of Congress that they stop calling the emails racy? In this day of Fifty Shades of Grey, they’re hardly blush-inducing.

To read the racy letters and for more background click here.