Diane Sawyer: Anchor Aweigh!

 Diane Sawyer: Anchor Aweigh!

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Diane Sawyer.

Talking heads were breathless in describing this nail-bitingly close election but one thing unified this divided country: What the heck was up with Diane Sawyer? The venerable anchorwoman received the dubious honor of being the second-most talked about part of Election 2012.

The Twitterverse focused its biting sights on Sawyer, who during election coverage was described as propped on one arm, slurring her words, giggling, and making comments about the network’s dramatic music.  “And Diane Sawyer declares tonight’s winner is…chardonnay!” read one Tweet. And a new Twitter handle was born: @DrunkDianeSawyer, which soon had hundreds of followers.

The network felt compelled to address the alleged brew-haha, although it’s not really clear if anything needed to be said. This seemed more like a story that grew its own momentum, proving the viral nature of social media over any real substance. “Diane’s fine – she’s exhausted,” said a representative responding to the deluge of tweets. “Diane has been up for days and she’s had many sleepless nights…..covering the hurricane and then preparing for the election broadcast.” Sounds plausible enough.  This hiccup will fade if Sawyer refrains from addressing it herself. After all, Tweeters’ attention spans are only 140 characters long.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Diane Sawyer. One (or two) bad nights do not a long, illustrious career unmake.

The PR Takeaway: Don’t apologize, don’t explain.  Sawyer’s PR rep said what was needed to deflect rumours and the rep was the right person to say it. Should Sawyer have jumped to her own defense, she would have only incriminated herself prolonging discussion and fuelling curiosity that something was not quite right. Better to keep calm, carry on and get some rest.

To see a clip of Sawyer during the election results, click here.

Should Diane Sawyer address rumors of her being drunk on air? Give us your PR Verdict!

Rodney King: Few Answers, One Important Question

 Rodney King: Few Answers, One Important Question

The PR Verdict: B (Good Show) for Rodney King.

Rodney King was never an easy hero to love. The man who became a symbol of racial tensions that led to a week of deadly riots in Los Angeles twenty years ago was found dead in his pool last weekend after living a complicated life. The media has been trying hard to recap that life, but what seems to have had the most resonance in the national discussion were five simple words that became a philosophical plea.

Rodney King was no PR dream. After publishing a memoir in April, his life was an open book of drug and alcohol abuse. Arrested multiple times, he told the LA Times that he blamed politicians and lawyers “for taking a battered and confused addict and trying to make him into a symbol for civil rights.” He was in every way the reluctant activist.

While the reluctant activist in life, his death has provoked widespread debate about race relations. King’s famous quote at the time of the riots,” Can we call get along?” is the tag line that followed him. He is remembered for what he said, but perhaps he should be remembered for what he asked.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Rodney King and his legacy. Despite complicated personal circumstances, with one simple question he opened up a conversation that continues after his death.

PR Takeaway: Sometimes asking a question has more impact than answering one.  For a man whose chaotic ups and downs have been tracked by the media over the last twenty years, King’s press coverage was noticeably respectful and thoughtful. The statement he made at a packed news conference, pleading for calm at the time of the riots, became not only a headline but a philosophical question. A presumably unplanned PR moment, but one with staying power.

To read more, click here.

What’s your PR Verdict on the media’s coverage of Rodney King, both in life and at the time of his passing? Leave a comment, below.