Scouts’ Honor At Stake

scoutshonor 118x150 Scouts Honor At Stake

PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the Boy Scouts.

In the past six days, headlines have heralded the downfall of Lance Armstrong and our presidential candidates’ heated debates. Yet it’s shocking that one news item gained only brief attention, especially given its name: The Boy Scouts of America Perversion Files.

That was the actual internal name for files kept on Scout volunteers who were accused of child sex abuse. The files date from 1965 to 1985 and number 1,247 “ineligible volunteers” – who were merely banned from further service. “In certain cases,” admits a Boy Scout statement, “our response to these incidents and our effort to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong.” Bizarrely, the group only enacted a policy of contacting authorities in 2011, well after the scandal of the Catholic Church had entered national consciousness.

Charges are likely to be pressed and the headlines will inevitably resurface, but for the moment the Boy Scouts are out of the media firing line. The Scouts played their PR card well. Acknowledge the problem, apologize, then apologize again. Next, point to reforms (however late in the day) and assert that management has changed, at which point the news story might have a short shelf life and be on its way to disappearing. The Vatican may want to take notes.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for The Boy Scouts of America. It’s uncomfortable for us to give a high grade given the circumstances, but the Scouts followed the PR handbook and, in so doing, neatly side-stepped the media spotlight.

The PR Takeaway: PR won’t make a crisis go away, but it can shorten its life span. From a PR perspective, the most striking point is how the Boy Scouts handled this issue versus the Catholic church. The Boy Scouts made it clear that these were largely accurate and truthful files and conceded the error of not bringing in the authorities. Though grave implications remain for the victims, the long-term PR impact on the Scouts already seems less substantive than what happened to the Catholic clergy faced with similar circumstances. Does it simply come down to effective PR?

What should The Boy Scouts of America do now to save their reputation? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

How Will Citigroup’s Sandy Weill be Remembered?

sandyweill2 How Will Citigroups Sandy Weill be Remembered?

PR Verdict: “F” for Sandy Weill and his attempt to be secure a kinder slot in the history books.

How will history remember Sandy Weill, the former CEO of Citigroup and architect of the largest financial services firm that nearly went under?  Judging by a recent article published in Fortune, if he has his way, he would like to be remembered as a visionary philanthropist.  History may not be so kind.

In an embarrassingly soft-ball article, the former CEO waxes lyrical about his philanthropic endeavours for the first part of the interview.  These include the creation of the National Academy Foundation as well as generous contributions to the arts and healthcare, obligingly listed by the magazine.

As for the tough questions about the near collapse of the financial system, his own bank’s astonishing destruction of value and the excesses of executive compensation, Weill says nothing of any interest.  Given his experience and formerly revered status, now was the time, at the age of 79 to rescue an irredeemably doomed reputation.  Regarding executive compensation Weill sounds more like a PR intern working on a draft Q&A, opining,  “people should be paid appropriately”.  He adds that fixing banks that are  “too big to fail is a problem” but offers no solution or insight.  He concedes that “people made mistakes that created issues” but blithely adds “it’s time to move on.”

PR Verdict:  “F” for Sandy Weill and his attempt to secure a kinder slot in the history books.  Speaking in generalities and turning attention to philanthropic endeavours will not redefine a hopelessly damaged reputation.

PR Takeaway: If you want to change a point of view say something surprising.  Salvaging a reputation requires more than throwing money at charitable causes.  At Weill’s venerable age he has nothing to lose. Why not make some radical fundamental observations while also acknowledging some personal role in the crisis? It might have given him the reputational rewrite he seems to crave.   Next time have a look at Warren Buffett for some pointers on how to make people sit up and listen.

To read the article click here. To read more click here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

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Who Knew Tricky Dick Was Such A Romantic?

ricahrd nixon 242x300 Who Knew Tricky Dick Was Such A Romantic?

The PR Verdict: “B” Smart move from the guardians of Nixon’s reputation.

What’s the best way to reform a reputation?….Surprise people.

The Richard Nixon Presidential Library has just released six of the former President’s love letters to the woman that would become his wife, Pat.  In the case of Richard Nixon the strategy of reforming a reputation by stealth seems to be working.

Nicknamed “tricky Dick” by his detractors (and there were many), Nixon’s tarnished career ended when he resigned the presidency. The rehabilation of his image has followed a familiar strategy. Let the ugly defining moment pass and introduce ongoing new material to provide a different perspective.

The letters make surprising reading. As the curator enthused to the media, “It’s a totally different person from the Watergate tapes that people know…. There’s a lot of hope, there’s a lot of tenderness and it’s very poetic”.

The PR Verdict: “B” Smart move from the guardians of Nixon’s reputation.  Only six letters, but they put the former President in a different light.

“Let’s go for a long ride Sunday; let’s go to the mountains weekends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all, let’s really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours” he wrote to Pat. These breathless romantic scribblings will surprise many. Remembered more for his sweating in front of TV cameras than tender words, these short letters will move the perception toward a deeper and more nuanced character…..Now, does anyone have love letters from recently deceased Kim Jon Il to hand?

To read more about the letters click here and to take the Vanity Fair quiz on the letters click here.  Is there a news item that you think needs a grade? Send us your suggestion for the next PR Verdict: info@prverdict.com

What’s your PR verdict on these letters? Will they help reform Tricky Dick’s image?

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