Toronto Mayor’s Reality Show

 Toronto Mayors Reality Show

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Some Canadians were tweeting that last week’s Toronto city council hearings were the best reality show on television, but most aren’t laughing. Further revelations about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford‘s admitted purchase and use of illegal drugs are shocking, but not as much as his refusal to resign.

Time was any good PR advisor would have told the mayor to step down after just one of the many offenses he’s admitted to: being caught on videotape smocking crack cocaine. Being caught on videotape threatening to kill someone. His explanation for that: “I was extremely, extremely inebriated.” Telling a cadre of reporters that he had bought and used drugs. Admitting same during live televised hearings. Still, Ford clings to his mayoral seat, despite mobs of his constituents chanting “Resign!” outside his office.

With the help of PRs, politicians who have fallen from grace can construct careful comeback trails. And there is a precedent for Ford’s case. Marion Barry, the Mayor of Washington, DC, was videotaped smoking crack in 1990, served six months in prison, and was re-elected mayor in 1994. However, Ford is missing a key component of this example: in order to make a comeback, one must first go away.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Between a fall from grace and bouncing back, one must admit defeat. Though Marion Barry’s act of contrition – a prison sentence – was involuntary, he had it in hand to show he’d reformed. But no amount of PR can save Ford’s train wreck. He has taken the first step of saying he has some sort of rehab team on his case, but now would be the time to resign and take care of business in private. The last thing he or Toronto needs is for his recovery to become the next episode of this reality show.

Mayor Takes Sex Scandal from Bad to Worse

 Mayor Takes Sex Scandal from Bad to Worse

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

Lately, barely a week goes by that a male politician isn’t apologizing for some sort of sexually naughty behavior. Last week that began with Anthony Weiner apologizing for new accusations of sending sexual texts to women, and it ended with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner facing charges of sexual misconduct.

Specifics quickly took the vagaries out of the charges, filed via a lawsuit. Women who worked with the 70-year-old mayor say he tried to forcibly kiss them, touched them, made unwanted sexual advances, and put his former communications director in a headlock. At a press conference this past Friday, Filner refused to comply with demands for his resignation. Instead, he apologized for his behavior toward women “over many years” and introduced his solution: two weeks of therapy.

Friday is typically a slow news day, a time when politicians make changes that will get lost in a pre-weekend shuffle. The two-week therapy cure ensured that Filner’s news remained a top story throughout the weekend. Demands for his resignation, even from fellow Democrats, only mounted. It’s unlikely that the twice-daily briefings Filner will receive while in intensive therapy will contain other developments.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. Somehow, he managed to make a bad situation worse.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Take advice from the other side. On political drama The West Wing, the Democratic president hired a Republican advisor as a sounding board for partisanship. If the scriptwriters of an evening television program knew this, why couldn’t Filner’s PR team see a perfect storm gathering? Filner’s apology was flimsy, and he compounded the fracture with the admission that this has been going on “over many years.” And many years of sexual harassment is somehow to be cured in two weeks of therapy? That’s rather a lot to ask the public to swallow. While we can’t be sure, it seems unlikely that Filner’s PR team included a female perspective. There again, considering his admitted attitudes toward women, it’s doubtful he would have listened.

 

The BBC Adds Insult to Its Own Injury

 The BBC Adds Insult to Its Own Injury

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the BBC. (Pictured: Former BBC Director General George Entwistle.)

Much hand-wringing at the BBC these days. The venerable news organization continues to flounder following the broadcast of a news segment concerning allegations of child abuse. The most high-profile casualty so far is none other than the BBC’s Director General, George Entwistle, who resigned on Saturday.

For a while, it looked like Entwistle was going to make it. Following the crisis management rulebook, he was saying and doing the right things: taking responsibility, calling for answers, and promising reform. Ultimately, though, that didn’t save him. He was taken down by an astonishing interview given on BBC radio. The fifteen-minute segment is now widely credited as being Entwistle’s undoing, and interviewer John Humphry has been praised for it. His BBC colleagues might want to re-examine those kudos.

In the incendiary interview, Humphry dispenses altogether with the notion of allowing listeners to decide.  Basically telling his boss he should have known better, he does a lot of telling and not much asking. Entwistle does his best to stay on message and answer questions, but Humphry becomes belligerent, hopelessly drunk with the power of the chair he is sitting in. The interview sounds like an exercise in personal and organizational retribution. If the BBC is worried about its PR (and trust) with the public, this didn’t help. The BBC can claim scalps in its interviews, but in so doing makes it entirely clear how the current issues came about in the first place.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the BBC, which demonstrated the thinking that  got its news department into hot water.

The PR Takeaway: Fair and balanced is the media motto. While Fox News is routinely derided for being aggressively opinionated, Humphry’s “news” interview would sit perfectly on a Fox talk show. If the PR problems of the BBC relate to the inadequate editorial checks and balances in its news department, then this interview serves its critics well. Instead of celebrating the “gotcha” moment, a stronger commitment to facts, not opinions; more asking, less telling – might be the change that starts the BBC’s PR turnaround.

To listen to the interview, click here.

Paula Broadwell: The Invisible “Other Woman”

 Paula Broadwell: The Invisible Other Woman

The PR Verdict: “B” for Paula Broadwell and her PR strategy of morphing from the “other woman” to the “invisible woman.”

Any guesses as to what life is like at the home of Paula Broadwell? For anyone who has missed the latest  “spy who loved me” headlines, Broadwell is the scholar, athlete, and biographer who has been named as the “other woman” in the life of now-retired general David Petraeus. Fooling around with Broadwell cost Petraeus his job as head of the CIA. We assume he will bounce back, but what of her?

It’s not yet clear where and when the headlines will stop. Apparently the FBI came across Petraeus’s indiscretion while investigating emails that Broadwell sent to a third party. Broadwell, in an apparent fit of jealousy, allegedly threatened another woman via email who, because the emails allegedly concerned the head of the CIA, reported it to the FBI. Some weeks later the career of the Chief Spook was over.

It’s not clear what Broadwell should do now. Is it time for her to set the record straight? As a forty-year-old mother of two, she presumably wants to preserve her credibility. Her previously well-received biography of Petraeus is now viewed with cynicism and Broadwell’s new uncomfortable fame is as Petraeus’s nemesis. If she talks, it will only add fuel to the fire.

The PR Verdict: “B” for Paula Broadwell and her PR strategy of morphing from the “other woman” to the “invisible woman.”

The PR Takeaway: Wait until the smoke clears. Sometimes the only thing to do is lay low and wait for better visibility.  At the moment, l’affaire Petraeus remains highly volatile. With new parties being added to the mix and congressional hearings still to take place, Broadwell needs to maintain maximum flexibility. Having disappeared entirely from public view, the media is on the lookout for her, but for the moment the best advice is to resist any temptation to set the record straight and be completely incommunicado. It’s better to read the press coverage from the comfort of a getaway location. Now is not the time for visibility.

When “No Comment” Says Too Much

 When No Comment Says Too Much

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Ina Drew and her PR.

What happens to your PR profile when you are held publicly responsible for a headline trading loss of over $6 billion? That must have been the question Ina Drew asked herself as she read her cover story profile in this weekend’s edition of The New York Times Magazine. The former Chief Investment Officer of JP Morgan Chase, who lost the eye-popping number on a sour trade called the “London Whale,” was amusingly headlined “Swallowed by the London Whale.”

The lengthy profile was what one might have expected. The first half was dedicated to tracing Ina’s stellar rise: She was tough, driven, analytical, and well-versed not only in the markets but also internal politics and turf warfare. The second half of the story details how it all unraveled as the losses mounted.

While Drew didn’t comment, plenty of others did. Those more closely connected to the disastrous trade stayed in the background, identifying themselves only as “sources close to the bank.” But Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, went public after the dust started to settle, acknowledging Drew’s “incredible contributions “ to the firm. At this point, couldn’t Drew have said a word or two?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Ina Drew and her PR strategy. Just one on-the-record quote might have changed the article’s tone.

The PR Takeaway: Silence is not always golden. This profile has it all: money, success, and a colossal fall from grace by the tough trader who, moments prior to resigning, was walking the halls of JP Morgan, pale, gaunt, and with smudged mascara. Despite ongoing and innumerable legal complications, Ina Drew might have served her own PR well by reiterating that while regulators continue to review the matter, she is prohibited from commenting and that she resigned because it was the appropriate thing to do. If  your CEO is publicly positive about your contribution, far better to put yourself in the driver’s seat and acknowledge that you are assisting with inquires and exited with grace, rather than give the impression you have slunk off into the sunset with your tail between your legs.

Was Ina Drew’s silence golden or damning? Give us your PR Verdict!

To read the article click here.

 

Bob Diamond: Was It Something I Said?

BobDiamondresignation 300x194 Bob Diamond: Was It Something I Said?

The PR Verdict:”F” (Full Fiasco) for Bob Diamond, resigning CEO of Barclays.

One down and another just gone. Monday morning saw the resignation of Barclays Chairman Marcus Agius, following news of the Libor rate scandal. “The buck stops here” Agius said.  Exit stage right.  Oddly enough, his number two, CEO Bob Diamond, remained standing. By Tuesday, Diamond’s resignation had been accepted.

Up until then, Diamond apparently felt the buck didn’t really stop with him. While suitably contrite, with public apologies and regrets that made it clear that rate fixing failed to meet Barclays’ standards, there was no hint of a resignation. Hell no! Dismissing any suggestion that he was about to lose his position, Diamond told the media he wasn’t going anywhere. Two days later, he was out of a job.

Diamond’s headstrong comments over the weekend pushed forward the likelihood of a resignation. After all, if the Chairman had resigned, why didn’t the CEO, who is in charge of day-to-day business? Given that Diamond has previously fought PR clouds over his compensation and autocratic style, this unlucky third strike was bound to have him preparing the cardboard box for his belongings.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Bob Diamond. Telling the media and staff he had no intention of leaving his post wasn’t his call. An oddly cavalier declaration when his Chairman had decided to take his public lumps.

PR Takeaway: Is it the role of a CEO to decide if he should keep his job or not?  Remember, each person is only a guest in his or her position, and the invitation can be pulled at any time. Better to have deferred the issue to the Board and say that the matter of continued service was a decision for them. Diamond unwittingly gave everyone from the UK Prime Minister on down the opportunity to cry foul. With little incentive for powerful stakeholders to come out in support of Diamond’s tenure, his remaining days were nothing more than a countdown to the inevitable.

Should Agius and Diamond have resigned simultaneously? Would that have been the better PR tactic? Give us your PR Verdict below.

We will be back July 5 with a new PRV. Happy July 4 to all our readers

 

Did Team Romney Bet On The Right Horse?

ricGrenell 300x165 Did Team Romney Bet On The Right Horse?

The PR Verdict: "A" for Ric Grenell, Romney's short lived foreign policy PR.

Ric Grenell, Mitt Romney’s former foreign policy spokesman (of three weeks), hit the headlines yesterday.  It must have been a tough day for the Romney campaign. The resignation of a major aide is hard enough, but when he resigns after twenty one days, it’s clear trouble is brewing.

Ric Grenell has impeccable Republican credentials.  Serving four US ambassadors to the United Nations as Chief US spokesman, he carried many unpopular PR cans during the Bush presidency.  When Romney appointed him as his foreign policy spokesman it seemed a logical choice.  Then the trouble started.

Romney says Grenell’s sexuality (he is gay) was not an issue but it clearly was for some of Romney’s conservative contributors, as was Grenell’s previous endorsement of gay marriage.  Angered by his appointment, the American Family Association said Grenell’s appointment sent a “drop dead” message to supporters of traditional values.  Romney’s campaign managers asked Grenell to lay low as the protests within the party grew, hoping they would pass.  They didn’t and he resigned citing the “hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues.”

The PR Verdict:  “A” for Ric Grenell who left the campaign on his own terms.  Grenell left as elegantly as he could, thanking Romney for making it clear his sexuality was not an issue.  Clearly this was not the case for other Romney supporters.

PR Takeaway:  Think carefully before picking sides.  The ball is squarely in Romney’s court, now saddled with explaining how the party and its candidate are not captive to polarising social conservatives.  Headlines like this will worry moderate voters who, if the polls are to be believed, are going to make the difference for Romney.  Was this the wisest strategy?

To read more about Ric Grenell click here.

Whats your PR Verdict?

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