Will Christie’s One-Horse Race Lead to Washington?

 Will Christies One Horse Race Lead to Washington?

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Chris Christie.

Does style trump substance? That was the key question in the race for governor of New Jersey. With Chris Christie and Barbara Buono facing off for the coveted seat, name recognition alone was going to tip the scales in this race.

One needn’t be a resident of New Jersey to know Christie. He’s the man who spoke mostly about himself in a speech meant to introduce Mitt Romney to the Republican National Convention as their candidate for president. He was the Republican who crossed party lines by giving a warm welcome, and thanks, to President Obama in the days after Superstorm Sandy. He’s also the official who opposed same-sex marriage in New Jersey, though he quietly dropped a promise to fight it in the Supreme Court.

But did Christie ever really have an opponent? Christie made a memorable stand during Sandy and has kept a high profile since, staying on brand as a straight shooter, poking fun at himself on Letterman and undergoing weight loss surgery as he dealt with media criticism over his appearance. Christie has done it all publicly, with a PR plan that has made everyone think this was a one-horse race.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Chris Christie, returned as governor of New Jersey and possibly a future in Washington DC.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Stand out from the pack, and stay there. At a time when approval of government and its elected officials is at an all-time low, Christie differentiates himself fearlessly. He ranges from being a man of the people to being a brash trash-talker, but everyone knows his name. This is no accident. Find a way to step apart from the pack and then do what it takes to make sure yours is the only name remembered.

Republicans Face Harsh Realities, Rebranding

 Republicans Face Harsh Realities, Rebranding

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to Priebus and the RNC.

“Scary,” “narrow-minded,” and “the party of stuffy old men.” Those are just some of the ways the Republican party  describes itself in an unvarnished 100-page report released by the Republican National Committee (RNC) this week. Commissioned by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus following the 2012 presidential election, the so-called “autopsy report” identifies the party’s major flaws in attracting voters and recommends big cultural change to help Republicans win the next time around.

The candid nature of the report makes it interesting reading. One of the major issues identified is the party’s failure to appeal to younger voters and minorities, two of the largest growing voting demographics. “Public perception of the party is at record lows,” the report notes. “Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.”

This public soul-searching is unprecedented for a national political party. While some Republicans are bristling at the release of the report, others laud the RNC for taking such a dramatic step. One thing everyone should be able to agree on it is that change is needed: Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, a seismic shift from the prior two decades. Perhaps this report is the blueprint for the Republican party’s future?

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to Priebus and the RNC. Acknowledging failures is never easy, but every turnaround needs a first step.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: True rebranding is an inside-out job. The invasive nature of a well-done rebranding process sometimes comes as a surprise to corporate leaders, who falsely assume they are simply signing up  a new logo, not a massive corporate  rethink.  A rebrand is a major undertaking that involves the acceptance of harsh truths and a commitment to making fundamental changes. A new name or logo change may be an important part of the equation, but they’re not the end result. Fortunately for companies (unlike political parties), the dirty linen can usually be examined more privately.

A Tip for Eastwood’s Next “Empty Chair” Speech:

 A Tip for Eastwoods Next Empty Chair Speech:

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Dirty Harry.

Why did Clint Eastwoood’s puzzling speech to the GOP faithful at the Republican Convention in Tampa, FL, last week get such a resounding thumbs down? Eastwood’s now famous address–talking to an empty chair–did little to capture the public imagination in the right way. It was obviously not the warm-up act Team Romney was hoping for. Was this cold shower one of Dirty Harry’s worst performances?

The reviews were not kind. Eastwood’s failed motivational opener was invariably described as “rambling” by the commentators. Even Ann Romney damned Eastwood with faint praise by saying on morning television that Eastwood did “a unique thing last night.”

Eastwood’s problem was that his speech seemed too much like hard work. Talking to an empty chair, with its overtones of Gestalt therapy, seemed better suited to the analyst’s couch than national television. Above all, the exercise diffused Eastwood’s own anger, which is what was always going to connect with the audience. Despite the botched delivery, he made a case about why he is unhappy with the present administration. It could easily have been the temperature-setter for Romney’s later key speech, but instead Romney had to claw back the audience’s attention and start afresh.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Dirty Harry. Not a bad speech content wise, but why was its delivery so complicated?

The PR Takeaway: Speak from the heart and connect with the audience; any actor knows that. Eastwood’s speech read like an open letter to Obama, and what better way to have delivered it than to stare straight into the camera? Eastwood could have channelled the steeliness of Dirty Harry rather than taking a leaf out of the therapist’s handbook. Connecting with the audience and issuing the President with a series of ultimatums might have made Dirty Harry’s day, as well as Mitt Romney’s.

To see the speech click here.

What’s your opinion of Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” speech? Give us your PR Verdict!