Love, Russian Style

 Love, Russian Style

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Vladimir Putin (pictured with soon-to-be-ex-wife Lyudmila).

Russia has always been mysterious, both captivating and confounding the rest of the world. Perhaps that’s why Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s announcement last week that he is divorcing his wife of nearly 30 years, Lyudmila, seemed downright frank. In an “interview” as choreographed as the ballet the Putins had just left, the couple was approached at the Kremlin’s private theater by a journalist who just happened to inquire about their marital status. Dressed in formal wear and referring to each other by their patronymic names, the Putins stiffly confirmed an amicable split.

As strange as it was, the announcement marked a PR milestone for Putin, who has so fiercely guarded his private life that his adult daughters have never been photographed and he allegedly shut down a newspaper that speculated he was having an affair. Why be so open now? Possibly to put this issue to bed well before the next presidential election in five years. With one of the highest divorce rates in the world, Russians are no strangers to separation. Putin, however, is not particularly popular in his homeland, and divorce runs counter to the Russian Orthodox Christian church. He’ll also be the first Russian leader in 300 years to split from his spouse. At least Lyudmila won’t be banished to a nunnery like Peter the Great’s wife (at least, as of press time).

THE PR VERDICT:  “B” (Good Show) for Vladimir Putin. The harsh glare of the spotlight means that even former KGB agents have to practice a bit of glasnost now and then.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Be candid. Don’t resist. Today’s media is borderless and, often, relentless when it comes to the personal lives of public figures. At a certain point, it’s better to be candid about a significant event such as a divorce or affair rather than hoping (or forcing) the lid to stay on the pot. Just ask US President Bill Clinton, who probably wishes he’d handled the question about his involvement with intern Monica Lewinsky a bit differently. For leaders of nations, there is no such thing as a private life – even in Mother Russia.

Putin Admits He’s a PR Poser

putinshirltess3 Putin Admits Hes a PR PoserYes, its true: Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, is guilty of staging absurd PR stunts. The world has always had its suspicions that Russia’s de-facto dictator was guilty of cynical media manipulation. Now none other than Putin himself has confirmed same… Which may be the most bizarre stunt he’s pulled yet.

The BBC recently reported that the nice version of Vladimir (not Vlad the Imprisoner of Pussy Riot) came clean to a journalist who previously suspected some of the presidential trips were nothing more than PR stunts and refused to cover them. Putin conceded that some of the stunts were staged, telling Bolshoi Gorod magazine, “Of course, there are excesses. And I’m annoyed about it,” he confided.

He was referring to news stories of him tagging whales, flying with Siberian cranes, and, most dramatically, saving a TV crew from a tiger. “The leopards were also my idea,” Putin added, referring to a photo op that had him fooling around with a rare snow leopard. Vlad kindly lets us know this was not a cynical PR exercise; on the contrary, he was doing this to draw attention to animals under threat. Apparently the President of Russia, commenting on the topic without an extravagantly staged photo, might have gone unnoticed.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Vladimir Putin and his PR confession. His reason doesn’t sound credible, nor do any of the other unmentioned PR shots of Russia’s President.

The PR Takeaway: PR is not a smorgasbord; you can’t  pick and choose what you want people to believe. By coming clean, Putin hoped that he would clear up a number of derisory rumors about his program of photo opps. His confession leaves unmentioned photo opps, including Vlad fly-fishing shirtless and Vlad recovering historic relics from the seas, as deeply unbelievable. To admit to staging some photos but implicitly expecting the public to believe others is wishful thinking.  Vladimir’s reputation as being an untrustworthy manipulator just got reconfirmed. Hardly smart Putin PR.

What’s your PR Verdict?  Read here for more.