The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: A (PR PERFECT) to Princeton University for its smooth handling of a potentially deadly meningitis outbreak on its New Jersey campus. It emerged this week that seven students have contracted an unusual strain of bacterial meningitis since March. But the frightening fact was paired with the university’s announcement that it was already in discussions with federal authorities to offer a vaccine not yet approved in the US.  The facts were clearly communicated (all students but one out of the hospital, vaccine to be available in December, campus awareness campaign underway), FAQ’s posted online and questions referred to government health officials. The university emanated calm, preparedness and control.

ryanlambourn The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Ryan Jake Lambourn, whose video game allows players to reenact last year’s school shooting in Connecticut where 20 children and six teachers died. Lambourn, an American expat thought to be living in Australia, said he created the game to spur pro-gun control action in the US. Australia enacted sweeping gun control after a 1996 mass shooting, but in America, “All these massacres don’t seeem to have had any similar effect on regulation,” Lambourn told the press. That hardly soothed families of Sandy Hook victims, one of whom called the game “absolutely disgusting.” The game does in fact emphasize safeguards that could have prevented the massacre. As a result, Lambourn’s first-person shooter won no props from gun lovers, either.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Alex Rodriguez, the embattled baseball player who is facing a major league suspension for allegedly taking performance enhancing drugs. Rodriguez has been in hearings this week on the charges brought against him by MLB commissioner Bud Selig. When the 79-year-old Selig sent someone else to the trial in his place, Rodriguez flew into a rage, punching a wall, pounding his fists on a table, cursing and finally leaving. He then went on a radio show to deny taking the drugs. Yep, a grandstanding fury is certainly the way to convince people of that.

Obama’s Gun Photo Shoots Him in the Foot

obama gunshooting1 150x150 Obamas Gun Photo Shoots Him in the Foot

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco).

Is President Obama taking lessons from the Putin PR playbook? The Premier of Russia is notorious for ludicrous photo ops and a clumsy PR strategy that includes releasing Marlboro-man style photos of himself to the media. There’s Vlad diving in the deep sea, fly fishing bare-chested, and parachuting out of an airplane. The photos usually provoke rounds of snickers, rather than admiration. Could the latest White House PR ploy have the same effect?

The Putinesque moment in question is the release by the White House of a photo of President Obama shooting a rifle. In an interview published by the New Republic, Obama claimed he had used the gun at the Camp David Presidential retreat. “We do skeet shooting all the time,” the President said. Cue derision from conservative foes who, in the midst of national acrimony about gun control, were justifiably puzzled by this previously undisclosed hobby.

The White House caption accompanying the photo by the official White House photographer notes: “President Barack Obama shoots clay targets on the range at Camp David, Md., Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012.” If Obama has a history of shooting, then it was probably best to have released a photo way earlier than this, rather than make it look as though he’s just assuring the NRA he’s not anti-gun.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco). A bad idea, poorly timed.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: No one likes to be played. The unintended upshot of the photo’s release is fodder for the gun lobby and skepticism by journalists. Even if the President is a routine skeet shooter, this photo would have been better uncovered by the media much earlier in the gun debate and not released by the President’s own PR team. Whatever the PR short-term gains, trust and credibility are lost with these overtly manipulative releases. Just ask President Putin.

A Tough Gun-Control Act to Follow

 A Tough Gun Control Act to Follow

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Giffords and Kelly.

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her ex-astronaut husband Mark Kelly announced this week that they will lead an effort to lobby Congress for stricter gun-control laws. The couple launched their political action committee, Americans for Sensible Solutions, on the second anniversary of the mass shooting of Giffords and 18 others in a Tucson, AZ parking lot. Six people died in the 2011 attack, which was perpetrated by a mentally ill man who obtained the guns used in the shooting legally.

Giffords has a unique set of credentials for this cause. Having barely survived the shooting, she was forced to relinquish her seat in the House of Representatives. As a politician from one of the country’s most pro-gun states, she has in the past boasted of her prowess with her Glock 9mm pistol (the same model her would-be assassin used). Her husband Mark Kelly, frequently described as an American hero, is himself no stranger to ordnance, having flown U.S. Navy combat missions in the Gulf War.

The pair are making their position clear: They are not seeking to revoke US citizens’ rights to bear arms and have emphasised that the Second Amendment can co-exist with responsible gun ownership. Distancing themselves from the National Rifle Association while at the same time reaching out to “the majority of NRA members,” they have grabbed the middle ground: in favor of guns, but with more effective gun-control laws.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Giffords and Kelly. Their impeccable credentials will make it tough for opponents to take them on publicly.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Take the middle ground and let the others do the polarizing. In any debate, when views are extreme, the winner will be the persuasive advocate who courts the majority in the middle. Publicly defending current gun policy when up against a high-profile victim and her military husband is going to require finessed PR skills. The NRA may have just found their ground taken away from them.