Lewinsky Tries to Turn Media In Her Favor This Time

 Lewinsky Tries to Turn Media In Her Favor This Time

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Monica Lewinsky.

Sixteen years ago, a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky became a household name. This week, a now 40-year-old Lewinsky will tell all about her affair with President Bill Clinton in a Vanity Fair essay entitled “Shame and Survival.” The piece is available to digital subscribers today and on newsstands this weekend.

According to promotional tidbits, Lewinsky says it’s time “to bury the blue dress,” a rather wince-inducing reference to one of the more salacious details of the saga: that Lewinsky had a frock bearing carnal proof of presidential coupling. In the piece, she reportedly says she deeply regrets the affair, which was consensual, and that she feels her entire life has been charted by those few years of youthful indiscretion. In writing the essay, she says,  “I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)”

Lewinsky says she was inspired to break her silence by Tyler Clementi, a college student who, apparently distraught after being filmed in a romantic interlude with another man,  committed suicide in 2010 by jumping off New York’s George Washington Bridge. Lewinsky says she could identify with Clementi’s anguish and the possibility that someone could be “humiliated to death.”

The buzz about the impending essay is formidable. The question now is: Will Lewinsky’s tale live up to the hype?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Monica Lewinsky, who for better or worse will always be Monica Lewinsky.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Media can bring both condemnation as well as redemption. Over a decade ago, a young Lewsinky had no control over with the media said about her. As she astutely notes, she was “possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet.” Today, with the benefit of maturity and an auspicious media platform, she just might have a chance at rewriting her own footnote in the history books.

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 Michael J. Fox , who took the “making lemonade out of lemons” maxim to a whole new level with the premiere of his new television show.  In Fox’s eponymously named sitcom, he plays a character who, like the actor himself, is returning to work while living with Parkinson’s disease. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s more than a decade ago, is raising awareness of a debilitating disease that afflicts somewhere between 7-10 million people worldwide. Regardless of whether the show is a hit, it’s a PR coup, informing and educating and making life that much easier for those with the disease.

 

joekcnbc The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Joe Kernen, a host on business channel CNBC, for on-air racist comments that he somehow thought were funny. Bantering with co-hosts a week ago on interest rate action taken by India’s central bank, Kernen morphed into a stereotypical Indian accent at the mention of rupees. But it didn’t end there. Visibly struggling with his own better judgment for several seconds, Kernen finally gave in to his inner trading “bro.” “Are they good at 7-11?” he asked, causing his co-hosts to squirm and scold. He added a quick “faux-pology” before the segment ended, saying: “I take it back. I apologize, before I have to.” Before he had to? Clearly he knew better before the words crossed his lips. Kernen later issued a more official apology for his “inappropriate and insensitive remark.” But one wonders what CNBC’s editor-in-chief and Kernen’s boss, Nikhil Deogun, an Indian-American from Kolkata, thought of the “joke.”

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to the masterminds behind the Cory Booker “stripper scandal.” Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark, NJ who has been campaigning for a seat in the senate, found himself being questioned by the media to explain his connection with a stripper. Scandal! Or is it? On closer inspection of the story initially broken by BuzzFeed…nyeh. Booker became acquainted with Lynsie Lee when they appeared in a film about social media. The mayor and the stripper, who works at the world’s first vegan strip club, have been tweeting, but rather tamely. “The mayor talks with people from all walks of life on Twitter,” said a spokesman. “The most shocking part of the story was learning that there is a vegan strip club in Portland.”

Nike Drops Charity, Yet Their PR Image Lives Strong

 Nike Drops Charity, Yet Their PR Image Lives Strong

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Nike, which very quietly severed a costly tie with Livestrong.

Yesterday, Nike announced they would cease production of products associated with the Livestrong brand. Livestrong, the charitable organization founded by cyclist Lance Armstrong, had a nine-year relationship with the world-famous sportswear brand that raised over $100 million through the sales of products. “We expected changes like this,” said a Livestrong spokesperson. As did the PR world.

After Armstrong admitted to doping his way through all seven of his Tour de France wins, his sponsors jumped ship faster than any of Armstrong’s cycling records, Nike included. But how would it look if they abandoned a charitable foundation? Livestrong was blameless, their only crime guilt by association.

Nike’s PR team knew that withdrawing money from a charity, even in the wake of a disgraceful scandal could backfire on them. The more sensible and low risk option? Pull the plug on the products and continue to fund the charity directly.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Nike for beginning to sever ties with a high-profile charity with minimum fuss.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When ties must be cut, don’t hack; slice gently. The harsh fact is that Nike had to distance itself from Armstrong and all to do with him. However, this is a charity; how to distance without looking like villains? Stop production of products –  a practical measure anyone could agree with – while confirming to the media that the company will keep making donations to the charity. Without patting themselves on the back, Nike still comes out looking like a decent company, despite dealing what may well be a fatal blow to Livestrong. (Actually, their founder did that.) What happens to Livestrong remains to be seen, but Nike has already come out ahead.

Why Mayor’s Drug Denial Won’t Crack Interest

 Why Mayors Drug Denial Wont Crack Interest

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

Exciting times! This past Friday, Rob Ford, the Mayor of Toronto, issued a statement to the media denying that he is a crack addict. “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” he said in a surprisingly terse statement to the media. Only this, after a week full of allegations and speculation concerning a video that allegedly shows Ford smoking crack and dissing his political opponents. A busy time for the Mayor’s press office, to be sure.

The Toronto Star and Gawker.com both claimed to have seen the video and confirmed that the star of the show was none other than Mayor Ford. The video, which no one else has seen, was being hawked by drug dealers for $200,000. Gawker promptly started a fundraising drive amongst readers and raised close to $180,000 (a sure sign that the recession is over). Alas, the dealers have vanished. Drug dealers not good to their word? What is this world coming to…

Meanwhile, Friday’s denial from Ford, however robust, failed to put the story to rest. The weekend media was full of more lurid, detailed allegations. His Honor repeated on a radio show – his brother’s – that this alleged video doesn’t exist, unwittingly adding that the media are a “bunch of  maggots.” That comment wasn’t likely to dim the spotlight on this story.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Mayor Rob Ford. This story is now officially out of control.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Deny, yes – and then follow up with an action plan. Why the Mayor of Toronto took over a week to respond to wildly circulating rumors remains unclear, but by the time he said something, simply denying he uses crack was not enough. The missing ingredients: an additional statement about being genuinely bewildered as to how this story has come about. Expressing astonishment that reputable news organizations are willing to pay acknowledged drug dealers for an unverified video. And confirmation that he intended to refer the matter to the police. Without these important components to a successful deflection,  Toronto’s citizens will inevitably stay tuned.

Weiner Reveals More for a PR Comeback

 Weiner Reveals More for a PR ComebackWhat ever happened to Anthony Weiner? The New York congressman shot to fame when he mistakenly tweeted a photo of his namesake (no, not his kid) to thousands of followers, thinking it was going to one flirtatious admirer. He denied all at first, then resigned shortly thereafter. It was a sudden ending to a promising congressional career, made all the more complicated as his wife, Huma Abedin, was one of Hilary Clinton’s closest lieutenants and pregnant with their first child at the time.

Little has been heard from Weiner since his embarrassing resignation. Earlier this year, he and Abedin announced the birth of their son in a soft-focus feature in People magazine. Several months of silence followed. Now, the New York Times Magazine has given the former congressman and his wife a long and detailed cover story outlining his journey to redemption – and his possible mayoral ambitions for New York.

The article’s narrative? Anthony Weiner has been doing some reflecting. He and Huma have worked through their issues. Yes, he still feels paralyzed with guilt about the humiliation he brought onto their family. He lives with the embarrassment and pain. His wife has emerged as a tower of strength and understanding. Being out of the  spotlight has helped him revaluate his life. He now understands the true meaning of humility and the danger of hubris. Is that enough to pave his way to the New York mayoral race?

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Anthony Weiner and his PR reinvention. Let the show begin.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Break for an interval before the second act. The Times article asked all the right questions: Why did Anthony Weiner do it? What did he learn? How has it changed him? With his wife ever-present in the article, and joining him on the magazine cover, critics now have little PR mileage to make out of the infamous tweet. While Weiner will undoubtedly face more questions, the definitive answers have been given. The Weiner camp can plan its political march forward toward the campaign office.

To read the full article, click here.

Nike’s Risky PR Move?

 Nikes Risky PR Move?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nike.

Everyone loves a winner – especially Nike. The company has just launched a PR campaign via social media after Tiger Woods recently won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The campaign includes a photo of Woods with his quote, “Winning takes care of everything.” Cheeky! Especially since it was Woods’ original retort when asked by the press about his extramarital affairs with prostitutes.

That rather public scandal, which came after the death of his beloved father and which resulted in divorce from his wife, led to Woods’ downfall. Previously a golfer who couldn’t be beaten, he had a fall from both grace and rankings. His sponsors, all but Nike, left him.

The world-famous sportswear brand has had a tough time with its athlete representatives. When Lance Armstrong admitted that he’d cheated to win all his Tours de France, Nike raced to drop him as it did with Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius who shot and killed his girlfriend. But in the case of Tiger Woods, Nike’s market research must have shown Woods was still resonating and worth spending the $20 million a year. The reaction so far? Media and online responses seems to be suggesting that Nike is more in love with its representative than the general public, particularly the female half.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nike. Is this latest controversy on-brand?

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Consider language in its broadest context. Yes, everyone loves a winner, and while it’s well known that winning does, in fact, take care of everything, some female customers buying Nike products may not be on the same page. Perhaps, in consideration of Woods’ transgressions, it might have been better if Nike had simply congratulated Woods using the single word by their swoosh – VICTORY – and allowed the public to be happy about a sports legend’s return. Instead, Nike may have inadvertently sent a message to female customers who don’t see it Tiger’s way. The right wording, more than winning, really does take care of everything.

Petraeus Scandal Sisters Trashed in T&C

 Petraeus Scandal Sisters Trashed in T&C

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Jill Kelley and sister Natalie Khawam (pictured left, with lawyer Gloria Allred).

What happened to the David Petraeus scandal? The temperature surrounding twin sisters Jill Kelley, the famous “Tampa socialite,” and her now equally famous twin sister Natalie Khawam continues to head in the wrong direction. The latest issue of Town & Country Magazine must have both sisters fuming. In a feature called “A Four Star Scandal,” journalist Vicky Ward describes the sisters as nothing short of scandal plagued and “on the make” (which does make for amusing reading).

Jill Kelley is the woman invariably described in media shorthand as the “Tampa socialite” involved in the Petraeus scandal. She was known to give extravagant parties attended by the top military brass, including General David Petraeus, a four-star general and then head of the CIA. Arguably, his affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell only came to light due to e-mails from Broadwell telling Kelley to back off from Petraeus. (Still with us?) The e-mails precipitated the end of Petraeus’s distinguished career.

The gist of T&C’s profile of sisters Jill and Natalie? That they’re social climbers who drop names at every opportunity while running up massive debts and scheming to snare moneyed men. Both sisters have indicated to some media outlets that they are now considering their legal and PR options. (Natalie has already retained notorious lawyer Gloria Allred.) Unfortunately, the horse has already bolted from the stable door.

THE PR VERDICT: ”D” for Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam. This is one social comeback that will be hard to manage.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Find SOMETHING to say, even if it’s via a publicist. The article quotes any number of sources and former acquaintances willing to drive in the stiletto. With both sisters declining to be interviewed, a sober and measured statement from a third party publicist was in order. “No comment” might be a valid choice, but having no voice at all made the twins lose their PR battle from the outset. Next time, make sure there is another voice to counterbalance the slant. An e-mailed statement, for example, can change everything; the sisters, of all people, should have known that.

The People’s Prince

 The Peoples Prince

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Prince Harry – excuse us, Captain Wales.

It’s a long way from Las Vegas to Afghanistan. That’s the distance Prince Harry has come from the mortifying nude photos that made headlines a few months ago to the somber, candid interviews he did this week as the prince’s tour of duty in Afghanistan came to a close.

Harry gave a series of interviews to world media, and in them, he seemed happiest when speaking about his time as “Captain Wales,” as he is known in his military unit. Rather than bragging about his ability to be a regular bloke, he was relishing it.

Of course he was asked about those revealing photos from Las Vegas, and Harry’s answer was PR perfection. “I let myself down, I let my family down,” he said. “But it was probably a classic example of me being too much army, and not enough prince.” Nice one! For a royal scandal, there could be no better solution than an honorable stint in the military. It is after all, the great leveller.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Prince Harry , excuse us Captain Wales and the art of humility.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Sincerity is the PR buzzword. Lance Armstrong’s maneuver of confessing about doping to Oprah Winfrey largely flopped because of his complete lack of heartfelt emotion. By contrast, Prince Harry comes off as human. The Vegas scandal? It’s what people his age do all the time. The military? He’s honored and wishes he could continue. The Crown hasn’t had an easy time of PR management of late but sincerity can save the day. The trouble with Harry? After this media blitz? None at all.

Lie Strong

 Lie Strong

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Lance Armstrong.

The interview that Oprah Winfrey calls “the biggest” of her career – with Lance Armstrong – hasn’t even aired yet, but the reaction to Armstrong’s apparent admission to doping is already in. However, it may not be what he was hoping for.

Over seven Tour de France wins, Armstrong was repeatedly accused of using performance-enhancing drugs; he denied all. After the US Anti-Doping Agency amassed an incredible amount of evidence against him, much of it from Armstrong’s former teammates, Armstrong relinquished his medals and watched sponsorships and contributions to his LIVESTRONG cancer charity burn. But he never admitted anything.

With his career and foundation in freefall, there seemed to be two courses to take: lay low and wait for the storm to pass, or have a “come to Jesus” moment with the only person who can influence public forgiveness: Oprah Winfrey. That moment came this week on Oprah’s OWN network. (At last, a ratings boost!

However, even Oprah may not be able to save Armstrong. The New York Post‘s front page, above, summed up public reaction at being duped and their sympathies played upon. Morning show pundits brought up a damning point: Armstrong began doping before he contracted testicular cancer, the disease that served as the launching pad for LIVESTRONG. Oprah apparently did not ask Armstrong if he thought the drugs led to the cancer, but if that theory is even hinted at, LIVESTRONG won’t survive the month.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Lance Armstrong. He may come to regret coming clean.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Better to admit to something or everything? Were Armstrong on his own, sure, tell all. But there is the foundation to consider, and should Armstrong not seem repentant enough, the public will turn on him and anything he touches. An admission also lays Armstrong open to lawsuits that will mean repayment of millions of dollars, as well as a suit by the US government for lying. The inevitable tell-all memoir offer may be waiting, but is there anything more the public will want to hear? Confession may be good for the soul, but in this case, it may harm everything Armstrong holds dear.

Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012

This year saw some celebrities, companies and even countries turn their own PR corner and we had a hard time choosing our favourite three for 2012. While they haven’t consistently made the headlines, each pick proves that image rehabilitation is always possible.

2013parishilton 150x150 Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012Paris Hilton is ending the year visiting orphans in India and sick children in Los Angeles, routine trips for the 31-year-old celebutante these days. With her name once synonymous with “bad girl”, Ms. Hilton seems to have left the days of sex tapes and cocaine possession behind. She’s revamped her image by staying out of the limelight while showcasing her business acumen, building an eponymous global chain of retail stores and a fragrance line estimated to top $1 billion in sales. Her news clippings, about new shop openings and charitable acts, reflect the reinvention: privileged brat no more. Lindsey, take notice.

 

2013myanmar 150x150 Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012Myanmar, long known for its oppressive regimes, overhauled its image on the world stage with its transition to democracy. 2012 saw ex-political prisoner and Nobel Prize winner Aung Sun Suu Kyi and her party elected to parliament, the lifting of censorship laws to create a nascent free press, and the central bank floating the kyat to allow for normalized investment. President Thein Sein’s reforms have resulted in relaxed U.S. trade sanctions and even prompted a visit from Barack Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the former Burma. All this sends a great message to the world: democracy rules!

 

2013AIG 150x150 Our Favourite PR Turnarounds of 2012The U.S. government last week sold off its remaining stake in AIG, the insurer deemed “too big to fail” and the largest recipient of a much-maligned government bailout four years ago. The sale marks one of the most impressive turnarounds in U.S. business history and the resurrection of the AIG name. CEO Robert Benmosche was eloquent in his statement, thanking the country “for giving us the opportunity to keep our promise to make America whole on its investment … Thank you America. Let’s bring on tomorrow.” AIG’s name, like its stock, appears to be on the up and up.