PR Science for Scientology

 PR Science for Scientology

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s crisis management of this latest hit to its reputation. (Pictured: Nazanin Boniadi)

Where on earth is Nazanin Boniadi? To those unfamiliar with her name, Boniadi was allegedly put forward as a potential girlfriend to Tom Cruise, by the Church of Scientology’s top brass in 2004, as they sought to couple up their leading celebrity. The full story in the October issue of Vanity Fair continues to generate headlines since its publication, and The PRV gave Cruise and Scientology the “Loser of the Week” award for their mutual mishandling of this major reputational hit. Why?

Vanity Fair cites numerous sources and quotes them in detail, naming dates, places, and schedules throughout the article. The bad news for Cruise and his pals, is that the story is not a vague piece of celebrity journalism citing unnamed sources but Scientology didn’t seem to care and responded in the article with assertions that the article contains “lies” and “garbage.” Blanket aggressive denials were never going to turn this story around. This was poor PR handling.

The article describes the Church as having a culture of fear, secrecy, blackmail, spying, and routine informing by peers, with summary punishments involving loss of liberty. Vanity Fair tracks Boniadi’s trajectory from Church member,to potential Cruise girlfriend, to later exile at a Scientology campus. If the story is truly “garbage,” why didn’t Scientology make Boniadi available to Vanity Fair to set the record straight?

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s crisis management of this latest hit to its reputation. Throw cold water on the allegations with another set of facts and change the direction of the story.

The PR Takeaway: Fight fire with fire. The easiest way to take the wind out of a damning story line is to go on-the-record with an alternative view of events that casts doubt on the prevailing version. A few choice words from the former girlfriend in question might have done the trick. Defensive denials are PR 101; on-the-record comments win the day over flat denials.Next time let Nazanin do the talking.

What else could the Church of Scientology done to manage this PR fiasco? Give us your PR Verdict!

Editorial note: Friday’s PRV Weekly Wrap contained an incorrect news item regarding Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The item has been removed; we apologize for the error. 

THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 

TOM CRUISE 6 SEPT1 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & LosersMICHELLEOBAMA6spet1 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losers

What a week: Tom Cruise allegedly auditioning candidates for wifely duties, DNC firepower in Charlotte and Katie Holmes tells us why she is not afraid of make-up. 

Who are this week’s PRV winner and Losers?

LOSER OF THE WEEK:  The PR Verdict: F (Full Fiasco) to Tom Cruise and Scientology.  Vanity Fair charges that Scientology held auditions for the role of Mrs. Tom Cruise. Church denials are to be expected but the problem is the source is respected publication Vanity Fair, owned by Condé “We Don’t Like Being Sued So We Pay Our Fact-checkers Well” Nast. This may be tough to disprove. It might be better to concede that Tom prefers to marry within his religion but add that there was no audition process. Sometimes it’s better to lower the temperatutre than fight the fire.

WINNER OF THE WEEKThe PR Verdict: A (PR Perfect) for Michelle Obama.  Style met substance and  captured the pundits and the public imagination. Huffington Post and others hailed Michelle Obama at the DNC, but when Dem-adversarial Fox News gives you the high-five, you’ve done your job well. And those arms! We couldn’t take our eyes off them.

And finally:

KATIEHOLMES2 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHERE’S-NO-“THERE” -THERE PR: Katie Holmes talks exclusively to People TV about why “she is not afraid of makeup.” Nearly two minutes of content-free product placement by cosmetic company Bobbi Brown. Why does Katie love makeup, how did she get over her make-up fears, and what secrets did her mother tell her the about hidden world of foundation? We’re astonished (truly).

(Editor’s note – a previous mention regarding Julian Assange has been withdrawn due to an editing error. Please disregard).


Putting the Church Into Scientology

scientologists celebrities 15 300x205 Putting the Church Into Scientology

The PR Verdict: F (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s PR. Something isn’t working.

The Church of Scientology is girding its loins. After a week of disastrous press scrutiny following the TomKat divorce announcement, the organization looks set for further unsympathetic coverage. What role did Scientology play in the breakdown of the celebrity marriage? Who knows? But what is clear is that for non believers there is almost universal mis-trust when it comes to the Church founded by Ron Hubbard.

Rupert Murdoch caused a fuss last week when he Tweeted that the religion is a “very weird cult,” adding that there is “Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people.” An Internet backlash was immediate, but the problem was that those hitting back were almost exclusively Scientologists. What about friends and sympathetic supporters?

On Friday, news outlets detailed a memo allegedly distributed by the Church of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs that urges members to monitor the Internet for hostile statements about the Church and report them; hardly a strategy to win the hearts and minds of non-believers. With all their celebrity and influential contacts, wouldn’t the wiser, more sustainable PR strategy be to get non-believers defending the cause?

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s PR. Something isn’t working, despite their high number of celebrity followers.

The PR Takeaway: Act and sound like you are at one with your name. The PR problem of the Church of Scientology is that it so rarely, from a PR perspective, behaves like a church. Where are the selfless acts of charity and good will that characterize the work of many other churches and religious orders? In tone and profile, the Church of Scientology sounds more like an aggressive corporation protecting brand and market share rather than a church. Why not be a little….well, church-ier?  It could be the strategy shift needed as the TomKat divorce places the organization back in the headlines.

Katie Holmes’s Stealth Divorce Bombshell

 Katie Holmess Stealth Divorce Bombshell

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Katie Holmes and her stealth divorce bomb.

TomKat–Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes–are now officially over. Just like that. The surprising announcement that Holmes had started divorce proceedings seemed to catch her actor husband Cruise off guard. The filing was made on Thursday afternoon; the media went crazy on Friday. What happens now?

Speculation has already begun as to the cause of the marriage breakdown. Whispers of Holmes’s resistance to Cruise’s Scientology pals abound, as does the sneaking suspicion that the marriage was, from the start, a five-year contractual understanding. Other media speculate that Cruise’s alleged ambiguous sexuality is the genesis of the crisis, with one New York tabloid sarcastically commenting, “Holmes will keep the house while Cruise keeps the closet.”

Was the split expected? The gossip magazines had not speculated about Cruise’s third marriage in any meaningful way (despite ongoing low-level chatter). Cruise showed up alone at the recent premieres of his latest film Rock of Ages with no significant adverse comment. With the media off guard, the time for Holmes to file was now. At least on the PR front, this was minimally damaging, given the couple’s notoriety.

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for  Katie Holmes, whose divorce strategy is like a precision bomb. Taking the media by surprise means that phase one of the divorce agenda is owned by Homes, hands down.

The PR Takeaway:  Quick precision bombing has its advantages. Making a sudden filing before the weekend, while not making substantive comments keeps the scandal level relatively low. Holmes followed the template of her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s own divorce from second wife Nicole Kidman: no comment, no explanation–the PR exercise equivalent to ripping the band aid off quickly. No one ever really got to the bottom of the Kidman/Cruise divorce in part because it seemed so unexpected. The explanations this time around might be just as elusive.

Will Katie Holmes’s sudden, stealth divorce bomb shatter the media’s speculative attack? Give us your PR Verdict, below.

Hey ! Did you see that the Financial Times (Alphaville) republished our PRV on Barclays? Take a look: http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2012/06/29/1065981/barclays-pr-rating-d/

Is Tom Cruise Really That Dull?

tom cruise Is Tom Cruise Really That Dull?

The PR Verdict: “A” for Cruise and his PR strategy.

Is Tom Cruise as achingly dull as his recent profile in Playboy would seem unintentionally to suggest? In honor of his fiftieth birthday and to publicise his new movie Rock of Ages, he has given an interview the length of War and Peace to the once racy, but now vaguely suburban magazine.  His interview is almost as tough to get through as the Russian novel.

For an actor who has had his share of PR blunders it is little wonder he became media shy.  Whether it was bouncing around on Oprah’s couch talking about Katie Holmes, criticizing Brooke Shields about post natal depression or waxing lyrical about Scientology , his star fell and his box office allure faded.  Suddenly America’s leading man was polarizing instead of interesting.

Playboy’s recent interview should help remedy that.  Cruise talks about his love of Katie, his children and his strong work ethic.  Yes, he considers himself blessed and fortunate and no, he doesn’t read negative press about himself.  As it happens, he  hasn’t had plastic surgery and his secret to keeping in shape is eating right and exercising.  Cruise has made the PR transition from Hollywood loon to male soccer mom. And done it in Playboy!

The PR Verdict: “A”  for Tom Cruise and his PR Strategy.  An astonishingly dull interview that has got his PR profile back on track.

PR Takeaway:  Being boring has its rewards.  The most interesting insight Cruise offers in the article is that he realised his own PR missteps cost him plenty.  He took a PR break, stayed out of the press and what has now followed is an interview that gives him the space to sound reassuring and not the slightest bit controversial or interesting.  While sensible for the box office and his PR machine, we did prefer him jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa.  Much more amusing.

What’s your PR Verdict?