Saying Almost Nothing Can Be Everything

3c0bfc70047cd9211fdfddb22528f6d3 300x2251 150x150 Saying Almost Nothing Can Be Everything

PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Terri Lynn Land.

Turning the tables on one’s opponent can also work in PR. That’s what Republican US Senate hopeful Terri Lynn Land of Michigan has done with her first campaign ad, a 30-second spot entitled “Really? that  pokes fun at her rival, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters.

Peters asserts that Land, a former secretary of state in Michigan, is part of a “war on women.” It’s an accusation in the vein of that old leading question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Say “yes” and you cop to the transgression, but saying “no” implies it’s still going on — and trying to explain yourself just keeps the issue alive. In her ad, Land appears on screen and says Peters “want[s] you to believe I’m waging a war on women. Really? Think about that for a moment.” As campy music starts up, Land sips her coffee, shakes her head and checks her watch before the ad concludes with an overtone of her saying “I’m Terri Lynn Land and I approve this message because, as a woman, I might know a little more about women than Gary Peters.”

Simple and amusing, the ad hit its mark. “It seems to work,” The Daily Caller says. “It’s tough, but also fun.” The clever commercial also caught the attention of the big media guns like Time magazine, The Washington Post and National Public Radio. Talk about bang for your ad-buying buck.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Terri Lynn Land, a relative unknown whose ad put her on the national radar.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: It takes two to tango. When a damaging accusation is made, take a deep breath and try to figure out how to bat it down without directly engaging. Land’s execution was flawless. The gauntlet was thrown so she had to act, but she did so in a mocking way that makes her look smart and her opponent look aggressive and silly. It’s also a nice departure from the relentlessly negative political ads that permeate the airwaves. For Land, saying almost nothing said everything.

Absentee Senators Busted by Actor With a Cause

 Absentee Senators Busted by Actor With a Cause

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for actor Seth Rogen.

Actor Seth Rogen headed to Capitol Hill to take on a new role: that of advocate, urging elected officials to put more money toward research into Alzheimer’s disease. What happened after his testimony, however, was the real show stopper.

Rogen, known for playing goofy, bumbling characters in movies like The Hangover and Knocked Up, appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee. He and his wife, screenwriter and actress Lauren MIller, have been helping care for Miller’s mother since she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s dementia nearly nine years ago.

Rogen’s heartfelt statement probably would have been well-received, had there been anyone there to receive it. Sixteen of the 18 senators on the powerful committee, which allocates federal funding to government programs and which had invited to Rogen to appear, either didn’t show or actually walked out during the hearing.

The lack of attendance could have been a PR miss for Rogen. Instead, he turned it into a cause celebre. He called the absentee senators on the carpet, shaming them on Twitter by tweeting a photo of an empty hearing room and responding to one senator with “Why did you leave before my speech? Just curious,” before hitting the media circuit.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Rogen. In the end, Rogen got more attention for Alzheimer’s than if he’d played to a packed house.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Learn how to turn lemons into one mean lemonade. Washington  denizens are used to the tableaux of the empty committee room, but it clearly caught Rogen off guard. Perhaps his actor’s training allowed him to take a deep breath and figure out how to rescue the scene. Life in the public eye (and, for that matter, life in general) is full of surprises. Try to view a situation from all angles in order to figure out if a negative situation can be redirected. It’s a skill that can save, or even make, a PR opportunity.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Cory Booker, the charismatic Democratic mayor of Newark, NJ, who this week became the state’s first African American US senator. True, he was unlikely to lose; New Jersey hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate in 40 years. Still, the media-savvy 44-year-old ran a carefully calibrated race. Early on, he laid low and campaigned via his Twitter feed and Instagram videos. He artfully handled shrill questions about sexuality and his communications with a West Coast stripper. When opponent Steve Lonegan turned up the heat, Booker came out swinging with an aggressive TV ad (but still spent less than $1 million on television). Booker’s next challenge will be navigating the US Senate where, as The New York Times put it, “show horses tend to stumble.”

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the man behind the ban on large-sized sugary drinks and increasingly limited public smoking areas. While those “nanny state” actions could be called beneficial, this week the mayor directed NYC police to find and arrest the artist known as Banksy, who is currently “defacing” the buildings of Bloomie’s burg. Banksy’s art routinely sells for millions, and other cities have treated his graffiti-style work as valuable contributions. Nevertheless, in a town that has recently suffered a spate of violent attacks on gay men, cops are being ordered by Hizzonor to focus on apprehending this hooded painting bandit. That’s a Big Gulp of nerve.

bachmanncruz The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO any number of US Congressional Republicans, for statements during the 16-day government shutdown crisis that gave “spin” a bad name, even after the crisis ended. When it did, the meekly even-handed media coverage broke decidedly against the Republicans, but that didn’t end their attempts to save face and subvert reality. Thus we have statements like House Speaker John Boehner’s “We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win,” Sen. Ted Cruz’s “Washington is not listening to the people,” and Rep. Michele Bachmann’s “This was a fight worth having.” After setting out on an obviously dead-ending path, they followed to its natural conclusion and somehow kept going, perhaps walking their party right into the political wilderness.

Senate Wonder Women Save the Nation

 Senate Wonder Women Save the Nation

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to the sisterhood of the Senate. (From left, Rev. Jim Wallis with Sens. Ayotte, Murkowski, and Collins.)

As hard as it is to give anyone credit in the embarrassing spectacle that is the US government shutdown, a group of female senators including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), who crafted the framework of a compromise, deserve their day in the sun.

The shutdown entered its third week after Congress failed to pass a spending bill that would restore shuttered government services. Tensions increased as a deadline permitting the US to borrow money to pay its obligations loomed.

As factions within Congress continued wage war, women came to the rescue. Led by  Sen. Collins, a group of six of the Senate’s 20 female senators united to produce a compromise to break the impasse. The agreement served as the foundation of a proposal endorsed by bipartisan leaders in the Senate, prompting their male colleagues to almost begrudgingly acknowledge that the times, they are a’changing. As veteran Sen. John McCain put it, “Leadership, I must fully admit, was provided primarily by the women in the Senate.”

The women could have rejected the notion that their reproductive equipment played a role in the compromise, perhaps even been insulted by the suggestion. Instead, Collins and the other senators embraced their feminine attributes. “I find that, with all due deference to our male colleagues, women’s styles tend to be more collaborative,” she told ABC News. Indeed, Collins and her crew have positioned themselves nicely as a group that gets things done and, potentially, a force to be reckoned with on future issues.

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) to the sisterhood of the Senate.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Play up your strengths – and keep playing them up. This unusual alliance captured the media’s attention; once the press was focused on them, the senators kept the headlines coming by elaborating on the qualities that helped them achieve their goals. Promoting the attributes of one sex over another is a tricky business, but the senators played their hand nicely. Brava, ladies!

Senator Cruz’s 21 Hours of Fame

 Senator Cruzs 21 Hours of Fame

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) to Sen. Ted Cruz.

In the US, the “filibuster” is a tactic undertaken by senators to stall a vote on important legislation. In the hands of Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), not only is a filibuster not a filibuster, it’s also an unwise PR move.

US Senate rules allow any senator to hold up the chamber’s agenda by expounding on any topic for as long as that senator can stand and speak. This week, Senator Cruz launched a 21-hour speech in the hopes of “de-funding” President Obama’s national health care reform law. The surprise? After ending his monologue, during which he read from Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham and did Darth Vader impressions, he voted, along with the rest of the Senate, to move on.

To his PR credit, as a freshman representing the conservative Tea Party, Cruz has shaken things up in the typically rigid US Senate, but as many pundits pointed out, the “pseudobuster” was pointless because the law cannot be undone this way. Senate Republican leaders refused to endorse Cruz’s soliloquy against Obamacare and all that was left was the Senator’s dented credibility.

THE PR VERDICT:  “D” (PR Problematic) for Sen. Ted Cruz, who looked like he neither knew what he was getting into, nor how to get out of it.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Changing mid gear looks foolish. As in most places, getting things done in the US Senate requires cooperation and ultimately Cruz will need GOP leaders’ help to be effective as a legislator and to get re-elected. Fine and well to make the headlines but even upstarts have to work within some kind of framework to be successful. No man is an island and for Cruz, he just learnt a PR lesson the hard way.

 

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Mother Jones MagazineMuckraking Mother Jones has done it again. The magazine that broke the infamous “47 Percent” video that broke Mitt Romney’s presidential chances has overturned another ugly political stone. This time, they leaked an audio recording of a meeting between Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and his staff discussing ways to discredit actress Ashley Judd, who was at one time considering an opposing run against him. McConnell blamed the current Democratic administration for bugging his office, but MJ reporters steadfastly refuse to name their source. For a magazine few had ever heard of pre-47gate, Mother Jones is building a reputation as a source of nonpartisan truth.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the President of Malawi for her recent comical spat with Madonna. President Joyce Banda issued a media statement following a visit from Madonna calling her a “bully” and saying she harassed airport officials while trying to queue jump at the airport. (Apparently this sort of behaviour is unheard of in Malawi!). Madonna promptly denied the claim, saying it was nonsensical. The President, who one might have hoped had better things to do, retaliated with another statement that Madge has exaggerated her contribution to the country and wants Malawi be forever chained to “an obligation of gratitude.” We can safely assume President Joyce Banda has never heard of taking the PR high road.

Osteen hoax 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Justin Tribble, the man behind an elaborate Internet hoax aimed at televangelist Joel Osteen. Tribble created a fake web site and Twitter account to proclaim the preacher was renouncing Christianity and closing his ministry. Some outlets fell for it briefly, including the Drudge Report and CNN (which Tribble promptly screengrabbed and posted on the faux sites). Tribble went to a lot of trouble, so he must really hate Osteen, right? Well, no, he’s actually a “big fan,” he says. He just wants the preacher to stop using clichés and talk about more serious issues like genetically modified foods. Huh?

JP Morgan’s Whale of a Hangover

 JP Morgans Whale of a Hangover

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for JP Morgan. (Pictured: JPM chief Jamie Dimon.)

Stiff drinks for the staff at JP Morgan? A martini or two might have helped ease the pain from Friday’s Congressional hearing in Washington, which examined the firm’s now infamous $6 billion loss known as the “London Whale.” The trade generated not only steep losses but a level of scrutiny from regulators and the media that has had JP Morgan’s management on the hoof for months.

Friday’s hearing was brutal for JPM’s top brass. The list of accusations by the Senate’s Permanent Sub Committee on Investigations was simple enough: a risky proprietary trading strategy, concealing losses, manipulating pricing models, and lying to investors and regulators. Anything else? Actually, yes; the fallout continues as Senate aides are now pondering referrals to regulators and the Justice Department. This was a bad day for JP Morgan, and a very good day for the Senate’s PR machine.

Despite a parade of embarrassing and contradictory testimony, the thrust of JP Morgan’s response remains unchanged: “Management always said what they believed to be true at the time, period. In hindsight we discovered some of the information they had was wrong.” Fair enough, but unlikely to break the momentum on a train wreck of an issue that continues to gain momentum.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for JP Morgan. A straightforward and expected defense, though it’s unlikely to make much of a difference.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Life is not always fair. Despite its clout, JP Morgan was always going to be outgunned in a public hearing concerning its embarrassing  losses. The bad news for the firm is that there is little that can be said to disrupt the forward movement on this issue, apart from what they’ve already said. Admitting you got it wrong may not be enough in an environment that continues to be out of love with banks. It will take more critical and remedial changes in management and strategy before the heat is turned down. Until then, another round, please…

Mr Cruz Goes to Washington

 Mr Cruz Goes to Washington

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Sen. Mark Cruz.

The latest storm to descend on the U.S. capitol is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who blew into town two months ago and has stayed on the front pages ever since. A freshman to the Senate, Cruz’s brash behavior has rankled colleagues on both sides of the political aisle and caught the attention of the press. The New York Times called him “an ornery, swaggering piece of work” , while the New Yorker is asking “Is Sen. Ted Cruz Our New McCarthy?” More Republican-friendly venues, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard, have lauded the 42-year-old’s unconventional starting term.

Freshmen senators traditionally begin their terms quietly, sitting practically unnoticed on committees and casting votes, lemming-like, along party lines. Not so Mr. Cruz. In the news most recently for spitting fire over former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Defense Secretary, he successfully stalled Hagel’s nomination for several weeks. The Texas upstart is creating waves.

Media outlets are divided on their opinions of Sen. Cruz, but they’re all talking about him. During his campaign, the Texas Republican told constituents he was going to shake things up in Washington. So far, that’s one campaign promise he’s kept.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Sen. Ted Cruz. At the beginning of the year, almost no one outside Texas (and even many in the Lone Star State) knew who he was, and now everyone has something to say about him.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Make a splash at the outset. Congress is a big, noisy place and it can be hard to distinguish oneself amidst 535 people intent on doing the same. Unlike the more raucous House of Representatives, the Senate is considered a thoughtful and well-mannered chamber, and it’s too early to tell whether Mr. Cruz’s strategy will serve him well. Ultimately, the junior senator from Texas will need to form alliances to get votes to go his way, but so far his PR impact has been substantial enough to make his colleagues realize one thing: ultimately, they will need to court him as much as he needs to court them.

Bachmann’s Accusations Backfire

 Bachmanns Accusations Backfire

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Michele Bachmann.

Michele Bachmann, former Republican nominee, recently brought to the nation’s attention her concern that foreign agents are infiltrating the very highest levels of office in the US. This is her first major media moment since announcing application for dual citizenship (her husband is Swiss) and quickly retracting after embarrassingly negative outcry from her constituency. Signing a letter she made public, she claimed that the infiltration of the U.S. government by the Muslim Brotherhood was possibly underway and claimed that two prominent Muslims — Huma Abedin, the State Department aide to Hilary Clinton, and Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota — are tied to the organization.

Bachmann, who also sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has used her position there to lend gravitas to her allegations. But the “ouch” moment came when the committee’s chairman told USA Today, “That kind of assertion certainly doesn’t comport with the Intelligence Committee, and I can say that on the record.” Hmmm… What now, Michele?

Everybody ran for cover. Sen. John McCain denounced the accusation from the Senate floor and joined members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, shutting this news event down. Republican party officials hardly rushed to Bachmann’s defense, with her own state party Chairman “not available” for any elaboration. So far, Bachmann’s office has denied repeated followup media requests. Are they hoping this will simply go away?

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for a mess that still needs to be cleared up. Saying nothing won’t wipe the slate.

The PR Takeaway: As mommie used to say: Clean up your mess! With Bachmann’s accusations described as loony by the media and her congressional colleagues on both sides (who says the government can’t agree?), it is clear this PR missile is only gaining speed in the wrong direction. One voter was quoted in the coverage as saying Bachmann is the “Only one telling the truth” but then again he also claimed that President Obama goes to Martha’s Vineyard to observe Ramadan….. Before Bachmann positions herself as an unequivocal fringe outsider, it might be time to retract, apologize, and simply say this was a mistake. Until she does, the issue is unlikely to go away.

What can Michele Bachmann do to save political face now? Give us your PR Verdict!