AT&T Will “Never Forget” Its 9/11 Memorial Tweet

ATT911tweetpic AT&T Will “Never Forget” Its 9/11 Memorial Tweet

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for AT&T and its 9/11 blunder.

Pity the poor social networking marketer: Your fails, be they on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere, are instantly transmitted to a vast audience and forever on display, whether you yank them or not.

This week’s poster child? AT&T, who while observing the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, crossed the line of good taste. AT&T took to Twitter on the 12th anniversary of the event with a Photoshopped image of the annual “Tribute in Light” display at the World Trade Center site, as seen through the camera of a (wisely unbranded) smartphone. “Never forget” was the caption, and sure enough, the Internet immediately saw to it that AT&T won’t – but not as the telecom giant intended.

AT&T pulled the pic after the Twitterverse erupted with criticism, calls for boycott, and threats to switch providers as the company was accused of using 9/11 to market their phones. The company  tweeted a tepid mea culpa, apologizing “to anyone who felt our post was in poor taste. The image was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy.” That kind of apology puts the burden on those offended, rather than the offender – not the proper way to own up to a blunder, and only further highlighting the initial gaffe.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to AT&T, which almost earns a second fail for how it responded to the first.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Murderous terrorist attacks are not a branding opportunity. AT&T could have done a respectable, perhaps even poignant tribute to 9/11 and “those affected” if it had simply left the phone out of the image. The product tie-in changed everything. Then, by limiting its apology to “anyone who felt” the post was in poor taste, AT&T ducked taking responsibility for its mistake. An upfront acknowledgement of bad taste and an unqualfied apology would have likely put an immediate stop to the damage and maybe even earned AT&T a measure of respect for its candor. Perhaps they’ll remember that next year.

Can Al Jazeera News Work in America?

 Can Al Jazeera News Work in America?

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Al Jazeera America.

One of the most important developments in television news in nearly 20 years is underway in the US, but you might not even know it. Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based broadcasting giant, has been quietly building Al Jazeera America, the first major US news channel since Fox News and MSNBC launched in the mid-1990s.

Having acquired the network infrastructure with its $500 million purchase of Al Gore’s Current TV in January, Al Jazeera has hired nearly 700 employees, including CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, and is planning to open a dozen US news bureaus. Al Jazeera America, which is scheduled to launch on August 20, says it will distinguish itself by focusing on in-depth reporting of stories that many Americans say they don’t get from the current slate of news channels.

Compared to the hefty corporate investment, the PR push has been minimal. There have been press releases and meetings with top editorial boards but, overall, Al Jazeera has been conservative in promoting the new channel. This makes sense. Although the network certainly wants to attract a broad audience, there is risk associated with this venture. Most Americans first heard of Al Jazeera in 2001, when it broadcast messages from Osama bin Laden following the September 11th terrorist attacks. It’s not unrealistic to think many potential viewers will associate the name with that event. Others will worry that Al Jazeera will attempt to push certain ideological agendas. Management’s focus now should be on building a fully fledged news operation with a keen understanding of what American viewers are looking for.

THE PR VERDICT:  “B” (Good Show) for Al Jazeera, whose ambitious plans may alter the American landscape of network news.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Show, don’t tell. When something is risky or untested, let the product speak for itself.  For Al Jazeera, there is little to be gained by hyping the channel prior to launch. Doing so will inevitably invite criticism that the network can’t answer yet. Instead, Al Jazeera America should keep on keeping on: staying in the press by hiring top talent, opening news bureaus, and being selective about the interviews it does. Bring out the PR bells and whistles once the channel is up and running.

Guest Column: On Your Mark, Get Set… Stop!

nyc marathon 150x150 Guest Column: On Your Mark, Get Set... Stop!

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the decision to cancel the New York City Marathon.

Yes, let’s go ahead with the marathon! Wait a minute – let’s not. Late on Friday, Mayor Bloomberg reversed his previous position to go ahead with Sunday’s NYC marathon, an event involving thousands of runners, after coming under tremendous pressure. By Friday, Sunday’s Marathon had been cancelled.

Why the turnaround? In the days following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation on the New York area, it was remarkable to hear the rhetoric from the Mayor – namely, that going on with the race would be a show of strength by New Yorkers. Could Mayor Bloomberg have been more misguided in thinking that holding the event anyway, despite a city torn in half by those who had power and those who did not, would be good for New York morale? What he completely missed was a more careful look at the details. The world could see what apparently only he and the event’s sponsors could not:  This was not September 11.

As the severity of Sandy’s impact grew more apparent, focus sharpened on the redeployment of services to support the race. The New York City Marathon is not a simple run in the park. It includes the use of multiple generators, the very same generators that could now power darkened, cold neighborhoods. Police and Fire Department professionals could also be reassigned from controlling traffic to recovery work. This was one case where the show must NOT go on.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for the final decision to cancel the New York City Marathon.

The PR Takeaway: One size does not fit all. Mayor Bloomberg’s original decision to create a” life should go on” platform (as happened with September 11) was the wrong comparison to make. He might have been better guided by the mistake of Condoleezza Rice’s much-maligned visit to Manhattan immediately following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when she caught a Broadway show and bought a pair of Ferragamos. Then as now, the message was not carry on as normal but rather, stop what you are doing and get help fast to where it is most needed. And that doesn’t include running a marathon.

A Serious Storm, A Simple (and Effective) Message

OB VD264 obamaf G 20121028145952 150x150 A Serious Storm, A Simple (and Effective) Message

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for a President’s speech that reassured and activated.

Hurricane Sandy has managed to do the unthinkable in terms of media coverage: moved the last ten days of electioneering off the front page and turned national attention toward disaster recovery. President Obama joined the conversation on Monday morning, and with a coupe of clearly honed messages at a hastily-convened press conference, he made the transition from electioneering President to President in Charge.

Obama’s short speech is worth watching for anyone wanting to know how to craft a simple message. What started off with a slightly wordy and lengthy introduction soon became clear. Yes, preparations were in place and the East Coast was as ready as it could be, but the main takeaway? “Listen to what officials are saying – this is a serious storm.”

Obama’s speech was designed to reassure, and to manage expectations. He flagged the  inevitable issues that will arise post-storm, including long-running power outages and transportation delays. But the main lesson from the speech is that reassuring the public that everything’s under control is not enough; a call to action is needed and grabs attention. Getting the public directly involved takes the conversation to a higher level of engagement.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for a President’s speech that reassured and activated.

The PR Takeaway: To get the public’s attention, give the public something to do. President Obama’s speech included a roll call of what was intended to reassure a nervous public. What made the difference was clear instruction. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani made a similar speech following September 11, when he asked New Yorkers to go back to their lives, the streets, and shopping. A call to action from someone in authority got attention then, as it does now.

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

krisjenner 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losersmcdonalds 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losersoctomom 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losers

What do Kris Jenner, NBC , McDonald’s, and the Octomom all have in common? They all share the glory of being part of this week’s PR Verdict media wrap-up.

PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to NBC for ignoring the 9/11 moment of silence. Instead, they ran  a segment with Savannah Guthrie interviewing Kardashian matriarch/mogul Kris Jenner about her breast implants. The network finally commented on the resulting outrage, telling The New York Times that its decision not to run the national moment of silence was  consistent with previous NBC coverage of 9/11 anniversaries. This was  not a gaffe, said NBC PR,  so we won’t apologize, only to repent a day later and make a half hearted apology to local affiliates. Who knew Kardashian breast implants made for better television than the President talking about 9/11?  Read more here.

PR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR Perfect) to McDonald’s for its decision to list calorie information on its menus starting next week in the US.  The fast food chain also said that it’s testing menus for next year that will include recommended food groups from the US Department of Agriculture’s 2010 dietary guidelines. It’s always better to be one step ahead of regulation; seizing the advantage by making the move before it is made for you makes good PR sense. Read more here.

And finally:

octomom2 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHERE’S-NO-“THERE”-THERE PR AWARD: Nadya Suleman, better known as The Octomom, has been talking to the media with breathless excitement about her new rented California home for her and her family of 14. Suleman’s rep confirmed, “The home has five bedrooms and three full bathrooms as well as a 14,000-square-foot backyard that features a gated pool and spa and basketball court.”  The rep added, “[Nadya] has been earning and doing well from several endorsements, appearances, taking calls from fans on DialAStar.com, and her video. Her single ‘Sexy Party’ comes out Tuesday on iTunes.” The Octomom, who is also making money by staring in adult films, told the media “I owe a lot to Wicked Pictures contract star Jessica Drake,” she said. “She opened my eyes to a whole different world of self-pleasure that I could have never imagined… I’m very excited for [her masturbation video] to come out!” Sometimes, you can’t pick your clients. Read more, if you feel you must, here.

Are there any recent stories you feel should make the PRV Report Card? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

No Easy Interview for a Navy Seal

 No Easy Interview for a Navy Seal

The PR Verdict: B (Good Show) for Matt Bissonnette, Navy Seal and author of No Easy Day.

“Awesome” and “cool” were just some of the everyday terms that Navy Seal Matt Bissonnette used in a recent interview with 60 Minutes. He has gone public with a memoir, No Easy Day, of his time served during the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. The book is written under his nom de plume Mark Owen and coincides neatly with the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Bissonnette kicked off his informal and friendly TV interview with his appearance and voice disguised as he gave a tick-tock explanation of what happened in that now notorious Pakistani compound. Bissonnette gave few surprises. He stayed surprisingly close to the previously released official version of the event; this was not a mission to kill, but to “capture alive if feasible,” and the operation was a collective effort of talented individuals.

Bissonnette’s PR dilemma is to how comment on the events without creating controversy. Legally gagged from disclosing military secrets, his PR push is limited by the ever-present danger of inadvertently breaching official secrets.  His answer? Provide reassuring confirmation of already disclosed key facts, talk like an everyday humble guy and only give color and added information that are of limited consequence.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Matt Bissonnette’s PR push that treads a fine line but so far hasn’t overstepped boundaries.

The PR Takeaway: Stay on course, but add some spice. Bissonnette’s dilemma is that he could be accused of breaching official secrets. With most of the book’s proceeds going to organizations that help families of fallen Seals, his own motives are not open to debate. His minor details concerning who fired what when makes no appreciable difference to the overall established narrative – but it does make it almost impossible for the authorities to play a heavy hand. Skillfully done and elegantly handled.

To read more and see part of the 60 Minutes interview, click here.

Did you see the 60 Minutes interview, or read Matt Bissonnette’s book? Give us your PR Verdict!