Mayor Takes Sex Scandal from Bad to Worse

 Mayor Takes Sex Scandal from Bad to Worse

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

Lately, barely a week goes by that a male politician isn’t apologizing for some sort of sexually naughty behavior. Last week that began with Anthony Weiner apologizing for new accusations of sending sexual texts to women, and it ended with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner facing charges of sexual misconduct.

Specifics quickly took the vagaries out of the charges, filed via a lawsuit. Women who worked with the 70-year-old mayor say he tried to forcibly kiss them, touched them, made unwanted sexual advances, and put his former communications director in a headlock. At a press conference this past Friday, Filner refused to comply with demands for his resignation. Instead, he apologized for his behavior toward women “over many years” and introduced his solution: two weeks of therapy.

Friday is typically a slow news day, a time when politicians make changes that will get lost in a pre-weekend shuffle. The two-week therapy cure ensured that Filner’s news remained a top story throughout the weekend. Demands for his resignation, even from fellow Democrats, only mounted. It’s unlikely that the twice-daily briefings Filner will receive while in intensive therapy will contain other developments.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. Somehow, he managed to make a bad situation worse.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Take advice from the other side. On political drama The West Wing, the Democratic president hired a Republican advisor as a sounding board for partisanship. If the scriptwriters of an evening television program knew this, why couldn’t Filner’s PR team see a perfect storm gathering? Filner’s apology was flimsy, and he compounded the fracture with the admission that this has been going on “over many years.” And many years of sexual harassment is somehow to be cured in two weeks of therapy? That’s rather a lot to ask the public to swallow. While we can’t be sure, it seems unlikely that Filner’s PR team included a female perspective. There again, considering his admitted attitudes toward women, it’s doubtful he would have listened.

 

More Turbulence for Abercrombie & Fitch

 More Turbulence for Abercrombie & Fitch

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Abercrombie &Fitch and CEO Mike Jeffries.

When is someone going to make a reality TV show about life at retailer Abercrombie & Fitch? The racy clothier (and public company) continues to have more than its fair share of outrageous accusations and legal suits. The latest drama is a lawsuit filed by the pilot of Abercrombie’s corporate jet, Michael Bustin, who claims he was replaced by a younger man. The claim is part of his age discrimination suit that alleges Abercrombie & Fitch prefers younger people – yet another in a growing list of complaints.

The documents filed for the lawsuit make for thrilling reading. Bustin gives an insider’s view of Abercrombie & Fitch’s oddly secretive corporate culture and vaguely culty ways. He includes details of life aboard CEO Mike Jeffries’s corporate jet, on which the flight attendants are male models and everything is rigorously managed to alarming levels of micromanagement.

The 47-page in-flight instruction manual spares no detail, including the seating arrangement of the CEO’s dogs and the precise temperature at which the crew may wear winter coats. The flight crew/models onboard must respond to the CEO by saying “No problem”; other phrases, including “Sure” or “Just a minute” are verboten. Stuff like this would make a great TV show, but for a public company, this sort of PR is a headache.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Abercrombie &Fitch. CEOs should always be worried about tales from the corporate jet.

The PR Takeaway: Times have changed, and the imperious CEO is out of fashion. For a firm that has so closely monitored its marketing image, there is something genuinely puzzling about the scant attention paid to its corporate profile. The business page headlines regarding A&F have focused for some time on lawsuits and declining sales. For CEO Mike Jeffries, this can only mean trouble. If A&F were a private company, the heat might be lower, but as the file of media cuttings thickens, the life of the controversial CEO inevitably shortens. It’s a PR lesson Jeffries may want to learn sooner rather than later. To read more, click here.