Austere Today, Gone Tomorrow?

 Austere Today, Gone Tomorrow?

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the proponents of austerity, who continue to lose a losing battle.

What now for the proponents of austerity? Up until last month it seemed they had won the policy and PR debate. With disciples across Europe and the US, and with Angela Merkel as its high priestess, fiscal restraint was positioned as a dose of much needed tough medicine. The mantra was clear; no pain, no gain. Politically unassailable, this was one helluva PR launch with some influential backers. Over the last month, however, things have become a little more complicated: austerity may have lost its PR claim as a cure all.

Last week, economists at the University of Massachusetts reviewed calculations cited in Growth In a Time of Austerity, the bible for those justifying tightened fiscal policy, as flawed. The claim? The research published in January 2010 by Harvard University included “selective exclusion of available data and unconventional weighting of summary statistics.” The case for austerity is now not so clear.

Since then, austerity seems to be losing more and more PR steam. EU nations are sliding deeper into recession, with unemployment in Spain and Greece topping 30 percent. In Britain, austerity is responsible for a limp 0.3 percent growth, while Germany, the champion of austerity, is teetering on the edge of recession. Has austerity fallen out of fashion? The headlines would seem to suggest that less has not added up to more.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the proponents of austerity, who continue to lose  a losing battle.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Product launches can teach us something about ideological launches. If austerity was a consumer product, it would now be sitting on the supermarket shelves unloved and unwanted. Why? Because not one of its proponents have been able to demonstrate tangible benefits. Despite a big and loud launch, its advocates seem to be retreating into the shadows. Where are the business leaders confirming they are hiring in the face of cutbacks? Without some simple proof points and enthusiastic advocates, this is one launch that might have seen its brief vogue run right out of steam and into the dustbins of economic history.

 

An Affair to Remember – Or Sue Over

Queen Sofia 120x150 An Affair to Remember   Or Sue Over

The PR Verdict: “B”(Good Show) for Queen Sofia.

Life is short; have an affair! So says the tagline for dating website Ashley Madison. The site that links members seeking extramarital affairs now finds itself in the headlines. While Ashley Madison thinks infidelity provides endless fun, the Queen of Spain does not agree – she is suing the website for “damage to her honor and dignity.”

The site is known for its provocative advertisements. The latest featured a doctored photo of the Spanish monarch with her royal arms draped around a semi-naked man, with the promise “Now you no longer have to spend the night alone.” The ad, widely believed to be cashing in on rumors of King Juan Carlos’s philandering, led Queen Sofia to promptly file suit.

The news comes in the same week that a Spanish waiter and a Belgian housewife lost legal bids to prove they are the illegitimate children of the 74-year-old king. Ashley Madison previously ran a similar ad using a Photoshopped picture of the King flanked by two models with the tagline, “The best place to ‘hunt’ for an adventure.” At the time, King Juan turned the other cheek and took no legal action. The ball is now in Sofia’s court, and she’s throwing it back hard.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Queen Sofia. As a warning shot, this sends the signal she intended.

The PR Takeway: It’s okay not to go “all the way”; sometimes starting a legal action is enough in itself, even if you don’t intend to finish what you started. The Queen has some measure of public sympathy on her side with no whiff of scandal, unlike her husband. As unlikely as this case is to go to court, she has fired a warning shot that she will defend her reputation. In so doing, she has also taken the attention away from her husband’s recent travails in court. Her actions might be the game and conversation changer both King and Queen were seeking.

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