State Dept. vs. CNN: War of the Words

 State Dept. vs. CNN: War of the Words

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the State Dept. for its unusually aggressive language. CNN is facing full PR heat.

The State Department and CNN are embroiled in a an ugly fight over the recovered journal of Chris Stevens, the late Ambassador to Libya, who was killed in a deadly attack on the US embassy. Using unusually strong language, State Dept. spokesman Philippe Reines said that when it comes to airing the contents of the journal, “CNN patting themselves on the back is disgusting” and that the cable news network “needed to be convinced to do the right thing.” CNN is now on the defensive. Has it been ethically caught out?

While the sequence of events is unclear, what is known is that CNN got hold of Stevens’ journal and used it in its reporting. Explaining that the journal was found four days after the attack, CNN says it notified Stevens’ family “within hours after it was discovered.” From there, the story gets messy.

The State Dept. says the network “completely ignored the wishes of the family” and reported on the contents of the journal before returning it to the family, despite the family’s repeated requests that nothing be used until they had a chance to review its contents. CNN went ahead with its story, saying it “felt there were issues raised in the journal which required full reporting.”

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the State Dept. for its unusually aggressive language. CNN is facing full PR heat.

The PR Takeaway: Self-interest rarely wins the PR battle. Having passed the journal’s contents around a newsroom and only then asking the family for permission for its use puts CNN in a ethically challenging spot. Unless CNN can get some ringing endorsement from the Stevens family, it has lost this PR battle. The State Dept. has the clear upper hand in this case, speaking on behalf of the family of the slain ambassador. Meanwhile, CNN is left looking like it might benefit from a refresher course in ethics and common decency.

Was Stevens’ journal fair game for journalistic reporting, or should CNN have abided by his family’s wishes? Give us your PR Verdict!

Wall Street Journal’s Cowardly Response

 Wall Street Journals Cowardly Response

The PR Verdict: "D" for the Wall Street Journal.

Is that as racy as love letters get?  E-mail correspondence between Brett McGurk, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and his then-paramour Gina Chon, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has members of Congress very excited. For the rest of us it’s hard to see what the fuss is about.

The e-mails, dating from 2008, were posted anonymously this week on Flickr–bad timing for McGurk, a top adviser on Iraq who is currently going though congressional approval for the job of US ambassador. Congressional members are concerned that while McGurk was working on tough negotiations with Iraqis, his future wife Chon covered the talks for the WSJ. Could he have leaked to her classified information?  If so, they’ll have to try to stay awake while reviewing e-mails such as McGurk’s “I had a very good day with the Iraqis–the best yet. Can’t tell you about it of course. But you should definitely stay past Sunday.” Chon’s reply: “Stop being such a tease!”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland breezily washed her hands of the issue, telling CNN, “I’m not going to get into e-mails between Mr. McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife.” The WSJ had a more cowardly reply to CNN,  “We are looking into the matter.”

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Wall Street Journal who could have tried harder to defend its journalist. If the State Department can sound annoyed, why can’t the WSJ?

PR Takeaway: Where’s the beef? The WSJ might have tried publicly shifting the burden of proof onto the accusers: “Which article does the committee think contains leaked information? We would be happy to look into the matter.”  Then sit back and wait for the response.  And while we are there, how about privately suggesting to members of Congress that they stop calling the emails racy? In this day of Fifty Shades of Grey, they’re hardly blush-inducing.

To read the racy letters and for more background click here.

Is Hillary Having An Unofficial PR Makeover?

Hilaryclinton Is Hillary Having An Unofficial PR Makeover?

The PR Verdict: "B" for Hillary Clinton and her ongoing unofficial PR makeover.

What is going on with Hillary Clinton? Are we seeing a PR campaign by stealth? Over the last month Madam Secretary seems to have been working on, what can only be described,  as an unofficial PR makeover.  Something’s afoot.

It all started with the photo of Hillary Clinton texting while aboard a C-17 military plane.  It went viral and comics in cyber space had fun creating harmless spoof texts about to whom and what she was texting.  Was it Beyonce?  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?  Or Condi Rice? Then much to everyone’s surprise, Hillary started tweeting directly, followed up by an invitation to the creators of the spoof texts to meet with her at the State Department.  Cameras ready?   Hillary now on Twitter and Tumblr!

Next stop: An unofficial photo from Cartagena, Colombia, while there for the Latin America Summit.  Photos of good ol’Hillary  dancing with her office gal pals for a colleague’s birthday after hours.  It made all the papers and she was having fun.  Nice one!  And while we are there,  it temporarily pushed the scandal of secret service officers and prostitutes in hotel rooms, off the front page. Yay!

The PR Verdict: “B” for Hillary Clinton and her ongoing unofficial PR makeover.  From the Cruella de Vil of foreign policy to fun Ol’Hillary.  It’s amazing what a tweet and photo can do,  particularly for the female vote in an election year.

PR Takeaway:  A PR image can only exist in one dimension for so long.  Hillary is tough and clever -we all know that.  But this gets old fast.  Something was needed to change the pace.  Her recent forays into social media have moved the dial on her popularity and likeability.  Hillary has another side.  See?  Who knew?  Is all of this really just a coincidence?

To read more about Hillary texting click here.  To see Hillary partying in Columbia click here.

What’s your PR Verdict on Hillary’s ongoing PR makeover?

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