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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Vladimir Putin for maneuvering himself into a crucial leadership position in the Syrian crisis. First, the Russian president commandeered US Secretary of State John Kerry’s offhand proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to avoid a military strike. While Kerry offered the option as an unlikely possibility, Putin seized it and turned it into a workable option, forcing President Obama to delay his request to Congress to consider military action. Putin followed that up with an editorial in The New York Times, pressing his case directly to the American people. Over the past week, the Russian president more firmly positioned Moscow as a key player in international management of not only Syria, but broader issues in the Middle East.

paxdick The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Pax Dickinson, whose sexist, racist tweets cost him as his job last week as CTO at Business Insider, the business and tech news website. Tech site Valleywag called Dickinson out Monday, citing offensive postings on his personal Twitter feed that go back years. He was gone the next day. Dickinson has tweeted choice words for – well, just about everyone who’s not a white heterosexual male. “Tech managers spend as much time worrying about how to hire talented female developers as they do worrying about how to hire a unicorn,” read one of his tamer rants, from 2012. Maybe he thought a disclaimer on his account, “Unprofessional opinions not endorsed by anyone respectable,” lent cover for his off-hours “brogrammer” to roam free. But that’s not how that Interweb thingy works, as surely any CTO should know.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to the media, for taking James Franco’s “I wish I was gay” quote out of context. The media lives for a celebrity like Franco, who does something provocative almost every month. He’s gone from actor to performance artist, keeping the world guessing as to whether he’s serious about attending several universities – simultaneously – doing art installations, and appearing on a soap opera as a villain named (what else?) James Franco. The man was ripe for a celebrity roast, during which several of his comedian friends joked about his sexuality. Franco’s response: “I get asked about it from all sides… It’s not something that bothers me in the slightest. I don’t even care if people think I’m gay. I mean, I wish I was gay.” Franco was trying to de-stigmatize questions about  sexuality, but the press pounced and turned the quote into exactly the sort of sensationalism that Franco, a sensational showman, was trying to avoid.

Syria: An About Face to Save Face?

 Syria: An About Face to Save Face?

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Syrian President Bashar-Al-Assad.

Call Syrian President Bashar-Al-Assad what you will – and he is being described by many names these days – and add another to the list: master of public relations. Remember the days before war broke out in Syria? A  fawning feature in Vogue celebrated Mrs. Assad and her presidential mate as the Middle East’s glamorous, modernizing couple. Such was the range and power of their PR machine.

By the time the Vogue article hit the stands, Syria was burning, and Assad was being called, at best, a dictator. The news has only gotten worse over time, coming to a head when US President Barack Obama threatened air strikes against Syria for using chemical weapons against its people.

In the ensuing debate, as pundits interviewed members of Congress on their voting intentions, one voice was quiet: that of Assad himself. Until he made himself available to American TV journalist Charlie Rose, that is.

In the interview, the man many are calling a monster was calm, not defensive. Bankers responsible for financial crimes have sweat far more than Assad, a man accused of mass murder. He followed up that calm show with an announcement: that Syria would agree to turn over its chemical weapons stockpile – if the US backed down from a strike.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for President Bashar-Al-Assad. An albeit reluctantly high grade for a dictator using his PR machine to play chess with the world.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Image need rehab? Appear cooperative. Whether one believes Assad or not, he has pounced at the right moment. The media reports that Americans are sympathetic to the Syrian people, yet fearful of involvement in yet another Middle Eastern war. Congress is at odds as to what to do. And suddenly, Assad the Impaler comes into our living rooms as Assad the Reasonable Cooperator. Timing is everything, and in the midst of a fray, heads will turn toward the calm voice of reason – no matter the source.

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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to President Obama for his artful handling of Congress regarding possible military involvement in Syria. Global concern about the Syrian civil war soared after more than 1500 civilians were believed killed in government-led chemical weapons attacks. Taking a political gamble, Obama announced he supports limited intervention but would require Congressional approval to move forward. The savvy move effectively forces Republicans to align themselves with the White House on an issue that’s far from popular with the American people. Within days, senior Congressional Republicans lined up behind the prez. If the measure passes in next week’s vote, the US will present a united front. If it fails, it will be due to Republican leaders’ inability to garner support. Either way, Obama wins.

John McCain plays on iPho 010 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to US Senator John McCain, caught playing poker on his iPhone during a Senate committee hearing to discuss US military intervention in Syria. The hawkish Arizona Republican is a strong proponent for use of force in response to the gassing of civilians in that country’s two-year civil war, and his advocacy is likely to be critical in upcoming Congressional votes to authorize military action. But at the hearing Tuesday, his mind was apparently elsewhere, as an alert Washington Post photographer discovered. “Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing – worst of all I lost!” McCain posted on his Twitter feed. But the attempt at deflection only drew more criticism. “That hearing sounds so boring though. Hope it wasn’t about anything important,” tweeted one.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to JCPenny, for dumping their embattled Martha Stewart line of home goods. The colorful kitchen and home collection caused was a disaster from the start, when Stewart assured the venerable retailer that her exclusive contract with Macy’s wasn’t that exclusive. Actually, yes, it was, ruled a judge. The lawsuit cost millions, as well as JCP’s then-CEO Ron Johnson his job. This week, the whole magilla was resolved when current JCP CEO Mike Ullman cleared shelves of Stewart designs that, after all was said and nearly done, weren’t selling anyway. That, apparently, is the way the cookie plate crumbles.

Joan Juliet Passes the Buck on Vogue

 Joan Juliet Passes the Buck on Vogue

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Joan Juliet Buck.

Pity poor Joan Juliet Buck, Vogue stalwart and roving editor, who has come under intense scrutiny following her now infamous Vogue article on Asma Assad, wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. Written and published shortly before civil war broke out, Buck’s glowing profile, entitled “A Rose in the Desert,”  now looks impossibly ill judged. History will remember Asma as the consort of a ruthless dictator, and Vogue as being on the wrong side of the story.

But now Buck is fighting back. Sick and tired of having her name ridiculed as the author of the ultimate PR puff piece, she has broken her silence and given her version of how the article came about. It seems her editors at Vogue  misinterpreted the Arab spring as a storm in a teacup, as did the rest of the world. Buck’s explanation makes compelling reading. Published on The DailyBeast with an accompanying broadcast interview, Buck portrays herself as a writer uneasy with what she has been tasked to do but who went on regardless.

The blame, it seems, lies in equal parts. Buck is very clear that politics and foreign relations were not her area of expertise. She writes that she visited Syria “and understood nothing.” Though not entirely seduced by her hosts and wary of phone taps and hacks into her laptop, she was more concerned with filing her story than exploring simmering discontent. Buck paid the price, with Vogue severing relations with her after more than twenty years.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) to Joan Juliet Buck for an insightful and fascinating read. She lets the facts speak for themselves. No one is covered in glory.

The PR Takeaway: In matters of setting the record straight, focus less on blame and more on letting facts speak for themselves. Buck has endured substantial personal and professional ridicule since her article was published. Her version of events is a thrilling read. She portions little blame but makes the point that it’s easy to be wise after the event. The Assads were visited by Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Sting, Angelina and Brad, and Francis Ford Coppola during their PR push. Hindsight is a wonderful thing; Buck’s reputation may not be so damaged after all.

 

Vogue’s Syrian Faux Pas

 Vogues Syrian Faux Pas

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anna Wintour and Vogue.

The high priestess of fashion has (finally) spoken. After what seemed like months, Anna Wintour, Editor of American Vogue, uttered her first words of explanation about the fashion bible’s notoriously glowing profile about Asma Assad, wife of the Syrian dictator. Hailed as the modern face of reform in the Arab World, Assad was described by Vogue as “the “freshest and most magnetic of first ladies . . . a rose in the desert.” Not long after publication, the Syrian tanks started rolling and government-sanctioned executions of dissenters began.

Vogue writer Joan Juliet Buck initially seemed embarrassed to have written the article but was later oddly unrepentant.  When questioned about the piece, her startling reply was that Asma Assad  was “extremely thin and very well dressed, and therefore qualified to be in Vogue.”

Ice Queen Wintour finally caved in to a rumbling chorus from pressure groups asking what Vogue could have been thinking?  Issuing a full statement on Sunday, she said in part, “Like many at the time, we were hopeful that the Assad regime would be open to a more progressive society…  We deplore the actions of the Assad regime in the strongest possible terms.”

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Anna Wintour and Vogue, who turned the page on their faux pas. As the situation in Syria worsens, this was not going to go away.

PR Takeaway: Hindsight gives ample cover, and it’s always in fashion as a PR explanation. Why be embarrassed? Dictator Assad and his attractive, educated, investment banker wife were known to have actively pursued a PR profile in the West. Wintour and Vogue can hardly be blamed when much of the West was participating in the very same love-in. But in order to maintain credibility, it’s best to say “Oops” and move on. Vogue, along with many others, had the cashmere pulled over their eyes. Wintour says the “priorities and values”’ of the Assads are completely at odds with the values of Vogue. At least now, Vogue is on the right side of the debate.

Can Asma Assad Ignore This Video?

asma assad33 300x168 Can Asma Assad Ignore This Video?

The PR Verdict: “C” for style and content which never really differentiated itself from what's already out there.

What was Asma Assad’s reaction when she looked at her inbox yesterday?  The wife of the notorious Syrian dictator has been sent an open letter in the form of a video, by the spouses of the German and British ambassadors to the UN.  The video urges Syria’s first lady to help end the bloodshed in her country.

The four-minute clip has been disseminated to news sites globally.  Contrasting the images of dead and injured children with photos of Asma looking chic and modernising, it urges her to speak out on behalf of all mothers.  “Stop being a bystander” the video implores and “take action!”

Huberta von Voss Wittig and Sheila Lyall Grant, the two spouses in question,  say the video was made on their own initiative.  But strangely they are nowhere in the video.  Infact the clip could have been made by anyone, with nothing about it to indicate it’s theirs.  Suddenly their conviction seems lukewarm,  laying themselves open to accusations that they have been cajoled into lending their name only.

The PR Verdict: “C” for style and content which never really differentiated itself from what’s already out there.   Good intentions no doubt,  but the urgency of the issue needed a stronger and more distinctive voice.

PR Takeaway:  Use differences to make a difference.  What gave this video global attention was who produced it.  So why not take a stand in the video directly?  Make the demands yourselves and even better, ask a couple of prominent Arab women to join.  This clip needed to look different from any other campaigning organisation’s efforts.  Answer? Make it intensely personal and in so doing, almost impossible for Asma to turn the other cheek.

To see the video and to read more click here.

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Barbara Walters & Syria’s Assad

 Barbara Walters & Syrias AssadYesterday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave his first interview since violent protests began in his country. Barbara Walters got the scoop. It was a strange and ultimately chilling interview.

Bashar al-Assad, whose demeanor is more like that of a low level bureaucrat than a brutal dictator, said he couldn’t comment on the protests, claiming he had not seen any detailed documents. Despite a recent UN report pointing to 4000 deaths, he quizzed Walters: Barbara, you don’t live here. How did you know all this?”

Rejecting any suggestion that there is a crackdown against protesters he reassured Walters without irony, “we don’t kill our people… no government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person.”

The PR Verdict: “F” for the Syrian dictator. Despite his low-key delivery, nothing he said was credible or believable. The documented atrocities speak for themselves.

His PR strategy was to present himself as a genial leader in a casual fireside chat. But with the world watching his atrocities for the last nine months, his innocent demeanor fooled no one.  Instead his ruthlessness was obvious. Credit goes to Barbara Walters for simply letting his true colors shine.

Take a look and see for your self. Click here.