McCarthy invites scorn with anti-vaccine disavowal

jenny mccarthy 650x487 McCarthy invites scorn with anti vaccine disavowal

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Jenny McCarthy.

Looking to remake your image? Probably best not to try rewriting history, especially in the digital age. Ask Jenny McCarthy. The “View” co-host and onetime Playboy model has long been known for opposing vaccination, claiming that vaccines are related to autism and other ills, are overprescribed and generally responsible for more bad than good – all this counter not only to prevailng wisdom but also to decades of medical and scientific evidence.

With the recent resurgence of childhood diseases like measles , mumps and the like, perhaps McCarthy thought it was time to massage her record, which she did in a weekend op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times. “I am not ‘anti-vaccine,’” she stated unequivocally in her opener – followed by about 500 equivocating, obfuscating words and some selective omission.

McCarthy was immediately called out. A Time science writer she name-checked in her article penned a piece to fact-check her record, including previous statements. “You are either floridly, loudly, uninformedly antivaccine or you are the most grievously misunderstood celebrity of the modern era,” he wrote. “Your quote trail is far too long—and you have been far too wrong—for the truth not to be obvious.” In seeking to correct the record, McCarthy only confirmed it.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Jenny McCarthy, whose attempt at reinvention needs a shot in the arm.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Don’t run from your record. Whether for calculating PR reasons or with true sincerity, McCarthy might have had a change of heart about vaccination. But with her record of outspoken advocacy, she cannot possibly remake herself out of whole cloth. A better approach, if her motives are genuine, would be to show how her views have evolved. And blaming the media? Please. Like anyone else in the public eye, McCarthy cannot control how her public positions are defined. In PR, as often in life, before you can change, you must accept where you are.

What’s Wrong with John Devaney and Palm Trees?

devaney Whats Wrong with John Devaney and Palm Trees?

The PR Verdict : “C” for Devaney for setting the regulatory record straight.

Isn’t it nice to know that hedge funder John Devaney, once ranked by Time magazine as one of the “25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis” is back on track?  Having lost over $650 million for investors, Saturday’s WSJ interviewed him about his new bounce back to half his $250 million peak.

Devaney conceded in the interview it was a rough couple of years.  He discarded the $36 million jet, the $45 million art collection and the more modestly priced $10 million helicopter.  While investors walked away with nothing, he reminds the WSJ he put in over $14 million of his own cash when the fund was crashing.

Presumably, the more serious aim of the interview was to confirm publicly his regulatory clean bill of health.  Having emerged from multiple SEC investigations, the case against him has been closed with no finding of wrongdoing.  Devaney confirms the SEC sent a “very nice letter thanking us for our cooperation.”

The PR Verdict : “C” for Devaney for setting the regulatory record straight.  But failing to add anything resembling humbling wisdom or lessons learnt, means this PR exercise didn’t do what it set out to do.

PR Takeaway:  Rebuilding trust requires more than simply saying the SEC didn’t catch anything.  Making it clear a regulator has no enforcement action planned and no ongoing investigation is worth clarifying but how about adding some humility and personal learning?  Devaney, at the age of 41, gave no insight as to how his own actions might have contributed to a 100% loss for investors.  Next time a handful of personal observations, skilfully worded to avoid new legal liabilities, might minimize the nagging concern that this could all happen again.  And just a tip, stay away from palm trees when being photographed.  They send the wrong message when talking about other people’s money.

To read the WSJ article (for WSJ Subscribers) click here.  What’s your PR Verdict on this comeback article?

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TIME’s PR Pitch for Person of the Year

timepersonoftheyear TIMEs PR Pitch for Person of the YearGiven the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Russian electoral and European austerity protests, TIME’s decision to award “The Protestor” as its Person of the Year Award is perfect timing.

What gave TIME’s announcement extra resonance was context.  In the last twenty years, TIME claimed in its PR blitz, mass protest had given way to individual on-line activism.  Large-scale effective street protests had become a “global oxymoron”. That all changed this year, went the PR pitch, when the “protester once again became a maker of history.”

While some may dispute the analysis, TIME’s context helped sell the story globally.

The PR Verdict:  “A Plus” for TIME Magazine. Not only for its choice but its packaging.

A challenge in selling any story is to place it in a context that goes beyond the event itself.  TIME positioned the return of the protestor in an historical context and moved the discussion beyond the now predictable conversation about the power of online networks to mobilize. Unifying seemingly unrelated protests under a contextual umbrella made sure this story got maximum air time. And by aligning itself with “history”, TIME  emphasized its status as the magazine of record.

To see the Editor of TIME talk about the award click here.