Will Nigella’s Saucy Image Burn in Court Case?

Nigella Lawson 150x150 Will Nigellas Saucy Image Burn in Court Case?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nigella Lawson.

It’s been a grim year for the queens of cookery. First Paula Deen was disgraced when part of a court deposition brought down her multi-million dollar empire and cost her all but one of her many sponsorships. Now Nigella Lawson finds herself in court, facing accusations of being a cocaine addict.

The case is not against Lawson herself. Charges have been brought against Francesca and Lisa Grillo, two sisters who were housekeepers to Nigella Lawson and her now ex husband  Charles Saatchi.  The sisters worked for the famous couple for over ten years, but were recently accused of fraud after spending nearly $1.15 million on Saatchi’s credit cards. The Grillos allege that they were allowed to use the cards by Saatchi to cover up Lawson’s drug abuse.

Will the accusations cause the same fall from grace that Deen suffered? It’s unlikely. PRs have analyzed both women and point first to Nigella’s saucy image as a saving grace. With her sexy cookery presentations, tales of drug use will hardly shock her constituency. Her following may even excuse it in sympathy for putting up with an abusive husband.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Nigella Lawson. While no one needs a day in court, she may walk out of chambers unscathed.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know when to employ PR damage control. In the case of Paula Deen, outside PR experts should have been hired immediately; bad press after all can be minimized. Is Nigella Lawson the next Paula Deen? No. The news is scandalous but such is her brand equity she can take a couple of hits, after all she  has public sympathy on her side. Weigh image, consumer, and reaction; then decide if it’s time to let a pro step in.

Zimmerman Trial Juror’s 15 Minutes of Fame

 Zimmerman Trial Jurors 15 Minutes of Fame

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Juror B37.

As protests over the acquittal of George Zimmerman grew increasingly violent across America and pundits  decried the justice system, one person close to the verdict finally spoke out. Juror B37, whose identity remains anonymous, took to the news shows to try to shed light on how the “not guilty” verdict was reached.

Cloaked in darkness, B37 told Anderson Cooper how the jury was hamstrung by the evidence and  Florida’s state laws. Unable to “find him guilty of something,” she tearfully explained, “We thought about it for hours and cried over it afterwards.”

Any intentions toward illuminating the reasons for the jury’s verdict, or to quelling the increase of violent protest, were lost when another fact was revealed: Juror B37 had been offered a book deal, by the same agent who represents the former boyfriend of accused murderer Amanda Knox. The Twitterverse promptly bombed the agent with demands that she rescind the offer (which she did). Juror B37 also released a statement saying, “[Being sequestered] shielded me from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of this case… The best direction for me to go is away from writing any sort of book and return instead to my life.”

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Juror B37. An opportunity to do good was lost in a bad decision.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: In volatile situations, put out the fire, and brush off your own clothes later. Once released from sequester, five minutes in front of a TV would have clued Juror B37 into the fact that this trial has polarized a nation. It’s natural to want to explain the process leading to a shocking verdict. It could even have been helpful, showing how the law works, and doesn’t. Zimmerman, Knox, and others acquitted of high-profile crimes may have no other financial recourse but to sell their stories to publishers, but for an anonymous juror, this seemed self-serving. Everyone wants to be rich and famous, but the needs of the many – in this case, a confused and dismayed nation – must outweigh the needs of the one.

PR Jury Still Out on Foxy Knoxy

 PR Jury Still Out on Foxy Knoxy

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Amanda Knox, who hasn’t quite moved the PR dial of public opinion.

Has America made up its mind yet about Amanda Knox? The college student from Seattle, who was convicted in Italy of murdering her housemate Meredith Kercher during a sex escapade gone awry, has just published her memoir. Random House paid upwards of $4 million for Waiting To Be Heard, and advance reviews indicate that despite some gruesome tales about Italian prison life, America remains undecided about the young woman whom the European tabloids named “Foxy Knoxy.”

There’s enough new material to make sure this case stays in the headlines: prison officers were hitting on her while prosecutors bullied and threatened her, telling her she was HIV positive to destabilize her mood. She depicts a world of torment, being utterly unable to process and deal with the shock of events as they unfolded.

Knox describes how she coped with her original conviction and those harrowing four years in an Italian prison until her conviction was overturned. She also gives her version of some of the more notable stories that circulated after she was charged, including the famous one about doing handstands while in custody and being charged. The next step is in an exclusive interview with ABC news and Diane Sawyer. Might this be the deciding moment for the American public?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Amanda Knox, who hasn’t quite moved the PR dial of public opinion.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Being talked about is not the same as being liked. The public continues to be confused by this case, even more so now that the Italian courts are retrying it. Amanda Knox still captures headlines, but given her tale of undeserving punishment, there remains an inexplicable lack of sympathy for the young photogenic and educated woman. Part of the PR debate remains stalled in confusion about what really happened that night. In her forthcoming interviews to promote the book, Knox will need to break new ground on this decisive point. That’s where her PR pardon lies.


Should John Edwards’s Mistress Tell All?

 Should John Edwardss Mistress Tell All?

The PR Verdict: “D” for Rielle Hunter, John Edwards’s mistress.

Rielle Hunter, former mistress of Senator John Edwards and mother of his love child, is ready for her moment in the sun. Having previously been moved to and from various safe houses to avoid media scrutiny, as though she was in a witness protection program, Hunter is now poised for interviews. The Justice Department has confirmed it will not retry the case of campaign finance fraud against her former beau, and Hunter’s publicist says she will now end her “silence.”

Hunter is no stranger to the media. A filmmaker herself, she bared all in an interview with GQ in 2010. Describing her affair with Edwards as  a “magnetic force field,” she told readers, “I know he loves me… I have never had any doubt at all about that.”

Hunter is setting the record straight with interviews on ABC’s  “20/20,” and a host of other media appearances. What’s new? Her tell-all book, What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me. Hunter’s PR said, “Ms. Hunter is looking forward to speaking the truth, and we believe [interviewer] Chris Cuomo will allow her story to be told with candor and respect.”

The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for Rielle Hunter and her forlorn stab at publicity. Hasn’t her moment passed?

PR Takeaway:  Choosing the right moment is just as important as realizing when that moment has passed. Despite her claim that she remains devoted to Edwards, Hunter risks pulling jurors’ reactions out of the woodwork and reigniting lurid details from the trial (and talk of Edward’s deceased wife Elizabeth) that Team Edwards is presumably keen to put behind it. Making the transition from “the other woman”  to something more neutral is where Hunter’s PR salvation lies. Our suggestion: Follow the Camilla Parker-Bowles PR template on how to rehabilitate an image.

What’s your PR Verdict–should Rielle Hunter capitalize on her claim to fame or move on? Tell us in Speak Your Mind, below.

Would You Call Yourself a Close Friend of Rajat Gupta?

rajat gupta Would You Call Yourself a Close Friend of Rajat Gupta?

The PR Verdict: “B” for Rajat Gupta and friends

For those who missed it, yesterday was day one of the trial of Rajat Gupta the former managing director of McKinsey & Company and former board member of Goldman Sachs.  He is charged with passing on secret tips to convicted hedge funder Raj Rajaratnam who is now serving a lengthy sentence for insider dealing.  Gupta is accused of leaking price sensitive information to Rajaratnam about Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble.

Not everyone agrees.  Gupta’s attorneys describe him as a man of “great integrity,” a philanthropist and a victim of prosecutorial overreach.  As part of his PR campaign Gupta’s friends have rallied a high flying list of supporters who point to his social, civic and business record.  Author Deepak Chopra and one of India’s richest men are among those who have signed an open letter defending Gupta’s record at a website simply called www.friendsofrajat.com,

“He’s like a dolphin caught up in a tuna net,” says a high powered friend who manages the website. “The government refuses to admit it’s a dolphin and not a big fat tuna, and they’re not going to give up. That’s what my website is trying to do, tell the story about the other Rajat.”  Friends have turned out in force but are they the right ones?

The PR Verdict: “B” for Rajat Gupta and his friends.  They have made their case well, arguing they want to counterbalance negative prejudicial coverage by presenting a fuller version of Gupta’s business pedigree.  Next time why not find a move diverse group of supporters?

The PR Takeaway:  Diversity broadens reach and lowers risk.  For a man steeped in the business affairs of corporate America it is surprising how few non-south Asian names have signed the letter.  The insider-dealing network of convicted Raj Rajaratnam was partly based on a series of close ties with people who shared the same cultural background.  A few more non-Indian names from big-shot corporate America might have improved the chances of providing Gupta the air cover and distance from the Rajaratnam case that his well meaning friends have stepped in to provide.