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

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to the Vatican. The seat of Catholicism gets our top grade – but not without qualifications. Our simple advice to the new Pope? Enjoy the honeymoon. The appointment was a big PR hit, no doubt: Francis, the first Pope from the Americas and a humble man who embraces a vow of poverty, gave the Vatican the forward-thinking PR page it is looking for. But storm clouds are already gathering. His age (76) will inevitably mean his tenure is abbreviated, while rumors are already surfacing about how he allegedly turned a blind eye to torture abuses during Argentina’s military rule. A high grade for a good start, but the challenge will be staying there; just ask Pope Benedict.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to the TSA. The Transportation Security Administration continues to stand by their decision to allow small knives and other potentially dangerous tools and devices aboard aircraft, despite rising hue and cry from flight attendants, passengers, and politicians. Their defense? They want to turn attention to finding the hundred larger, deadlier threats – like the stun gun one passenger packed in his carry-on baggage this week (missed by security) or the fake bomb strapped to the leg of a security agent during a test (also missed). They have a point, but it’s blunted by another, oft repeated: the 9/11 attacks were begun by box cutters that would be waved right on through with this order.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Kanye West and Justin Timberlake. Enthralled by their current imbroglio? Yeah…neither are we. For those who missed it: West, in his own inimitable and unprintable way, criticized Timberlake’s single “Suit & Tie” at a concert last month. Timberlake struck back this week while hosting Saturday Night Live by changing a line of the same song, crooning  “My hit’s so sick got rappers actin’ dramatic.” Take that, Kanye! Who knows how the unpredictable West will respond – and does anyone really care? Ho-hum. We’ve come a long way from the East Coast-West Coast rap wars of the 1990s, folks. Maybe they should, too.

TSA Safety Reversal: Turbulence Ahead

 TSA Safety Reversal: Turbulence Ahead

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the TSA.

Lately, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) just can’t seem to do anything right. The agency, created after 9/11, has at various points been accused of failing to find weapons in undercover tests, conducting overzealous body searches, and allowing agents to sleep on the job. The latest snafu occurred this week, when it announced one of its most significant policy changes: it will begin allowing small knives (and various pieces of sporting equipment) aboard airplanes.

The change in the banned-items list was immediately met with harsh criticism. Pilots and flight attendants voiced the reasonable concern that allowing knives may imperil safety. Even passengers, who have chafed under the restrictive list, were disparaging. “It seems to be a poorly thought-out decision. I don’t pretend to understand the logic behind it,” Brandon M. Macsata, executive director of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights, told the Los Angeles Times. After all, the September 11 attacks were committed with box cutters, which are smaller than the knives that will now be permitted.

For its part, the TSA noted improved safety features on airplanes since 2001 and said the change will bring it in line with international standards and allow it “to focus on threats that can cause catastrophic damage to an airplane.” It seems they’ve forgotten that small knives can, in fact, cause catastrophic damage to airplanes, and buildings, and lives.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for the TSA. A poll conducted in September 2012 found that 90 percent of respondents thought the TSA was doing a “poor” or “fair” job in security screenings. This latest action won’t improve those results.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Cover your bases before making a controversial announcement. Although they don’t appear to realize it, the TSA has a brand – one it’s managing very poorly. The agency’s raison d’etre is to ensure the safety of  airline personnel and the air-traveling public. The smart tactic would have been to confer with key players ahead of time and gauge their sentiment on the potential policy change. That way, they are involved in the process, can raise objections privately, and everyone is on the same page when the media comes calling. A handful of public endorsements from interested parties would have made this announcement turbulence free. As is, they should fasten their seat belts.