Rapper Macklemore’s Costume Called Anti-Semitic

macklemore 150x150 Rapper Macklemores Costume Called Anti Semitic

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for rapper Macklemore.

Does no one remember the lesson hard-learned by fashion designer John Galliano, taken to task after wearing Jewish dress in a mocking fashion? Apparently not. Rapper Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, is on a steep learning curve after wearing a costume that many are calling anti-Semitic.

Last week, the Grammy winning duo of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed in their hometown of Seattle at the EMP Museum. Macklemore appeared on stage wearing a black wig, a fake beard, and a large, hooked prosthetic nose to perform a song called “Thrift Shop” about scoring fashions for a bargain.

His look, coupled with the song’s subject, “is deeply offensive and propagates Jewish stereotypes,” read a statement from B’nai B’rith, the Jewish human rights group. Social media was full of blowback too, prompting Macklemore to tweet, “A fake witches [sic] nose, wig, and beard = random costume. Not my idea of a stereotype of anybody.” Actor Seth Rogen, among those who’d called the rapper out, tweeted back, “really?? Because if I told someone to put together an anti Semitic Jew costume, they’d have that exact shopping list.”

Macklemore, who has been lauded along with Lewis for their pro-gay stance, has since apologized, though the statement’s start opposes his initial plea of innocence: “I acknowledge how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature.” As Seth Rogen said, “really??”

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for rapper Macklemore.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When fashioning an apology, don’t change your client’s plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” unless you absolutely must. Apologies for wrongdoing should come quickly and without qualification, with the focus on the mea culpa. Starting the apology with an acknowledgement goes against Macklemore’s claims that any thought of caricature was mistaken. With a strong apology alone, the worst that can happen is people thinking your client is clueless. Any more than that, and the charges won’t be changed no matter what the plea.

PayPal’s Quick Payback to Ranting Exec

paypal PayPals Quick Payback to Ranting Exec

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to PayPal.

Another weekend, another tech sector exec behaving badly and embarrassing his employer. This time it’s PayPal, whose now-former global strategist Rakesh Agrawal unleashed a series of Twitter rants that were either his parting shot or cost him his job, depending on what you choose to believe.

Tweeting late night Friday from New Orleans, where he was attending Jazz Fest, Agrawal offered up choice expletives for co-workers he thought should be fired or were “useless,” including PayPal’s communications chief. In the remorseful light of morning, he tweeted that he had been using a new phone to “test experiences” and had intended those messages for a colleague. “Note to self,” he added, “don’t test a new phone when sleep deprived after working your ass off for 20 hours a day while on vacation.”

Within hours, PayPal tweeted that Agrawal, just two months into the job, was on vacation permanently, adding: “Treat everyone with respect. No excuses. PayPal has zero tolerance.” Not one to leave it there, Agrawal answered that he had actually quit Friday to start his own company. He followed that Sunday night with a series of since-deleted F-bomb tweets directed at – well, everyone – and then a promise of a “logical explanation” for the last two days. Please, don’t bother.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for PayPal, for a quick public display of disaffection with a self-destructing employee.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Move fast in matters of reputation. Lasting damage can occur literally at the speed of light. PayPal’s fast, direct response established Agrawal’s separation from the company, then pivoted to stress the firm’s zero tolerance for behavior or opinions like his. Companies have different policies on employee tweeting, but to a tech firm like PayPal, pre-screening tweets would run counter to Silicon Valley’s libertarian ethos and would never fly. The individual empowerment of social networks gives those with an axe to grind an instant platform to air their grievances. Companies need not hold back in responding.

Police Dept Goes from NY Hashtag to Global Bashtag

 Police Dept Goes from NY Hashtag to Global Bashtag

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NYPD’s #myNYPD social media campaign.

Two weeks ago, the New York Police Department launched a goodwill campaign on social media, asking people to post photos of themselves with police officers with the hashtag #myNYPD. The hashtag soon turned into what the Associated Press cleverly and appropriately termed a “bashtag.”

Members of the Occupy movement were quick to share snaps of violent interactions with police. “Here the #NYPD engages with its community members, changing hearts and minds one baton at a time,” read the caption of one post. The campaign may started locally, but it quickly went national, then global. Twitter users in Los Angeles showed police in menacing riot gear. Social media users in Greece posted photos of police brutality against protestors with the hashtag #myELAS, and users in Mexico started #MiPolicíaMexicana.

At first the response from the NYPD was typical New York attitude. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton waved aside the Occupy photos as old news and said, “I kind of welcome the attention… We really broke the [social media] numbers.” When the backlash continued and went worldwide, a more somber response came from Deputy Chief Kim Y. Royster, who said, “The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community…this is an open dialogue good for our city.” Really?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for the NYPD, whose social media campaign has embarrassed them and their law-enforcement brethren worldwide.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Not every PR tool flatters the user. Social media can work, in the right hands and when correctly implemented. Perhaps the NYPD could use social media for, say, tips on crime. But it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that this naïve attempt at generating positive PR image could be twisted. Royster’s key word was “effective,” and this use of social media clearly wasn’t.

 

Uber Overboard, Underhanded In Its Marketing?

ubersea Uber Overboard, Underhanded In Its Marketing?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for ride-request app Uber in Seattle.

Uber has upended the car-for-hire and ridesharing business with its location-aware ride-requesting app and cashless transactions. Naturally, some people have a problem with this – among them, the owners of traditional taxi companies, and government officials seeking to regulate a brand new category of transportation business.

Bogged down by business and bureaucratic traffic, Uber has managed to keep the wheels rolling, sometimes by racing red lights. At a current crossroads in Seattle, the company has mounted an Astroturf campaign – that is, a fake grass-roots effort – to lobby the City Council against curtailing its business. A “Save Uber in Seattle” effort features a company-sponsored petition website (with a non-profit conjuring .org domain), robo-calls from the local general manager, roving billboard trucks and a citywide blanket of (apparently illegal) posters.

This being Seattle, not everyone is down with a guerilla marketing effort masquerading as a popular groundswell, no matter how hip the company is. Sure, Uber may have Macklemore on its side, but recorded calls offering to forward you directly to the mayor’s office are perhaps a tad too proactive for such a laid back city, and residents are tweeting their disdain. Uber might reach its destination, but how many ride-needy Seattleites will it turn off along the route?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Uber’s slightly sneaky Seattle marketing strategy.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Handle trendiness with care. A marketing effort that is too clever by half can stir up bad PR, not to mention bad blood. In a place like Seattle, where residents have finely calibrated B.S. detectors, Uber’s effort might backfire for being impersonal, duplicitous and cynical, not to mention visually polluting and slightly illegal. A more solicitous and sincere overture to its local fans might have been a safer, more direct route.

Tech Titans Flex Anti-Surveillance Muscle With… a Website?

SurvReform Tech Titans Flex Anti Surveillance Muscle With... a Website?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Big Tech’s anti-snooping website.

The tech sector’s biggest names – Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others – have taken a hit this year for their complicity with government surveillance programs. With each new creepy disclosure on the depth and scope of the spying, the tech firms have found more courage to fight back  for the freedom of the Internet and the privacy rights of their users. Hence this week we have their boldest move to date…um, a new website?

Well, a feckless-looking Silicon Valley had to do something. Eight firms with a combined value of $1.4 trillion have signed on to an effort to reform “global” government surveillance – though clearly the main bogey is the US. Taking the time-honored but largely symbolic tack of an “open letter to Washington,” the tech firms cite the “urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide” and implore the US to take the lead. “For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure,” they add. Not to mention their business models.

What’s missing? How about telecom companies, network equipment makers, financial interests like credit card companies? Again, it’s a start. As a skeptic notes, the effort is driven more by economic than good-government interest, as the firms continue to face backlash for cooperating with the surveillance effort in the first place.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the tech sector backers of surveillance reform.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Give your cause higher purpose. You’ll win more friends, allies and better headlines. The Tech sector backers of the surveillance reform effort have a clear economic interest in protecting their users from prying government eyes. But “Don’t spy on our users – we might lose money” is hardly a rallying cry. Silicon Valley is imbued with a libertarian spirit that abhors government intrusion, if not always for the noblest reasons. Whether the website is just a PR move, or a lead-in to real political action backed by the sector’s considerable economic might, will be monitored closely. And not just by government snoops.

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 Trustwave Spider Labs, for being credited with identifying a massive hacking operation of over two million social media account usernames and passwords stolen from Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, and other sites. Trustwave researchers found this latest cache after a massive attack on Adobe that left an astounding 38 million accounts vulnerable. “We don’t have evidence [the hackers] logged into these accounts, but they probably did,” said John Miller, a security research manager at Trustwave. The compromised companies notified users after Trustwave tipped them off. Kudos to the PR flaks who alerted the media that it was Trustwave, not the individual sites, that found evidence of the breaches.

googlevil The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Google, following disclosure that it funded political lobbying groups that helped force the recent US government shutdown. The “Don’t Be Evil” doers have, in fact, supported a number of right-wing organizations and are fairly transparent about it. Their contributions to Heritage Action, which actively pushed for the government shutdown, came to light in a report last week by a liberal non-profit. Google, like other big tech firms, has a strong libertartian, anti-tax streak and an active cash-backed lobbying effort in Washington that, like most, gets spread around to all sides. But it’s one thing to back both sides in a legitimate policy debate, and another entirely to fund what amounts to domestic political terrorism.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for the most recent plot twist in the bizarre political theater playing out in Canada’s largest city. Ford’s latest disavowal is that he did not offer $5000 and a car to alleged drug dealers in exchange for a video of him smoking crack cocaine. “Number one, that’s an outright lie and number two, you can talk to my lawyers about it,” Ford said on a Washington DC-based radio program, to which he was invited to discuss football. This, of course, follows his denial-then-admission of smoking crack in the first place, and his denial that he orally pleasured a female staffer (“I’ve got more than enough to eat at home,” was his comment).  At this point, even football isn’t a safe topic for Rob Ford to speak about.

Start-Up CEO Tweets Stiletto in Mouth

cortellheels Start Up CEO Tweets Stiletto in Mouth

The PR Verdict: F (“Full Fiasco”) for tech entrepreneur Jorge Cortell.

Another week, another case of a tech start-up CEO going full Neanderthal on Twitter with witless, sexist comments – and tweeting from a business conference with hungry VCs, no less. This week’s Caveman award goes to Jorge Cortell,  CEO of healthcare startup Kanteron Systems and a self-described “privacy hacktivist” who doesn’t seem to see the value in keeping his private opinions to himself.

At an event in Manhattan last week, where high-powered venture capital firms were pitching their quals and services to entrepreneurs, Cortell tweeted a pic of a female attendee in stiletto heels with the comment: “Event supposed to be for entrepreneurs, VCs, but these heels (I’ve seen several like this)… WTF?” and the hashtag “#brainsnotrequired.” Amid the ensuing uproar, Cortell said he was simply commenting on the unhealthy height of the heels and the wearer’s ignorance, not gender. “Perhaps a man was wearing those.”

Rrrright. And lack of “culture fit” is why there aren’t more women in tech. Cortell defended and repeat-tweeted his nonsense argument until Twitter temporarily suspended his account. Valleywag and The Wall Street Journal picked up the exchange, assuring Cortell his place on the Tech-Sexist wall of shame.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Cortell, who has done his industry no favors in breaking from its frat boy image.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep personal opinions out of your business dialogue. You are what you tweet. Never tweet anything you wouldn’t be prepared to say publicly before an intimate audience of, say, several thousand people – one that includes potential investors and customers, the media, your competitors and detractors, people who don’t look like you. Silicon Valley and its enablers are still a long ways off from penalizing “tech-bros” stuck in a frat-boy mindset of their college years, but that day will come. Better to stay ahead of this curve. If your product promises to change the world, aspire to do the same.

Obama Administration’s Epic Tech Fails

 Obama Administrations Epic Tech Fails

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Obama administration’s technical advisors. (Pictured: NSA leaker Edward Snowden)

Earlier this week, President Obama had to call French President Francois Hollande and explain, if he could, why the US was spying on the phone records of over 70 million French citizens. The issue was brought to light by former US National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed NSA secrets to several news agencies months ago. Now more than ever, it is imperative that President Obama’s technical administration locate the fugitive tech expert. Not just to save face; they could actually use his help.

Aside from being unable to locate Snowden, a man of Bourne-movie level abilities to erase every trace of his movements, the Obama administration has lost credibility over the technical glitches on Healthcare.gov, the main portal to signing up for mandatory Obamacare. Yesterday, another gaffe: a Twitter feed that has been revealing embarrassing inside information about foreign policy for the past two years was traced back to Jofi Joseph, an official in the White House’s National Security Staff. #howembarrassing.

Americans have grown uncomfortably accustomed to government failures. A lack of regulations allowed the collapse of the economy. Bipartisanship led to a shutdown. Now the website to register for healthcare doesn’t work, prompting the president to record a video encouraging people to sign up “the old fashioned way,” via phone or in person. Presumably, this video was made around the time of the  call to the French president about the tech guy the CIA can’t find, and before the Twitter revelation.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Obama administration’s technical advisors.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: If you want to do your best, surround yourself with the best. America is not exactly short on technical excellence, yet the president’s cabinet signed off on using ten-year-old technology for Healthcare.gov. The military stands by the accuracy of its drones, yet the US can’t find one guy who’s talked to several major international newspapers, or another guy dissing the White House from inside the White House. The PR solution would be obtaining the best and the brightest to fix the glitches and increase security. Maybe Snowden could provide a reference.

Twitter CEO Won’t Duck Challenge (But Should)

costolo11 Twitter CEO Wont Duck Challenge (But Should)

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.

Feisty Twitter CEO Dick Costolo never shies away from a flame war, slugging it out in 140 characters or less with all comers. His firm’s forthcoming IPO was apparently no occasion for him to consider toning it down. This time, he’s taken to task critics of Twitter’s virtually all-white, all-male leadership.

Going into its IPO, Twitter, as the New York Timenoted last week, has no female investors, no female board members, and only one woman among its top executives. And she was hired just five weeks ago. Those numbers aren’t rare in Silicon Valley, but that’s hardly cause to forgive the oversight, as Twitter’s critics noted. “The fact that they went to the IPO without a single woman on the board, how dare they?” said Vivek Wadhwa, a Stanford professor.

Twitter declined comment on the matter, but not Costolo. In a tweet, he reverted to name-calling, comparing Wadhwa to Carrot Top, an outlandish, hyperbolic comic. The battle was quickly joined, and while Costolo might have a point, is this really the story his company needs right now as its IPO filing comes under scrutiny?

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Twitter’s Dick Costolo, for letting his ego get the better of him at a critical time for his company.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Choose your battles, and your timing. For one, Twitter’s corporate demurral on the subject looks a little silly next to Costolo’s tweeted tirade. For two, why create needless distraction right now? Sure it’s not likely the kerfluffle will adversely affect the IPO share price, but what was gained? A more mature response might have given the opportunity to engage constructively on an important tech industry issue – the dearth of women in leadership roles. More generally, though Costolo has won praise for corralling an unfocused, wayward company, shouldn’t a CEO be striving consistently to raise the bar on level of discourse instead of knocking it down a few notches? One hundred and forty characters can be used for good, but it’s surprising how much damage can be done by one character’s bad attitude.

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 Michael J. Fox , who took the “making lemonade out of lemons” maxim to a whole new level with the premiere of his new television show.  In Fox’s eponymously named sitcom, he plays a character who, like the actor himself, is returning to work while living with Parkinson’s disease. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s more than a decade ago, is raising awareness of a debilitating disease that afflicts somewhere between 7-10 million people worldwide. Regardless of whether the show is a hit, it’s a PR coup, informing and educating and making life that much easier for those with the disease.

 

joekcnbc The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Joe Kernen, a host on business channel CNBC, for on-air racist comments that he somehow thought were funny. Bantering with co-hosts a week ago on interest rate action taken by India’s central bank, Kernen morphed into a stereotypical Indian accent at the mention of rupees. But it didn’t end there. Visibly struggling with his own better judgment for several seconds, Kernen finally gave in to his inner trading “bro.” “Are they good at 7-11?” he asked, causing his co-hosts to squirm and scold. He added a quick “faux-pology” before the segment ended, saying: “I take it back. I apologize, before I have to.” Before he had to? Clearly he knew better before the words crossed his lips. Kernen later issued a more official apology for his “inappropriate and insensitive remark.” But one wonders what CNBC’s editor-in-chief and Kernen’s boss, Nikhil Deogun, an Indian-American from Kolkata, thought of the “joke.”

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to the masterminds behind the Cory Booker “stripper scandal.” Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark, NJ who has been campaigning for a seat in the senate, found himself being questioned by the media to explain his connection with a stripper. Scandal! Or is it? On closer inspection of the story initially broken by BuzzFeed…nyeh. Booker became acquainted with Lynsie Lee when they appeared in a film about social media. The mayor and the stripper, who works at the world’s first vegan strip club, have been tweeting, but rather tamely. “The mayor talks with people from all walks of life on Twitter,” said a spokesman. “The most shocking part of the story was learning that there is a vegan strip club in Portland.”