After Taliban Shooting, Malala Is Still On Message

 After Taliban Shooting, Malala Is Still On Message

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Malala Yousafzai.

Before anyone knew her name, or even that she existed, Malala Yousafzai had a mission: that she, and other girls like her, should be able to go to school. A simple right for many, yet forbidden to Pakistani girls like Yousafzai by the Taliban. But the world came to know the young crusader on the day a Taliban soldier boarded a school bus, asked “Who is Malala?” and shot the then-11 year old in the face.

Miraculously, Yousafzai survived. Even from a hospital bed, she was undeterred and unintimidated. Her parents soon reported that she was requesting her schoolbooks so that she wouldn’t fall behind in her studies.

The now 16-year-old Yousafzai tells of the day she was shot, and what has happened since, in her book I am Malala, being released worldwide tomorrow. She has addressed the United Nations and become the youngest person to be nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. Through it all, the girl who took on the Taliban at age 11 has stayed on message, on mission: “I was spared for a reason,” she writes. “To use my life for helping people.”

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to Malala Yousafzai.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Don’t lose sight of your cause by becoming a celeb. Acts of heroism can be blurred by exposure in the limelight. If the mission is to become a star, as is the case with those who sign on for reality shows, then there’s no such thing as bad publicity. However, when the mission is of a humanitarian nature – say, fighting for the right for girls to be educated, against the edict of an oppressive regime – there’s a delicate balance between being the face of a movement and becoming a name. While no one may have known of Malala Yousafzai before she was nearly murdered by the Taliban, she makes sure her mission stays front and centre.

Guest Column: Angelina Jolie to Syria’s Rescue

Angelinajolie1 150x150 Guest Column: Angelina Jolie to Syrias Rescue

PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for UNHCR and its association with Angelina.

Tired of reading about celebrities in US Weekly or People? Then turn to the Financial Times. The FT just ran an op-ed from Angelina Jolie, special envoy to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), co authored by António Guterres, the UNHCR High Commissioner and former Prime Minister of Portugal. Both made a plea to support Syrian refugees and the latest UN appeal drive.

This latest FT column follows Jolie’s televised visits to Syrian refugee camps, guaranteeing coverage where the plight of the refugees might not have ordinarily rated a mention. During the visits, Jolie appeared shaken and emotional; critics might say that’s no big stretch for an actress, but following up her well-publicized visits with the op-ed route was wise. No charity glamour, just simple facts and arguments.

The column summarized the situation clearly. Wearing her UN hat, Jolie got right to the point: This appeal is not just about helping refugees, but making sure help is on a sustainable footing. The FT ran a photo of the glamorous special envoy on its front page. Her co-author had to be content with a byline; presumably he doesn’t sell newspapers in quite the same way.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for UNHCR. Celebrity coverage is the stepping-stone for more serious follow up, but is Angelina Jolie the right celebrity?

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Choose your celebrity wisely. By pairing up with Jolie, the UNHCR got its cause more attention than it might have otherwise. But the nagging issue with Jolie is that it’s never really clear if she is smart and cool, or a wanna-be humanitarian who, in her personal life, is a bit of a loon. She has still not been able to shake off her “crazy” image, which includes an endless array of children and tattoos. (Have we forgotten the vial of Billy Bob’s blood she wore as a necklace?) Bottom line, her sincerity isn’t in doubt, but does she have the gravitas to take this issue any further?

To read Angelina Jolie’s and António Guterres’s op-ed column, click here.

What’s your opinion of the UNHCR’s choice of Angelina Jolie as representative? Give us your PR Verdict!


Did Team Romney Bet On The Right Horse?

ricGrenell 300x165 Did Team Romney Bet On The Right Horse?

The PR Verdict: "A" for Ric Grenell, Romney's short lived foreign policy PR.

Ric Grenell, Mitt Romney’s former foreign policy spokesman (of three weeks), hit the headlines yesterday.  It must have been a tough day for the Romney campaign. The resignation of a major aide is hard enough, but when he resigns after twenty one days, it’s clear trouble is brewing.

Ric Grenell has impeccable Republican credentials.  Serving four US ambassadors to the United Nations as Chief US spokesman, he carried many unpopular PR cans during the Bush presidency.  When Romney appointed him as his foreign policy spokesman it seemed a logical choice.  Then the trouble started.

Romney says Grenell’s sexuality (he is gay) was not an issue but it clearly was for some of Romney’s conservative contributors, as was Grenell’s previous endorsement of gay marriage.  Angered by his appointment, the American Family Association said Grenell’s appointment sent a “drop dead” message to supporters of traditional values.  Romney’s campaign managers asked Grenell to lay low as the protests within the party grew, hoping they would pass.  They didn’t and he resigned citing the “hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues.”

The PR Verdict:  “A” for Ric Grenell who left the campaign on his own terms.  Grenell left as elegantly as he could, thanking Romney for making it clear his sexuality was not an issue.  Clearly this was not the case for other Romney supporters.

PR Takeaway:  Think carefully before picking sides.  The ball is squarely in Romney’s court, now saddled with explaining how the party and its candidate are not captive to polarising social conservatives.  Headlines like this will worry moderate voters who, if the polls are to be believed, are going to make the difference for Romney.  Was this the wisest strategy?

To read more about Ric Grenell click here.

Whats your PR Verdict?

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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.

What’s your PRV on this?

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