Lewinsky Tries to Turn Media In Her Favor This Time

 Lewinsky Tries to Turn Media In Her Favor This Time

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Monica Lewinsky.

Sixteen years ago, a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky became a household name. This week, a now 40-year-old Lewinsky will tell all about her affair with President Bill Clinton in a Vanity Fair essay entitled “Shame and Survival.” The piece is available to digital subscribers today and on newsstands this weekend.

According to promotional tidbits, Lewinsky says it’s time “to bury the blue dress,” a rather wince-inducing reference to one of the more salacious details of the saga: that Lewinsky had a frock bearing carnal proof of presidential coupling. In the piece, she reportedly says she deeply regrets the affair, which was consensual, and that she feels her entire life has been charted by those few years of youthful indiscretion. In writing the essay, she says,  “I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)”

Lewinsky says she was inspired to break her silence by Tyler Clementi, a college student who, apparently distraught after being filmed in a romantic interlude with another man,  committed suicide in 2010 by jumping off New York’s George Washington Bridge. Lewinsky says she could identify with Clementi’s anguish and the possibility that someone could be “humiliated to death.”

The buzz about the impending essay is formidable. The question now is: Will Lewinsky’s tale live up to the hype?

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Monica Lewinsky, who for better or worse will always be Monica Lewinsky.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Media can bring both condemnation as well as redemption. Over a decade ago, a young Lewsinky had no control over with the media said about her. As she astutely notes, she was “possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet.” Today, with the benefit of maturity and an auspicious media platform, she just might have a chance at rewriting her own footnote in the history books.

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

acton The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, the cross-platform mobile messaging service that claims more than 400 million active users. After 11 years at Yahoo!, Acton left the company in 2009 and was looking for work. First Twitter turned him down, then Facebook. “It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people,” he tweeted after the Facebook rejection. “Looking forward to life’s next adventure.” And what an adventure! Acton teamed up with former Yahoo! colleague Jan Koum to start WhatsApp. Last week, Facebook bought Acton’s messaging service for $19 billion in the largest ever venture-backed deal — creating a perfect PR story that requires no embellishment.

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) to Under Armour, official outfitter of the US Olympic Speed Skating Team – until very recently. Under Armour’s “Mach 39,” which the company called the fastest-ever speed skating suit, has been blamed for the US team’s rather disappointing showing in Sochi. The suits were worn in practice runs and seemed fine, but after failing to even place in Olympic games, the team switched back to their old gear for final runs. While they still failed to medal regardless of outfits, the damage is done: Under Armour’s stock fell 2.4 percent on Friday.

 The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Graydon Carter, editor in chief of Vanity Fair. After months of speaking to the press about the “epic takedown” feature the magazine planned to run on Gwyneth Paltrow, and talking of Paltrow’s alleged attempts to get all of Hollywood to boycott the magazine, here at last is…much ado about nothing. No epic takedown article appears in the March issue, but a 1500-word explanation does. “Not to bore you with the details,” Carter begins in his editor’s letter. We’ll stop right there, thanks.

Galliano Fashions a PR Comeback

 Galliano Fashions a PR Comeback

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for John Galliano.

Is John Galliano’s exile from the fashion world over? The designer has finally broken his silence, following his spectacular fall from grace in 2011 after making anti-Semitic rants in Paris. One episode in particular was videotaped, prompting his immediate firing from Dior and later conviction by a French court.

In his first interview since the scandal, Galliano opens up to a very sympathetic Vanity Fair.  His story has the making of an epic novel – the “un-idyllic” childhood in a multi-cultural but rough London neighborhood, where he was bullied for his homosexuality; his ascent into the world of high fashion; and the demons unlocked in fashion’s world of high pressure and unhealthy pampering. En plus, the unclear provenance of the incriminating video, fed to the media before Galliano’s arrest, provides just a hint of conspiracy. Vanity Fair spares no effort to exonerate, consulting and quoting experts to make the case that, when he hissed those spiteful things to people, Galliano just couldn’t help himself: Alcohol and drugs had simply made him insane.

Center stage in the article is Galliano’s contrition. Friends and other supporting sources, such as Jewish leaders he met through an executive of Vanity Fair’s publisher Condé Nast, vouch for the same. He studied the Holocaust, attended service at a synagogue, and is finally making tentative steps back into his profession, supported by fashion royalties such as Oscar de la Renta and Anna Wintour. Shalom, John, welcome back!

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for John Galliano. With a little help from influential friends, a comeback is always possible.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: For perfect rebound PR, timing is everything. Prepare the line-up of your supporters carefully, and make sure potential antagonists remain silent; one of the key stakeholders in this saga, Galliano’s former employer LVMH, declined to comment due to ongoing litigation about Galliano’s compensation. (The article hints at a soon-to-be-expected “human-to-human” apology from Galliano to his former bosses.) The glitterati love a tormented, artistic soul, and once confession and amends have been made, one may be pardoned and permitted to go back to work. Our PR advice? Post-comeback, work in silence.

 

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 Al Gore, who declined to comment following some puzzling comments from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She recently went public with her doubts about the now infamous case of Bush v. Gore, wondering if maybe the court should never have heard the case in the first place. Gore declined to comment, saying he would stick by his decision back then to stand by the referee’s conclusion. Any comment, Gore claimed, could bring the Supreme Court “into a political squabble where the outcome would not change at all in any case.” Agreed. Tempting as it may be, this is one instance where Gore needs to let others do the talking and ignore the bait.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) for Brad Pitt. The actor may be flashing his million-dollar smile on Vanity Fair‘s cover this month, but the story inside about his new $200 million movie isn’t nearly as pretty. The feature is ostensibly about Pitt’s World War Z, which accurately describes the atmosphere on the zombie flick’s set. One producer used the word “nightmare,” not about the apocalyptic scenario but about making the movie. Features like this are a crapshoot: Who doesn’t want the cover of Vanity Fair on the eve of the release of a summer blockbuster, yet one that will focus on the massive issues that plagued the film? The good news for readers is that it won’t be the same ol’ puff piece. The bad news for Pitt is that it won’t be the same ol’ puff piece.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Washington DC Council Member David Grosso for proposing that the football team of the nation’s capitol – the Washington Redskins – change their name to the less offensive Redtails (hey, it’s close!). The team’s name, considered a racial slur against the Native American population in the US, has been hotly debated for years. Those who might actually do something about it, including lawmakers, team owners, and the National Football League, have largely avoided the issue. What a weak way for Washington to weigh in. Grosso gets points for having enough conscience to address the matter, but his proposal will go nowhere even if it passes unanimously: as a “non-binding resolution,” which is Beltwayspeak for “pointless,” it carries no force of law. If proponents of a name change really want results, they would do well to abandon the ineffectual pols and instead aim their PR arrows at the stadium box office.

 

Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift is one of the biggest pop sensations ever, so that should translate to huge sales for the magazines that put her on their covers, right? The swift answer: no. Or, in the parlance of Swift’s teenaged fans: Like, totally nuh-uh.

Swift released a new album, Red, last fall and magazine bookers were working overtime. Swift, who is 23, has a fan base in their teens, but that didn’t mean she’d only rate the cover of Teen Vogue. No, her bookings included Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Elle, all in the space of one year, while her cover for Vanity Fair – whose demographic generally skews older than the parents of Swift’s fans – is out this month.

Swift Glamour1 150x150 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for MagazinesSo how did this multi-platinum selling artist perform for magazine sales? She sold reasonably well for Glamour (at left), okay for Vogue (above) and Bazaar, and, perhaps most surprisingly, made a terrible showing for Cosmo: the worst-selling cover for 2012 (below). Possible explanation? Swift is mightily overexposed in all media. It’s a knee-jerk reaction for PRs to book as many covers as possible.

 

 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Taylor Swift’s PR machine. Mainstream covers are good for both star and publication…except when the mag numbers turn out to be poor.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The all-you-can-eat buffet does have its price. It’s great to have a star that every magazine wants on its cover, but should PRs say yes to every offer? While Swift’s PRs presumably enjoyed credit for booking “mainstream” covers, they now have to contend with the negative press that comes with the revelations that she was a worst-seller. Plum bookings in the future may be harder to come by. Next time, all parties should consider a celebrity’s fan base, and act accordingly – or face Swift retribution.

PR Science for Scientology

 PR Science for Scientology

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s crisis management of this latest hit to its reputation. (Pictured: Nazanin Boniadi)

Where on earth is Nazanin Boniadi? To those unfamiliar with her name, Boniadi was allegedly put forward as a potential girlfriend to Tom Cruise, by the Church of Scientology’s top brass in 2004, as they sought to couple up their leading celebrity. The full story in the October issue of Vanity Fair continues to generate headlines since its publication, and The PRV gave Cruise and Scientology the “Loser of the Week” award for their mutual mishandling of this major reputational hit. Why?

Vanity Fair cites numerous sources and quotes them in detail, naming dates, places, and schedules throughout the article. The bad news for Cruise and his pals, is that the story is not a vague piece of celebrity journalism citing unnamed sources but Scientology didn’t seem to care and responded in the article with assertions that the article contains “lies” and “garbage.” Blanket aggressive denials were never going to turn this story around. This was poor PR handling.

The article describes the Church as having a culture of fear, secrecy, blackmail, spying, and routine informing by peers, with summary punishments involving loss of liberty. Vanity Fair tracks Boniadi’s trajectory from Church member,to potential Cruise girlfriend, to later exile at a Scientology campus. If the story is truly “garbage,” why didn’t Scientology make Boniadi available to Vanity Fair to set the record straight?

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s crisis management of this latest hit to its reputation. Throw cold water on the allegations with another set of facts and change the direction of the story.

The PR Takeaway: Fight fire with fire. The easiest way to take the wind out of a damning story line is to go on-the-record with an alternative view of events that casts doubt on the prevailing version. A few choice words from the former girlfriend in question might have done the trick. Defensive denials are PR 101; on-the-record comments win the day over flat denials.Next time let Nazanin do the talking.

What else could the Church of Scientology done to manage this PR fiasco? Give us your PR Verdict!

Editorial note: Friday’s PRV Weekly Wrap contained an incorrect news item regarding Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The item has been removed; we apologize for the error. 

THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 

TOM CRUISE 6 SEPT1 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & LosersMICHELLEOBAMA6spet1 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & Losers

What a week: Tom Cruise allegedly auditioning candidates for wifely duties, DNC firepower in Charlotte and Katie Holmes tells us why she is not afraid of make-up. 

Who are this week’s PRV winner and Losers?

LOSER OF THE WEEK:  The PR Verdict: F (Full Fiasco) to Tom Cruise and Scientology.  Vanity Fair charges that Scientology held auditions for the role of Mrs. Tom Cruise. Church denials are to be expected but the problem is the source is respected publication Vanity Fair, owned by Condé “We Don’t Like Being Sued So We Pay Our Fact-checkers Well” Nast. This may be tough to disprove. It might be better to concede that Tom prefers to marry within his religion but add that there was no audition process. Sometimes it’s better to lower the temperatutre than fight the fire.

WINNER OF THE WEEKThe PR Verdict: A (PR Perfect) for Michelle Obama.  Style met substance and  captured the pundits and the public imagination. Huffington Post and others hailed Michelle Obama at the DNC, but when Dem-adversarial Fox News gives you the high-five, you’ve done your job well. And those arms! We couldn’t take our eyes off them.

And finally:

KATIEHOLMES2 150x150 THE PRV REPORT CARD: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHERE’S-NO-“THERE” -THERE PR: Katie Holmes talks exclusively to People TV about why “she is not afraid of makeup.” Nearly two minutes of content-free product placement by cosmetic company Bobbi Brown. Why does Katie love makeup, how did she get over her make-up fears, and what secrets did her mother tell her the about hidden world of foundation? We’re astonished (truly).

(Editor’s note – a previous mention regarding Julian Assange has been withdrawn due to an editing error. Please disregard).


When Plastic Politicians Face the Nation

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As the US elections edge closer, what is the PR obligation for a candidate to look his best? What price beauty? And who on the world’s stage might have already succumbed to the vanities of the knife?

Vanity Fair  thinks this an issue worth discussing. An article on the magazine’s website identifies who of the world’s leaders are most likely to have had “work done,” with a top Manhattan surgeon on hand to give his view. The undisputed winner, hands down, is former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, while Cristina Kirchner of  Argentina, with her signature bee-stung lips, seems an almost certain runner-up. The jury is out on Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who just seems to take a good photo–or do Botox injections give him that rested appearance? Kim Jong Un of North Korea seems the biggest puzzle. If he has had plastic surgery . . . It really doesn’t seem to have helped. Money back for Lil’ Kim?

And what should a politician’s PR minder say when word of facial work on a head of state leaks out? What is the right PR way to handle a candidate’s cosmetic improvement?

“Medical reasons” seems the most convincing explanation, which Berlusconi initially used. He had ample air cover: Italian officials said he underwent procedures to repair damage sustained in 2009 when he was hit in the face by a protestor. But then, Berlusconi gave his own game away when he said, “Improvements are a way of showing respect to those who share your life, your family.” So the hair transplant wasn’t a result of the protester’s attack after all? He gets high marks for being forthright about going under the knife.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Silvio Berlusconi and his ongoing cosmetic makeover. His work is never done, but at least he gave himself ample PR cover to go back for more.

The PR Takeaway: Honesty is not always the best policy. For the Kremlin’s strongman or Libya’s former dictator, collagen puffed bee-stung lips might provoke the hardest ridicule to suppress. Electorates are inherently suspicious of peacocks, and whether for a democratic candidate or a dictator, admitting to plastic surgery seems an unlikely electoral winner. From a PR point of view, this is one case where the “Never apologize, never explain” rule might be the way to go.

To see who else might have gone under the knife, check out Vanity Fair’s gallery here.

Should politicians admit to having plastic surgery? Should they even get it, since the results are usually obvious? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

Romney’s Offshore Accounts Wash Up Again

 Romneys Offshore Accounts Wash Up Again

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Mitt Romney.

Things are looking a little uncomfortable for Mitt Romney as chatter builds about his offshore tax dealings. Vanity Fair this month went into forensic details over Romney’s affairs, describing the “murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws.”

While there is no smoking gun, it is clear that Romney’s financial advisers were disciples of tax minimization. Trouble is, no one likes to read about a presidential candidate with offshore accounts. As Newt Gingrich said repeatedly during his campaign, “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.”

So far Team Romney has given a robust response: Romney’s affairs are in a blind trust and have been for some time. Romney is a smart businessman who doesn’t want to pay more tax than is necessary, but his team insists he pays the full whack of tax, according to U.S. rules, no matter where the assets are located. But is this enough to cut the chatter?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Romney’s handling of the issue so far. But what is the unanswered question that won’t go away?

The PR Takeaway: If a story won’t die, listen carefully for the question that is going unanswered. In this case, Romney’s campaign has done an impressive job in batting back the questions–they have disclosed some (certainly not all) of his tax records and details about his tax bill and trusts. The nagging issue continues to be; why was the money sent  offshore in the first place? Until Team Romney comes up with a convincing soundbite (if there is one), they should keep including the issue in their presidential debate rehearsals.

What do you think about Mitt Romney’s offshore accounts? Give us your PR Verdict, below!

 

 

 

 

 

Sofia Loren, Vanity Fair and the Perils of Being Boring

sofia loren3 150x150 Sofia Loren, Vanity Fair and the Perils of Being Boring

The PR Verdict: "C" for Sofia Loren and her PR strategy

What to think of Vanity’s Fair’s detailed profile of Sophia Loren?  Speaking from her home in Geneva, the 77 year old confides “My life is not a fairy tale, and it’s painful still to speak about it.”  And then over multiple pages goes into astonishing detail about precisely that- her life.

Rhapsodizing about the beauty and charm of the legendary actress, the profile gushes with more prosaic detail about La Loren than anyone but the most devoted of fans need ever know.

In the age of Twitter and news alerts it’s surprising readers continue to have the attention span for  this type of fawning journalism. The article has all the hallmarks of being managed from the outset by an overly vigilant PR who successfully edited out any real color or controversy.

The PR Verdict: “C” for Sophia Loren and her PR strategy.  An article that reads more like a press pack is PR done badly. While it may be “on-message” it makes for dull reading.

The article was a snore, mitigated only by highly stylized photos and the occasional sound bite.  Going to jail for 30-days for tax evasion in 1982, Loren conceded at the time, that it was all “due to a little mistake by a tax specialist”. To engage the reader,  more of this was needed.  Being less careful, less scripted and more spontaneous might have saved this article. Sometimes PR just needs to get out of the way.

What’s your view?  Let us know. To read the article click here.

NEWS FLASH : PR VERDICT QUOTED IN BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK RE PR AND GOLDMAN SACHS.  TO READ THE ARTICLE CLICK HERE