PRISM, Through the PR Looking Glass

 PRISM, Through the PR Looking Glass

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Silicon Valley’s tech giants, for keeping it short but not mincing words in response to PRISM allegations.

PRISM, news outlets reported last week, is a clandestine program under which the US National Security Agency obtained “direct” access to the servers of Microsoft, Apple, Google, AOL, and Facebook, all of whom signed on to the program. The disclosure came on the heels of similar revelations about the government obtaining call logs of Verizon customers and spying on journalists. As described by the media, PRISM, an acronym for “Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management,” appears to be far more obtrusive and Orwellian than previously thought. One anonymous source said it enabled the NSA to “literally watch you as you type.”

Or does it? Faster than a trending tweet, the companies mentioned as being complicit in the citizen spying issued unambiguous denials. “Outrageous,” said Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. “Never heard of PRISM,” said Apple. Those denials, plus the government’s declassification and disclosure of some PRISM details, cast doubt on the story, which drew surprisingly muted public outrage anyway. Verizon’s response, in contrast, seemed contrived and concerned more with containing PR damage. The Washington Post, one of the outlets that broke the story, appeared later to walk back its initial reporting as other media outlets found experts to assert that the leaked PRISM documents had been misread.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Silicon Valley’s tech giants, for keeping it short.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep it simple. When the story is misleading or just plain wrong, don’t waste a second in responding. Don’t get bogged down in ambiguous language that produces the infamous non-denial denial. Sometimes PR is not just about PR; it’s about setting the record straight, and doing so before a story long on accusations but short on facts spins wildly out of control. Journalists can make mistakes and some – gasp! – have agendas. When the press bites, reach out to your journalism friends (you have made some friends, haven’t you?) to set the story straight. And remember; bonus points for acting aggrieved, not angry.

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 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for pulling off another political pirouette. A week after rekindling his late summer hurricane “bromance” with President Obama, the Republican governor put the partisan gloves back on in the wake of Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s death. Christie appointed the state’s Republican Attorney General to caretake Lautenberg’s seat and called an early, off-cycle election to fill the seat permanently. No matter that the special election will cost taxpayers an extra $24 million; Christie successfully sold it as being in the state’s best interests. Of course, it nicely serves the GOP’s and his own interests as well by keeping a popular Democrat and his strong partisan support out of the November general election. A purely political calculation, but Christie made it look like he was just doing the right thing for his constituents.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO Major League Baseball’s latest steroid scandal. Twenty baseball heavyweights, including Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees (left), are under investigation for alleged involvement in a Florida “anti-aging clinic” whose elixir of youth was performance enhancing drugs. A-Rod previously admitted to taking PEDs from 2001-3, but has denied taking them since. If found to be lying, he could face a 100-game suspension. No word on the effect that will have on his 10-year, $275 million contract, especially after a bad season.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to The Guardian, the British newspaper that breathlessly reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) issued a “top secret” order for the daily phone records of millions of Verizon customers. The order, the paper said, “shows the scale of surveillance under the Obama administration.” US lawmakers, who can usually find outrage in a cup of coffee, were unmoved. Senior Democrats and Republicans in Congress said they know about it and have no particular problem with it, especially in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. The White House simply said measures are in place to ensure that the program, which does not permit authorities to listen in on phone calls, complies with various laws. It also appears this clandestine order The Guardian stumbled upon may just be a reauthorization of a program that’s gone on for years. Phonegate it’s not. Ho-hum.