Angelina Jolie’s Brave Announcement

Screen Shot 2013 05 14 at 9.37.25 PM 150x150 Angelina Jolies Brave Announcement The New York Times editorial started off sentimentally, with superstar Angelina Jolie writing of how her mother died young, at just 56 years-old, and before she had a chance to meet all of Jolie’s six children. Soon, though, it was clear Jolie was making a shocking announcement: she had recently undergone an elective double mastectomy after learning she carries a genetic mutation linked to significantly higher incidence of both breast and ovarian cancer.

The decision to have her breasts removed without a cancer diagnosis was surely an anguishing one for the 37-year-old Jolie, considered one of the world’s sexiest women. In the editorial, she explained her decision-making process and went into detail about the procedures. She addressed the emotional impact that mastectomy can have on a woman, and the critical role that partners (in Jolie’s case, the actor Brad Pitt) play during this difficult time. By saying she “started” with breast removal, she also hinted she may continue with more prophylactic surgery, such as a hysterectomy.

In all likelihood, Jolie could have kept mum about this life event. However, she said, she chose to go public to raise awareness about the genetic testing available to women and to give reassurance to those agonizing over the same decision. As one columnist at National Public Radio noted: “Someone will think about having a mastectomy and remember that Angelina Jolie had one, and she wasn’t embarrassed, and she still felt pretty, and she told everyone that it can be survived.”

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) for Angelina Jolie, whose announcement was a flawless example of using one’s celebrity platform in a constructive and selfless manner.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The way an announcement is made can be crucial to how it is perceived. Ms. Jolie shunned a huge press conference or one-on-one interview in favor of writing a thoughtful editorial in one of the world’s most venerable publications. In doing so, she was able to express herself fully and eloquently yet also remain protected from a barrage of follow-up questions. Perhaps most importantly, by writing the op-ed she made her announcement more about a health concern shared by many women and less about Angelina Jolie. Well done.

Sandberg Leans In

 Sandberg Leans In

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star) for Sheryl Sandberg.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, is currently everywhere, talking about her big idea for America’s working women. Her new book, Lean In, is about “women, work and the will to lead.” Her advice? “Stop leaning back and lean in.”

With some clever and strategic PR, anticipation leading up to the book’s release yesterday had been building. Starting with the Sunday talk shows, Sandberg was in most of the weekend press, followed by ubiquitous appearances on morning radio and TV chat shows. Her message is that women have stalled in their climb upward because they “quietly lean back,” worrying about how they’ll manage family and work commitments sometimes years before the issue is relevant. Sandberg says, keep your foot on the pedal until you need to brake.

Not a new message, but it sounds fresh. There is no mention of the glass ceiling, instead, Sandberg prescribes different wording to give her readers another way to look at an old issue: When you lean back, you lose momentum. How about leaning in and seeing what happens?

THE PR VERDICT: ”A” (PR Perfect) for Sandberg’s repackaging of established material, making a punchy sound bite and media blitz.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Old news can become new news. With a charismatic messenger and punchy sound bite, it is truly astonishing how much coverage and energy Sandberg has garnered for her new book. The secret: an elevator pitch that explains and instructs simultaneously. Sandberg’s message and the phrase  “Lean in” is set to become part of the modern lexicon, as popular as Facebook’s “Friending.” Sandberg has given American women not only timely advice, but also a new way to describe (and solve) and old problem. Smart.

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

mike mayo2 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR Perfect) to Mike Mayo (left) a financial analyst at Crédit Agricole Securities, for his perfectly crafted soundbite regarding beleaguered banking giant Citigroup. Mayo, well known on Wall Street, was opining on the reasons for the startling resignation of  Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit. Speaking to the Financial Times, Mayo was crisp, concise, and so very on-point when he said, “Citi is too big to fail, too big to regulate, too big to manage, and it has operated as if it’s too big to care.” Zing!

 

taliban21 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Taliban, which sunk to new lows by targeting media outlets that denounced their murder attempt on Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who wants education for women. Apparently, the Taliban is furious that Yousafzai’s “un-Islamic” behavior hasn’t been presented in the press – as though that would justify her being shot in the face for wanting to go to school. Worried about the PR fallout in their own domestic markets, it’s gratifying to observe that even Islamo-Fascists worry about public perception. The Taliban in need of a rebrand; who would have thought? And where to begin?

 

brad pitt chanel 0 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & Losers

THE “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” PR AWARD: The undisputed winner this week is fashion house Chanel, which has enlisted Brad Pitt for its new advertising campaign for its venerable fragrance, Chanel No.5. According to the PR blurb, the 30-second ad is meant to re-energize the 91-year-old brand with a “different point of view,” i.e., using a man to sell a fragrance for women. The commercial features Brad looking like he was plucked from a homeless shelter and saying, “The world turns, and we turn with it. Plans disappear, dreams take over. But wherever I go, there you are. My luck. My fate. My fortune. Chanel No. 5. Inevitable.”  The only inevitable thing about this commercial is that no one will have the faintest idea about what he is talking about. Truly and inevitably puzzling. To see the ad, click here.

Did we miss any spectacular highs or lows in public relations this week? Give us your PR Verdict!

IKEA Magic: Now You See Her, Now You Don’t

 IKEA Magic: Now You See Her, Now You Dont

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for IKEA.

Furniture retailer IKEA was caught off guard this week when a Swedish newspaper published pages from the Saudi Arabian edition of IKEA’s catalog.  What a surprise! Women in the Saudi edition had been Photoshopped out by local Saudi management.  Cue embarrassment for IKEA, a retailer that prides itself on liberal values.

The global catalogue is distributed to approximately 200 million households, but for the Saudis it contained unacceptable images that needed removing. What caused offense? A woman in her pajamas beside a bathroom sink. In Saudi Arabia, a Muslim country, women must conceal their bodies and hair. IKEA said in a statement that its does “not accept any kind of discrimination… We regret the current situation.” Management was keen to explain that the changes “do not align with IKEA Group’s values.”

IKEA Saudi Arabia is run by a franchisee outside the IKEA Group. Nevertheless, the company said it is “reviewing routines to safeguard correct content presentation from a values point of view.” Sensible and sensitive handling of this issue but, there could be trouble ahead.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for IKEA and a brand remaining true to its liberal streak, but beware of starting something that could become a cultural flashpoint.

The PR Takeaway: Marketing and discussions on broader cultural values rarely mix. What is puzzling about this news story is why IKEA hasn’t had this trouble before. Was a woman featured in the 2011 catalogue? What happened in the Saudi version then? It might have been easier to characterize this latest fuss as a breakdown in established procedures between a franchisee and a head office. IKEA has now stuck its neck out and committed publicly to a conversation about values. In a country as seemingly inflexible as Saudi Arabia, some things are best left unsaid. Better to have described this as a one-off business dispute between two partners and done the rest of the negotiations behind closed doors.

To read more, click here.

What’s your opinion of how IKEA handled this situation? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

Slaughter’s “Can’t Have It All” Doesn’t Include All

atlantic Slaughters Cant Have It All Doesnt Include All

The PR Verdict: “B” for The Atlantic and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Has anyone NOT heard about this month’s cover story of The Atlantic? Anne-Marie Slaughter of Princeton University, former foreign policy adviser to Hilary Clinton, has written a lengthy cover story pessimistically entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”  The article has had over 1,000, 000 hits within a week and kick-started a blizzard of discussions on the morning shows and online.

Several “A” list women have been booked to opine on the article. CBS had Sallie Krawcheck talking about her role as one of Wall Street’s heavy hitters at Bank of America. MSNBC had Gillian Tett, U.S. editor of the Financial Times. Slaughter herself has done the rounds, talking about her time at the State department and her luck in having a husband who worked in academia and therefore had more flexibility when it came to sharing childcare duties.

Slaughter’s message includes a rethinking of work practices and work/life balance. It’s not a new message, but it has caught fire. The wrinkle in her PR push? This has been almost exclusively an “A list ” discussion among women with truly impressive careers. Slaughter better be ready for the follow-up conversation concerning women who work to make the rent, and who haven’t the luxury of loftier ideals.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for Slaughter and her article that provoked huge media discussion. Sometimes an article taps into the zeitgeist; this seems to be one of them.

PR Takeaway: Head off a backlash early in the PR process. While Slaughter has captured the limelight in part due to her impressive career credentials, she misses out on a full mark as the conversation and PR positioning seem almost exclusively directed toward “A list” women. Slaughter might want to start preparing for the (inevitable) backlash. During the chat show rounds, vary the message by including women who don’t run the IMF or work at the State Department. Sometimes work is less about personal fulfillment and more about economic necessity.

Given the current economic situation, is Slaughter’s message on target or off-base? And should she prepare for a backlash after the initial blizzard of publicity? Give us your PR Verdict, below.