PR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) TO Fran and Jane Murnaghan, the parents of a 10-year-old girl, Sarah, who was dying of cystic fibrosis. Because she is under 12, Sarah was not eligible to be put on the adult national organ donor list for the lung transplant that could save her life. (Children are not eligible because most adult-sized organs simply won’t fit inside their smaller bodies.) “Sarah is being left to die,” her parents told the media, causing outrage and a debate. Was this about ethics, politics, or medical practicality? No answer there, but speedy congressional review resulted in doctors being able to request exceptions to the ruling. Sarah was bumped to the top of the donor list within days of launching their effort. The media had been mobilized. Her transplant was successful. PR can sometimes work miracles.
PR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, for his explanation of why he lied to Congress about wide-ranging surveillance programs. In March, when asked by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) if the National Security Agency was collecting data on millions of Americans, Clapper responded “No, sir…not wittingly.” As we now know, the NSA was very wittingly doing so. This week, Clapper said he felt trapped by the question so gave the “least untruthful” response. As a general rule, truth is pretty binary – something is either true or it’s not. He also said he misinterpreted the word “collect.” Who knew the Director of Intelligence had such comprehension problems? Interestingly, while Clapper’s inability to understand basic English may sink him from a PR perspective, it may also protect him from perjury charges. Perhaps the director is smarter than he seems.
THE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Kanye West, whose interview this week with The New York Times sets a new standard for unintended self-satire. His narcissistic ramblings on his own “awesomeness” could have appeared, unedited, in The Onion. The self-styled “Michael Jordan of music” has won “the most Grammys of anyone my age” and is “so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things” – like maybe how to conduct an interview? After earning a brief moment of pathos at the mention of his deceased mother, he notes that the “idea of Kanye and vanity are like, synonymous,” and inserts himself in a pantheon of visionaries that includes Miles Davis, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs. Of the latter, he notes: “I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump.” After more than 4,000 words of Kanye, mostly from his own mouth, one sort of hopes that will be a long jump off a short pier.