Been to any good parties lately? Is anyone feeling more than a hint of envy and disappointment at not having been invited to Silvio Berlusconi’s rather extravagant soirees, currently being described in excruciating detail in an Italian court.
The former Premier of Italy is on trial for allegedly paying a 17-year-old Moroccan girl for sex (left), then using his influence in 2010 to cover it up. He has denied the charges but details emerge daily about the parties he was either hosting or attending. The key finding? His entertaining style was more Girls Gone Wild than formal state dinners.
Yesterday’s revelation that the fetes involved female guests allegedly dressing as nuns and stripping for titillated guests will ensure this is what Berlusconi is remembered for. His political legacy has now become permanently entwined with jokes about bunga-bunga, strippers nuns and Sister Act.
The PR Verdict: “F” for Berlusconi and his hope of imparting a political legacy. These headlines will define his premiership.
PR Takeaway: Anecdotes kill reputations faster than any long-winded critical evaluation. To permanently damage a person’s reputation all that is needed is a simple incident that can be forever used by detractors as shorthand for a wider moral failing. Clinton had it with cigars, John Edwards had it with $500 haircuts, while corporate tycoons had it with ice sculptures looking like centurions and $6000 dollar shower curtains. The anecdote is usually the opening paragraph to any story. It’s an uphill and often unsuccessful battle to change the perception from then on.
What’s your PR Verdict?