bad PR

Tase a tambourine player

The Salvos better be looking out… though I maintain that part of the reason Jephthah went through with his vow in Judges 11 was that his daughter was dancing to timbrels.

“34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.”

Anyway. A church evicted an over enthusiastic tambourine player. Who then resisted arrest, and was tased.

Just a hint – that’s not why you want your church to be in the news.

Changing the tone of the carbon tax debate

There are times when people do really dumb stuff in the name of PR. And it’s clearly been orchestrated. Those are times that the PR people behind the ideas need to take responsibility. Prepping your minister, the Minister for Trade, to do a bad parody song on a TV interview – and it was a carefully prepared stunt, he even had permission from the band – is a bad idea. See just how bad here…

Somehow I think the message that Tony Abbott’s policy is a joke is going to get a bit lost here.

Tumblrweed: The Pepper Spray Cop

The other day a nasty policeman followed orders, and government policy and sprayed a bunch of peacefully protesting university students, who were peacefully protesting on the campus of their university, in a peaceful protest approved by university faculty, in their peaceful little faces, with some not very peaceful pepper spray. There were cameras everywhere. The cop has since been identified. Because that’s how the Internet works these days.

This image is evoking exactly the kind of reaction you’d expect, potentially providing a new set of martyrs for the Occupy Movement – because students are the 99%.

The other way the Internet works these days is via memes – memes which add fuel to the fire. I give you the “casually pepper spray everything” meme. And the tumblr (there’s some artwork there, as in famous paintings, not just meme fodder, featuring some nudity – just a warning (and some language)).

Some meta-memes…

Minority Report: Professional Athletes as victims

Here’s a hint. If you’re an ex-professional sports star, particularly an incredibly well paid member of one of the most lucrative sports in the world, say the NBA, and you’ve made millions from being an oversized white, anglo-saxon, possibly protestant male – that doesn’t entitle you to claim minority status if you’re in the running to be governor of your state. Being tall also doesn’t qualify you for “minority” status in a way that helps you empathise with the marginalised and downtrodden.

“When Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Dudley addressed the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs’ monthly “Coffee & Issues” breakfast on Sept. 24, he reprised a comment he’d made at an earlier interview with the Urban League of Portland.

“I heard him say he ‘understood what it was like to be a minority because he had played in the NBA.”

Yeah, even if he meant it as a joke it’s a pretty stupid joke to be making when you’re running for office. Basically, if what you say as a joke kicks up a media controversy and turns significant portions of the community against you, it’s a campaign no go zone.

Especially if your “minority” is one that millions strive to become and never achieve rather than being a quirk of your birth (though being ridiculously tall probably falls in that category).

Paper thin argument

The CEO of a paper company has called on people to print everything. Paperless offices kill the economy. Or something. This is why the Tobacco industry pays lobbyists to make egregious claims. You just look self interested and stupid when you come out telling people they need to use your product when a better alternative exists. You need a third party to do that for you.

John Williams, the president and chief executive officer of the Montreal-based fine-paper and pulp company, says the “think before you print” messages are “just bull” and he wants people to feel better about using paper responsibly.

“There is an appropriate use for paper. You should feel comfortable to use it appropriately and you shouldn’t be feeling there is some environmental negative when you use it,” Mr. Williams said at a news conference Monday.

“People do not have to feel guilty about using paper to print.”

Replace the word “paper” with “alcohol” and the word “print” with “drive” and you get some idea just how silly and selfish this campaign is.

Fox Trot

There are lots of PR lessons we can learn from celebrities today. Firstly. Megan Fox has lived up to her name, biting the hand that feeds her. Or at least the hand that raised her from obscurity.

Director Michael Bay cast Fox in Transformers, and the starlet had some rather unkind words to say about him in a magazine.

In her interview with a British magazine, Fox had said of Bay:

“He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation.

“He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is.

“He has no social skills at all.”

Ouch. That isn’t very nice. Some of the crew responded with a letter via Michael Bay’s blog – which he contributes to, but clearly doesn’t run, because he pulled it a couple of days later and posted his apology.

I subscribe to Michael Bay’s blog with google reader – so it’s not completely lost to you. And the SMH has a story on the letter today. Here’s an excerpt.

He granted her the starring role in Transformers, a franchise that forever changed her life; she became one of the most googled and oogled women on earth.

… Wait a minute, two of us worked with Angelina – second thought – she’s no Angelina.

…We know this quite intimately because we’ve had the tedious experience of working with the dumb-as-a-rock Megan Fox on both Transformers movies. We’ve spent a total of 12 months on set making these two movies.

We are in different departments; we can’t give our names because sadly doing so in Hollywood could lead to being banished from future Paramount work.

We actually don’t think she knows who Hitler is by the way. But we wondered how she doesn’t realize what a disgusting, fully uneducated comment this was?

Hopefully Michael will have Megatron squish her character in the first ten minutes of Transformers 3. We can tell you that will make the crew happy! …

Nice. Firstly, let me say, Godwin’s law needs to be more widely broadcast – comparing anybody – particularly a movie director – to Hitler is just plain silly.

Secondly, if you’re working in a close knit industry like Hollywood – or a regional area, or a city, or the Christian community – don’t bag out people who you’ve worked with. It’ll no doubt hurt you more than it hurts them.

What the Cronulla Sharks teach us about the News Cycle

The Cronulla saga is dragging on and on. The media are having a field day with the club and in one way or another the focus on the club’s on and off field discretions (and its culture) has claimed some pretty major scalps, including:

  1. Matthew Johns, high profile media star and former player
  2. Chairman Barry Pierce
  3. CEO Frank Zappia
  4. Captain Paul Gallen (lost the captaincy but is still playing)
  5. Greg Bird
  6. New signing (and drug taker) Reni Maitua

I wouldn’t be surprised if it now claims Ricky Stuart as well… his team isn’t performing, he was sacked as Australian coach for his tirade against a referee, and he’s now been embroiled in this whole CEO scandal.

The Sharks need a change of culture pretty quickly in order to save the club – and part of the cultural problem is a problem endemic in club sports – where mateship rules and indiscretions are swept under the carpet.

There have been a number of different scandals that have almost damaged the Sharks brand beyond repair. In fact, it may well be past the point of no return. The scandals came at a time when the club was already in dire financial straits – they’re in debt, they’re looking to sell or get the NRL’s blessing to relocate, since the Johns scandal they’ve been hemorrhaging sponsors – with their primary sponsor also pulling the pin.

They’ve been caught up in immorality, racism, violent assault and drug taking. And the media is loving it. The Sharks are buried in a quagmire of bad publicity – which is a PR nightmare (or opportunity if you like Crisis Management). And it’s been pretty poorly handled all round. The board has failed, the CEO has failed, the Shark’s PR girl is one of their main accusors, only the NRL and the NRL’s predominant media partner have come out of it in improved positions.

The NRL has taken a pretty down the line, hardline, stance – calling for cultural change and including to back its associated club. David Gallop has had far too much practice in this sort of situation to do anything less than a good job.

Nine has put Matthew Johns through the ringer (gaining great ratings in doing so) and managed to both distance themselves (through his sacking), show empathy (through Phil Gould’s tears on the Footy Show), and they’ve left the door slightly ajar for Johns with the Sam Newman precedent… they’ve also changed the content of the Footy Show – and made it less offensively boorish and more about the game.

In a couple of cases – particularly with Matthew Johns and Frank Zappia –  there has been a clear instance of media manipulation as their respective PR people try to turn the tide – discrediting whoever has made the claim against them… in both cases women, and in both cases about inappropriate treatment of women.

The Sharks have an endemic cultural problem – but that’s an altogether different topic. But they have also failed grossly in managing and protecting their brand. When the accusations first came to light they should have immediately stood down their board and elected fresh faces (which they tried to do but this was politically circumvented by the current board), sacked the CEO, and started a massive proactive “cultural clean up” – instead they’ve, to steal a mafia term, “gone to the mattresses” – they’re trying to fight it out, while hiding. The Chairman was re-elected unopposed at a board meeting, the CEO was given support despite obviously financially mismanaging the club – and not taking appropriate action regarding the culture. And they’re paying for it – because the net effect of taking these steps has now been realised – but it wasn’t voluntary. And it looks like the media has forced their hand.

They’ve also tried to play the media outlets against one another – which is never a good move. Fairfax blasted them for allegedly engaging in a number of immoral practices to essentially keep the players happy – and they ran to News Ltd to publish a counter story – now their ex-PR representative says the stories were true. News Ltd now has egg on its face.  When managing a crisis you should never, ever, lie. It is, if there is a worst time to do it, the worst time to do it.

After Matthew Johns was brought to tears and the point of collapse on A Current Affair stories started to circulate from “unnamed friends” of “Clare” that she had in fact spent the weeks following the incident bragging about her conquest. Stories that began to paint Johns in a new, less guilty light. Here are two stories from the opposite ends of the media spectrum (ABC and Fox Sports) released within an hour of each other… notice the similarity in the headlines:

Now, after Frank Zappia stands down, we see a story aiming to discredit the key witness in his prosecution. A girl he allegedly punched in the face and then suggested receiving a “spanking” as appropriate recompense.  She apparently signed a document clearing him of wrongdoing. The woman at the centre of the claim is on the record as wanting to keep her job – despite the incident. This couldn’t be a factor? She’s also got that pesky audio recording that would seem to suggest the wrongdoing occurred – despite what a signed, written report might say. Channel 7 is having a field day with that exclusive.

The best PR, if you’re guilty, is to fall on your sword with grace and aplomb. Not to go down fighting. That drags your brand down with you. None of the men involved are bigger than the club they represent – and none of them are acting as representatives by staying on.  They can’t fix the problem when they are the problem. There’s a precedent here too. The Bulldogs have essentially resurrected their brand (and their performances on the field) following a similar cultural cleanout – that encompassed both playing personnel and backroom staff. Their fullback Luke Patten had some wise words for the Sharks to consider…

“I guess the club just made some tough decisions.”

“Anyone that was stuffing up, they got rid of them and they brought (CEO) Todd Greenberg in and he just made decision after decision really – new coach, all new staff, new players and with that everything’s changed.”

“There’s a new attitude and everyone’s working really hard for that and maybe the Sharks, that is something they can look at.”

Emoticonally challenged

Back in 2006 I wrote about why I hate emoticons. Basically if you use them incessantly or if your online dialogue is peppered with LOLs and ROFLs then I’ll probably find online discourse with you really annoying.

Emoticons and LOLs are starting to appear in actual verbal conversation. People now indicate laughter by saying LOL LOL LOL. If each of those LOLs is indicative of a bout of real life laughter then basically you’re abbreviating your response to things and packing in added hilarity. People also now feel the need to articulate the expression on their face – by saying “sadface” where they’d traditionally :( in typed text. This is sad. Particularly in the light of research that shows face to face communication is about 58 percent non-verbal, 35 percent “vocal” (tone etc)  and only 7% verbal (the words you use). And it’s annoying. This is a bit ranty, and it’s really just an intro to a story I just read and thought I’d share…

We may never know the degree of sorrow felt by a young Novosibirsk woman over the traffic cop she struck and killed with her car while driving drunk. But a senior traffic safety official said the “cynicism” of the suspect is exemplified by the text message – complete with emoticon – she sent her boyfriend after killing the officer:

“Honey, I killed a cop. I’m sorry :( What should I do?”

Yeah, nice. Her emotions are so beautifully captured by a colon and a parenthesis. That, to pick up another piece of online lingo is a “sympathy fail”.

The boyfriend’s priceless PR advice:

Create a “scandal and don’t say or sign anything.”

That is all.

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