Best and Worst PR Moves of 2009 - Part I
I don't know about you, but I love "Best and Worst" lists. I'll even read a Best and Worst list in a category I don't care about just because they are usually fun. We want this blog to be fun and entertaining as well as informative, so I challenged our agency to compile their suggestions for the best and worst PR moves of 2009 (of course excluding our own programs). The emails started to come flying at me immediately. It clearly has been an interesting year in the PR realm.
Best PR Moves of 2009 (as always, there are more minuses than pluses, especially when the judges are communications pros)
Mine:Oprah's well orchestrated announcement regarding her decision to end her show after its 25th season. I blogged about this recently Oprah Winfrey knows how to control the message and create, rather than react to news.
The rehabilitation of A-Rod's image, post steroids and divorce/philandering scandal. As a Red Sox fan, I have to point out that figuring out how to hit in the post season and winning a World Series ring didn't hurt this process.
Steve Jobs comeback/recovery and its positive impact on Apple He was named CEO of the Decade by Fortune, which is not bad for a guy who had been written off as being on his death bed.
Ford Motor Company not taking any bailout money and then seeing the benefit in sales and increase in brand perception.
Even though Kanye’s interruption of Taylor Swift's award acceptance at the Video Music Award's was one of the worst PR moves of the year, Beyonce Knowles' response to the incident, sharing her limelight later during the ceremony to let Swift finish her acceptance speech, was one of the best moves.
Meredith Baxter did well announcing on the Today Show that she was gay before she was outed by the National Enquirer. The spin was very positive and she controlled the story.
New England Patriots' Teddy Bruschi’s illness/comeback/retirement. He was not only completely open about all phases of this, even to the point of becoming the face for life insurance in SBLI commercials. When he came back during the interim period, he was fully engaged. When he decided it was time to hang up his cleats, he did it with great dignity and candor.
As Lois referenced in a blog post in the Spring, public persona but intensely private man Jerry Remy was open about the depression he faced during his cancer treatment. He used social media during his leave of absence from his Red Sox color commentator duties to stay engaged with the Red Sox nation.
Worst PR Moves of 2009:
The federal Preventive Services Task Force's misfired recommendation that women under the age of 50 don't need mammograms every year, which infuriated women and seemed like an open invitation to health insurers to make it harder for women to get these screening tests covered for younger women.
To me, the worst is what has become of the great American pastime: The building up of ordinary people and/or sports and entertainment personalities to royalty status so that we can then tear them down one piece at a time. Witness: Jon and Kate, Michael Phelps, David Letterman, and, of course, Tiger Woods.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey riling up his largely liberal customer base by writing an Op Ed for the WSJ that criticized President Obama's health care reform initiative and suggested a list of conservative alternatives. There was a lot of flap about boycotting the store, although others commended him for being willing to speak his mind even if it offended his customer base. It got people talking, but it may have helped his nickname from his last PR debacle when he criticized a competitor online using an alias -- Wacky Mackey -- stick.
Those Climate Summit delegates who used almost 150 private jets and 1,200 limousines to attend the conference talking about carbon-dioxide emissions in Copenhagen. It was reported that there were so many planes expected that some would have to fly to nearby airports to wait for the delegates after dropping them off, and that they would be creating a total of 41,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. And we thought that auto industry CEOs looking for bailouts used poor form flying to Washington on their private jets . . .
Caroline Kennedy’s exploration of running for Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate seat. A lot of this took place in 2008 but she pulled out in January of 2009, after those awful middle of the night “I’m in, I’m out” calls to Gov. David Paterson
The use of the word "trick" in emails (that were eventually uncovered) being exchanged by scientists talking about global warming. One of the leaked emails from the director of The University of East Anglia, Climatic Research Unit showed climate statistics over the last millennium and referenced a technique used by a fellow scientist to "hide the decline" in recent global temperatures.
Some evidence appears to show a halt in a rise of global temperatures from about 1960, but is contradicted by other evidence which appears to show a rise in temperatures is continuing.
Jones wrote that, in compiling new data, he had "just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline," according to a leaked e-mail, which the author confirmed was genuine.
The use of the word "trick" by Jones has been seized on by skeptics - who say his e-mail offers proof of collusion between scientists to distort evidence to support their assertion that human activity is influencing climate change.
However, Jones denied manipulating evidence and insisted his comment had been taken out of context. "The word 'trick' was used here colloquially, as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward," he said in a statement Saturday."
Those crazy parents with the balloon boy!
Patrick Kennedy’s decision to take on the local Bishop, in public, for asking him to refrain from receiving Holy Communion at Mass due to his pro-choice stance. It was a silly, embarrassing incident on both sides, really, as Kennedy isn't alone as a pro-choice practicing Catholic. Maybe Bishop Thomas Tobin should make the list too!
Yes, it was a wild and wacky year from a communications perspective. Perhaps some of the craziness reflected the stresses of the economy. Perhaps they are examples of the new norm of self-promotion and exhibitionism engendered in reality TV. Regardless, they help us draw to a close, with a chuckle or two, some eye-rolling and polite applause 2009. We look to 2010 for a longer Best PR Moves list than Worst PR Moves list.