In the Public Eye

It’s often said, the camera doesn’t lie. Nor or does it blink. The same can be said of social media.

Recently Mrs. Louise Linton Mnuchin, the new since-June wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin documented her posh summer lifestyle in Italy and France publicly on Instagram, complete with a parade of designer tags…”#TomFord,” “#Valenrinorockstudheels,” and #HermesScarf.” However, a brand spokesperson said these were not free products or compensation, The New York Times reported, for her “label-loving shoutout.”

Photo Courtesy of Business Insider

But the public arrogance begged for a defacing of her Wikipedia page, which can be edited by anyone. Following this criticism, Mrs. Mnuchin’s Instagram post featured herself as she and her husband and Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell disembarked from a government jet.

Commenting on the public posting, a 45-year-old mother of 3 from Oregon criticized her photo op, “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable.”

Grammatical error

Mrs. Mnuchin fired back defensively without the benefit of a grammar check….

“Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?” she wrote.

“I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day “trip” than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours.”

And finally, “You’re adorably out of touch.”

Touché.

Not what you say, but how you say it!

“It’s often not what you say, but how you say it.” Look for yourself. The words in this PSA were reflective and respectful, but Johnny Depp’s and actress wife, Amber Heard’s deadpan delivery was not. In it, they used the medium to show true disdain for Australians and their laws.

Video Courtesy The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

The  “apology” video is part of a plea bargain after charges for illegally importing their Yorkshire terriers into Australia in April 2015. In it, the couple are acting more like hostages or prisoners of war  than offering a genuine apology on the issue of  biosecurity. The script was thoughtful and well-written, but overshadowed by the stiff and insincere tone of the couple.

“Australia is a wonderful island, with a treasure trove of unique plants, animals and people. It has to be protected. Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are commonplace around the world. That is why Australia has to have such strong biosecurity laws.  Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct. When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly. I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared. Protecting Australia is important. Declare everything when you enter Australia.”

But at the Venice Film Festival last September, Mr. Depp quipped: “I killed my dogs and ate them under direct orders from some kind of, I don’t know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia,” presumably in reference to Australian Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce. The following week on Jimmy Kimmel, he threatened an “assault” on Mr. Joyce  if the Australian government tried to jail his wife.

After threats of dog euthanasia and 10 years jail time, Ms. Heard, an up-and-coming actress with recent roles in Magic Mike XXL and The Danish Girl, was sentenced to a one-month good behavior bond and a fine of $767.

Mr. Joyce mocked the video, remarking that it should be remade with “a little gusto,” but he is happy with the viral status it has attained.

At the end of it, we’ve got a message that is going all around the world right now. It’s going off like a frog in a sock (which Wikipedia defines as being excellent) telling people that if you come into this nation and you don’t obey our laws, you’re in trouble. That’s what this is about.”

He believes, however, that Mr. Depp will “not get an Academy Award for his performance.

When the Media Makes the Mistakes

Recently, the magazine publications of Adweek and Glamour used the power of the press without permission. Adweek featured actress Kerry Washington on its April 2016 cover with her skin lightened and her face photo-shopped. Glamour implied that comedian Amy Schumer is plus size by including her name with actress Melissa McCarthy, singer Adele, and plus-size model Ashley Graham on its “Chic at Any Size” special issue.

The two women objected on social media, taking to their Instagram accounts to address the situations. As a matter of principle, each took a risk by confronting the medias’ mistakes. But both were courteous and polite in their responses, stressing appreciation and positivity above all.

Photo Courtesy www.popsugar.com

Photo Courtesy www.dailymail.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Washington wrote:

“I love ADWEEK. It’s a publication I appreciate. And learn from[. . .] I have had the opportunity to address the impact of my altered image in the past and I think it’s a valuable conversation. Yesterday, however, I just felt weary. It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror. It’s an unfortunate feeling. That being said. You all have been very kind and supportive. Also, as I’ve said, I’m very proud of the article[. . .] Grab this week’s ADWEEK. Read it. I hope you enjoy it. And thank you for being patient with me while I figured out how to post this in a way that felt both celebratory and honest.”

Adweek editorial director James Cooper replied, calling Ms. Washington “a class act” and clarifying, “We meant no disrespect, quite the opposite. We are glad she is enthusiastic about the piece and appreciate her honest comments.”

Ms. Schumer also posted to Instagram, remarking that her permission was never sought and that plus size in America is considered to be size 16, while she goes between sizes 6 and 8. Glamour’s editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive quickly responded in a series of Tweets:

“…her longtime message of body positivity—& talking back to body haters—IS inspiring. (To me, too!) To be clear, size 6-8 is not plus. (Even size 12—frequent size of “plus” models—is smaller than average American woman!)… But women of all sizes can be inspired by one another’s words. So sorry if implication was otherwise, Amy.”

The two women navigated the media mistakes in such a positive, yet honest manner that everyone seemed satisfied; their messages were heard, and they received the apologies they deserved.

Republicans as Terrorists?

With the ninety-fifth anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, Hillary Clinton addressed the subject of women’s equality, by comparing her Republican opponents to terrorists.

Ms. Clinton said, “Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States. Yet they espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back.”

Photo courtesy of bgr.com

Photo courtesy of bgr.com

 

With such loaded language, Ms. Clinton diverted attention away from her views and onto her opponents. Jeb Bush later responded on Twitter by posting, “@HillaryClinton compares pro-life Americans to terrorists, but defends despicable Planned Parenthood treatment of unborn? Her priorities are totally wrong.”

While Ms. Clinton’s end goal of featuring herself as a progressive woman candidate for president was obvious, her execution was erroneous.  She could have focused on women’s rights without taking such a harsh and distracting jab at Republicans, which became the outrageous headline.

In both presentation skills and media training at READY FOR MEDIA, we advise clients to avoid loaded and negative words which can distract an audience and detract from your message.

Twitter: The 140-Character Soundbite

Social media has become every publicist’s nightmare. Rather than carefully formulating and crafting media responses through interviews, phone calls and media training, it is now possible for a moment of lapsed judgment to spiral into a media faux pas. Actor Alec Baldwin is the most recent example of this growing trend with a tweet from his car in New York City traffic.

Last week, a protest for a $15 minimum wage converged in Manhattan, slowing traffic to a crawl. The protest included thousands of single mothers, fast-food employees, home health care aides and others hoping to raise New York’s minimum wage to battle the city’s increasing cost of living.

While driving through New York City, Mr. Baldwin encountered a patch of traffic directly caused by the protester’s disruptions. In response, he tweeted, “Life in NY is hard enough as is. The goal is to not make it more so. How does clogging rush hour traffic from 59th St to 42 do any good?”

Photo courtesy of www.nysun.com

Photo courtesy of www.nysun.com

Instantly, many turned on the actor for insensitivity regarding an important issue. “Life in NY is hard,” wrote Rachael L. Swarns in the New York TIMES, “not because of driving in traffic,” but “because of struggling to pay the rent for even a single room,” or, “relying on Medicaid and food stamps to help support 3 children!” She went on to condemn the actor in her article with, “when protesters crossed the Selma bridge, no one asked how the traffic was disrupted.”

“Remind yourself that if traffic is your biggest problem … you’re probably fine.”

This is yet another instance in which Mr. Baldwin has gotten in trouble with social media. He originally deleted his Twitter account last summer after a tirade on Twitter lashing out at a journalist.
With the speed and ease in which Twitter and Facebook publish information, it is important to take a breath and think about what soundbite you are authoring.

#Boycott Media Mistake

Remember that, when used correctly, media coverage can be a powerful communications tool for yourself and your brand. So, before making any statement to the media, ask if yours is a message that will help or harm. Fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stephano Gabbana have recently offered personal opinions that did not reflect well on them or their brand to their customers.

In an interview with Italy’s Panorma Magazine, the two designers, both gay, came out against same-sex families and in vitro fertilization (IVF) . “I believe in a traditional family” Dolce said, “We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one.” They went on to say that IVF children are “chemistry children and synthetic children.”

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Gabbana (left) Dolce (right). Photo courtesy of instinctmagazine.com

This final quote made headlines when Singer Elton John, part of a same sex family with his partner and two children (both via IVF), took to social media posting on instagram, “How dare you refer to my beautiful children as “synthetic”. And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfill their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceandGabbana.”

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Elton John (left) with his partner and children. Photo courtesy of babycenter.com

The call for boycotting the fashion company was answered by both celebrities and customers alike. The trending hash tag reached the top of USA’s Twitter trending list as well as ranking its popularity in between #boycottclippers and #boycottisraelapartheid. The unfortunate part of this growing boycott trend is how it came to be. Commenting on an issue such as same-sex families, which has no relation to a fashion brand, has caused a dramatic backlash. The two have since commented saying, “We love everything. It was just an expression of a private point of view.”

Mr. Dolce and Gabbana’s media mistake was being caught off guard without an answer to BRIDGE to. Media training allows famous and not so famous folks alike, to practice and edit their answers to tough questions BEFORE their words get into print.​ Keeping this in mind will help determine if you are using media coverage as a positive or negative communications tool.

 

Racist Rambling

Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, is subject to a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine for racist remarks. The decision was applauded by NBA players, owners and others connected to the league. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also said that he would do everything in his power to force the sale of the team.

The scandal stems from the release of an audio tape that recorded Mr. Sterling making racist remarks to his girlfriend, Vanessa Stiviano. Mr. Sterling was scolding Ms. Stiviano for posting pictures of herself with black people to her Instagram account. He said that Ms. Stiviano can do whatever she wants in private, including have sex with black men, but she should not post photos of them to the internet or bring them to Clipper’s games.

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President Obama also responded to the controversy:

“When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. That’s what happened here.”

Mr. Sterling’s reputation is tarnished for his private comments made public. But in this electronic age, no one can afford to say what they should not. The audience is always listening!

Travoltifying!

More than pizza or a selfie, what deterred and distracted from the 86th annual Academy Awards was a Media Mistake heard round the world. John Travolta introduced Idina Menzel by the wrong name, Adele Dezeem!

Ms. Menzel, who played Maureen Johnson in Rent both onstage and on screen and Elphaba in Wicked, seemed unperturbed by the flub as she sang out Let It Go, from the animated film, Frozen.

But an estimated 43 million people who were watching did not let it go and have mocked Mr. Travolta relentlessly on social media. Taking on a life of its own, a new @handle was created for the faux-name: @AdeleDezeem. And an online tool was born so that others could find out how John Travolta would “travoltify” peoples’ names when introducing them.

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Although Mr. Travolta accredited her “wicked” talent, he rushed his introduction and slurred her name.

Best known for his roles as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and Danny Zuko in Grease, Mr. Travolta did not publicly apologize to Ms. Menzel for the mistake he made. Instead, he joked that she would say, as she sang, “Let it go, let it go.”

At READY FOR MEDIA, he would have learned presentation skills by acknowledging the media mistake with an apology and bridging to a soundbite that the media could take away. This media training three-step process is short, sweet and will keep you in the right light in the media.

A Rose By Any Other Name

 

bach

ABC’s newest Bachelor,  Juan Pablo Galavis seemed to be homophobic with his remark that gay people are more “pervert in a sense.” And ABC did not give a rose to Mr. Galavis for his comment. Instead they stated that his,

comments were careless, thoughtless and insensitive, and in no way reflect the views of the network, the show’s producers or studio.”

During the interview, Bachelor Galavis said in response to there being a gay bachelor,

“I don’t think it is a good example for kids to watch that on TV. It would be too hard for TV.”

Since then,  Mr. Galavis has apologized on his own Facebook page saying that it was an issue of  the language barrier, that “pervert” was not the word that he meant to use. He also was in touch with a gay rights organization, GLAAD, where he expressed:

“I have heard from many gay Latinos today who are hurt because of what I said and I apologize. I know gay parents and I support them and their families. They are good parents and loving families. I am a father and I know the feel of being a father, why wouldn’t I want my gay friends to also be happy parents?

I also want gay and lesbian youth to know that it is fine to be who you are. Gay or straight, Black or White, Latin or American, what matters here is to respect who we are.

Gay and lesbian people, and the children they are raising, wrongfully face discrimination and I want them to know that I’m on their side.”

Although Mr. Galavis  blames his vocabulary and language barrier, his portrayal in the limelight could have been saved with a few media interview techniques. His struggle for a response shows he also did not receive media coaching in either English or Spanish in order to understand what he should or should not say.

In the media, as in sports, the best defense is a good offense. Having Ready answers to bridge to when the media blindsides you with difficult questions is the answer!

 

Action Speaks Louder than Words

 

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In mid-February, residents of Bobtown, Pennsylvania were awakened by the sound of a massive blast in the town’s Chevron-owned fracking well. The blast killed one worker and injured another. And although the fire is out, residents are still concerned about the gas and heat being emitted into the atmosphere.

In response, Chevron’s Community Outreach Team compensated residents by distributing some 100 coupons for a free pizza and a 2-liter bottle of soda, accompanied by a statement:

Chevron recognizes the effect this had on the community. We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors, and the environment.

The letter also included a “toll-free community hotline” that led the caller to the voicemail of an unidentified person.

In making light of this very serious and tragic event, the oil giant turned it into a PR disaster, too. The apology was greeted with social media backlash from Bobtown residents and people around the country.

One blog even opined, “I see a possible new marketing campaign for Chevron: ‘We guarantee your fracking rig won’t explode, or your pizza is free!’”

Chevron would have benefitted more from their pledge striving “to achieve incident-free operations” with a more strategic and thoughtful plan, rather than seeming to buy off the community with pizza and pop.

Residents should have been addressed about the accident head on through a press conference held by Chevron executives and followed through with an investigation.

Moral: Every public relations response should be respectful and appropriate for the situation.