Coulson resigns, damages PRs sullied reputation

As documented in my book ‘Public Relations Disasters’, Andy Coulson is a major UK media player heavily linked to deceptive and unsavoury media practices. He’s just left the Tories in the lurch after resigning as Comms Director for David Cameron. I’ve long had this bee in my bonnet, that ex-journos are not ideal fodder for top communications roles. But clients often believe ex-journos to be all-powerful – how wrong.

As a former editor of the less-than-sparkling-clean newspaper the News of the World (c2007), Coulson elected to resign when his reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for hacking messages of personal telephones of the rich, famous and influential. At the time, Coulson said he took responsibility for it happening on his watch but denied knowing about it. If it’s possible to believe that a national newspaper editor did not know that his staff were covertly involved in hacking phones to steal the editorial march on competitors then he was a spectacularly inept newspaperman. If he did know about it, then Coulson has been lying all the while. The truth will out. Either way, it’s a PR disaster for him.

No long-term PR damage after NZ TV host's childish, racist comments

Over in New Zealand: first it was a TV show host’s immature jibes (think 14yr old schoolyard humour) about the name of one Delhi ministerial official, Sheila Dikshik. Then, the same host criticised that the country’s Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand, didn’t even sound like a ‘proper’ New Zealander (Sir Anand is a kiwi born and bred). Despite the insensitive, opinionated blurtings of the star TV host Paul Henry, Kiwi PR experts believe this has done nothing to diminish Henry’s attractiveness as a media property. Sad, innit?

Gillard, Arbib and the empty chair PR disaster

Apparently, Aussie PM Julia Gillard banned a senior Labour honcho – Mark Arbib – from appearing on the country’s most credible political panel discussion (Q&A) last night. Mischievously, the producers left Arbib’s seat empty thereby creating a risible talking point throughout the show. Having agreed to appear, then pulling the appearance, this looks like another major PR mis-step from the faltering Labour Party.

Veteran journo undone by Rabbi's flipcam interview

An informal media interview of doyen Whitehouse Correspondent Helen Thomas, and shot by a part-time film-maker and journalist Rabbi David Nesenoff, has led to Thomas’ resignation, and widespread condemnation of the tough scribe. Helen Thomas suggested that ‘Jews should get the hell out of Palestine’. With the video clip uploaded to Nesenoff’s site ‘rabbilive’ and YouTube, we see how digital and social media can prove hugely perilous to reputations; even that of a seasoned media expert like Thomas.

Sacked Deveny didn't understand Tweets are micro-Press Releases

A writer for Melbourne’s Age newspaper has suffered a PR disaster courtesy of her Twitter posts. Catherine Deveny patently failed to comprehend that Twitter posts are like PERSONAL PRESS RELEASES and, as such, can attract positive and negative attention. At an Australian TV awards function, Deveny tweeted bitchy posts including:  “I do so hope Bindi Irwin gets laid” (Ed. Bindi is 12yrs old). Of Gold Logie winner Rove McManus and his wife, actress Tasma Walton, she wrote “Rove and Tasma look so cute . . . hope she doesn’t die, too”. (Rove’s first wife, Belinda Emmett, died of cancer.) To me, these posts reveal a lot about Deveny’s nature. As reported in today’s The Age, Gordon Farrer looked for insight and found that Twitter and tweets reveal a lot about the true character of the tweet publisher. According to State University of NY professor Amy Murrell Taylor: “…tweets are very close to the originating thoughts of the author. Most of our sources are written after the fact, mediated by memory…mediated by editors.”

Hence the greater chance that a thoughtless post on Social Media could perhaps ruin your reputation and adversely affect your career.

No PR disaster; 50% of Aussie newspapers PR-driven

Champagne corks are popping in PR offices as a survey by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism has found that, on average, more than 50% of newspaper content could be identified as from a media release or clearly of a promotional nature. In late 2009, the survey looked a 5 days of coverage in 10 Aussie metropolitan newspapers analysing more than 2,000 stories. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph was shown to have 70% PR-driven (or drivel) content. Previous surveys by RMIT in Melbourne suggested an average of 70%, while Aussie stat guru (and my fellow presenter at IABC Hong Kong) Jim Macnamara suggested up to 80% of all newspaper editorial stemmed from PR sources. My old blogpal Trev Cook discusses it too.

Tiger Woods doing bad PR job on his PR disaster

Tiger Woods

As a PR counselor, I’ve analysed thousands of PR gaffes for my book and blog and, as I see it, the main mistake being made by Tiger Woods and his advisers is failing to understand the new media landscape’s hunger for every little detail. Smoke and mirrors simply don’t work any more, T. And as long as Woods offers up trite and hollow-sounding expressions of remorse – without providing any substantive clarification or admission – new media interests will continue to pursue the story until they get what they want. To effectively manage the issue, Woods or his advisers’ game plan must include the three R’s of crisis managementRegret, Responsibility and Remedial action. But I reckon there’s an added new rule of reputation management (driven mainly by Web2.0), which means that a fourth R – REAL applies. For me, Woods must move towards honesty and “Get Real”. Platitudes the wrong attitude! Woods’ (or his advisers’) attempts to ‘soft shoes shuffle’ the issue away is a rookie mistake. The longer Tiger takes to come clean and address the allegations in a responsible and genuine way, the longer the issues will play out in our ever-expanding, ever intrusive media. I’m also a bit concerned that Tiger Woods reputation management plans are being driven by lawyers, who may not be best qualified to counsel the golfer in the court of public opinion. Add to that, the fact that Woods previously unblemished reputation as one of the world’s nicest guys, actually works against him as those others involved air their dirty laundry over the matter. As the history of modern publicity crises – including Martha Stewart, Hugh Grant, Kobe Bryant and even the Catholic Church – demonstrate, the cleaner you purport or seem to be, the heavier the fall you take when the stuff hits the fan. For God’s sake tiger! What’s going on with the language used in the ‘media’ statement? Most audiences (particularly media commentators) seem unmoved by the quasi-religious tenor of Tiger Woods statements to date. Words such as “transgressions”, “confessions” and “personal sins” that may be intended to convey spiritual conscience do little to slake a desperate media’s thirst for the essence, the nitty gritty, of the allegations. And they will uncover ever sordid little secret that’s out there T. It could take a while too.

Tiger Woods must move to restore his credibility and a front foot position at a time when various other ‘players’ in the drama that is his personal life are coming to the fore. They are getting traction, while Tiger is being judged by inaction. I, Gerry McCusker, conclude that Woods might want to take control by fronting up to the media and public with an admission, some heartfelt contrition and tangible evidence that he’s prepared to address any problems or challenges in his life. As a fearless (and much-loved for it) sporting celebrity, this would reflect the kind of bravery and congruence the golfer’s adoring public expect from their idol.