The 2011 “How We Learn From Others” PR Awards

The 2011 “How We Learn From Others” PR Awards

Posted by Marsha Friedman

Five of the Year’s Best Lessons From the Wild World of The Media

Article Highlights:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger’s head-on diffusion and Anthony Weiner’s denial and implosion.
  • Lindsay Lohan’s cry for attention.
  • Herman Caine’s affair denial that cost him his campaign and Newt Gingrich’s upfront admission that made the issue a non-starter.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot – and this year, there were a few that some media figures would certainly like to.

Now is the time the media looks back on the most significant stories of the year. Since we work with the media, we like to look back on the most significant stories in terms of PR. As comedian Jeff Foxworthy says, “You can’t fix stupid,” but what we can do is learn from others’ mistakes (and successes) to make better PR choices for ourselves.

Now, if as you read this year in review you see some decidedly “un-Marsha” phrases or ideas, it’s because the entire EMSI team contributed to these year-end awards and as media professionals, I felt their contributions were very valuable.

The “I’ll Be Back” Award

This one goes to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his deft handling of the revelation that he had fathered a son with his family’s housekeeper.

After the news came out on May 9 that Schwarzenegger and his wife, TV personality Maria Shriver, were separating, the media speculated wildly on what caused the split.    Rumors of extramarital affairs streamed onto the Internet, with one in particular, about his housekeeper, getting the most attention. On May 17, “Ah-nold” released the following statement:

“After leaving the governor’s office, I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago. I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused.”

And that was pretty much it. There were a few stories here and there about the housekeeper and a Twitter posting from the son, but the story faded in about two weeks. In the meantime, Tiger Woods, who suffered through a nine-month news cycle for his improprieties, assumingly went back and beat his attorneys and PR handlers with a 3-wood while saying, “Why didn’t we do THAT?!!”

Arnold handled his indiscretion with textbook-style directness.  He saw what was coming, issued his mea culpa in a humble and contrite fashion, and got the heck out of Dodge. Corporate Americaand celebrities should take a lesson from The Governator.  And don’t worry about Arnold. He’ll be back in “The Expendables 2” in 2012.

The “This Stuff Writes Itself” Award

This one has to go to former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner. To refresh: The influential Democrat legislator from New York got caught sending women photos of himself in his underwear. It was a scandal so sensational and so monumentally mishandled that, if it had been written as a Hollywood script, no studio would have ever made the movie because it was so unbelievable it would have been deemed too unrealistic for audiences to accept.

First, Weiner claimed the photo was a fake and someone hacked his account. Then he said the photo might have been him, and then he finally copped to the whole thing and resigned from office. It was the news story that wouldn’t end. If only Weiner had handled it like Arnold, the scandal wouldn’t have been so disastrous and he might have “terminated” the bad press sooner.

And his name was Weiner. That was worth the price of admission, alone.


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