Public Relations

Managing Backlash: ‘Julius Caesar,’ Donald Trump, and Shakespeare in the Park

Managing Backlash: ‘Julius Caesar,’ Donald Trump, and Shakespeare in the Park

A blonde solon in an ill-fitting suit lying dead on the Senate floor, bloody knives held aloft by a cohort of celebrating conspirators. It’s an arresting image, the onstage murder of a man we all immediately recognize as Donald Trump under another name, and in today’s fraught political climate – perhaps more so than at any time in living memory – it’s unsurprising that it has erupted into a firestorm.

It doesn’t matter that other politicos have been cast in the role of the very famously assassinated Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s legendary play before (so much so that it’s been called a “common trope”), up to and including Obama. 2017 is not like other years, and Donald Trump is not like other presidents. Tensions are high, and inflammatory art has been known to result in real violence. This country feels like a tinderbox, and hushed conversations regarding how exactly the president might be prematurely removed from office frequently accent dinner dates, street corners, and office break rooms. And nobody is entirely sure who they can trust.

This is, I imagine, what pre-war feels like.

And there on the stage, New York’s Public Theater shows the president repeatedly and brutally stabbed to death by his opponents. The resulting conflagration is exactly what you’d expect from a country torn so sharply in two that the opposing sides no longer often speak; for some, this is harmless art. For others, it’s an incitement to violence. And consider that it wasn’t that long ago that our national conversation was “should we or shouldn’t we take to the streets to fight out our differences?”

The news today of the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise only heightens the urgency of this conversation. The heightened tensions of the day are already boiling over into political violence. The mess The Public Theater has stepped in is extremely serious.

2016's PR Winners and Losers

2016's PR Winners and Losers

Having made a career out of managing crises and PR disasters, I can’t help but see the headlines through a particular lens. With another year gone by, 2016 was yet another fascinating year in the world of PR.

2015's PR Winners and Losers

2015's PR Winners and Losers

The Year's Most Memorable PR Moments & Cringeworthy Catastrophes

Having made a career out of managing crises and PR disasters, I can’t help but see the headlines through a particular lens. Suffice it to say, as far as PR goes, 2015 did not disappoint. With everything from bizarre rambling tweetstorms, mortifying meltdowns, and humiliatingly awkward blunders to damning exposé, blogging wars, and public feuds, the year saw a veritable smorgasbord of PR spectacles that were both comically entertaining and often captivating in their cringeworthiness. So without further adieu, below are a few of my top picks for 2015’s best PR moments — from the good to the bad to the just plain ugly.

Amazon’s New Parental Leave Expansion Is Smart PR Before Holiday Shopping Season

Amazon’s New Parental Leave Expansion Is Smart PR Before Holiday Shopping Season

In an internal email this past Monday, Amazon announced a new parental leave plan that provides paid paternity leave and extends paid maternity leave, to take effect on January 1st. Markedly, in addition to extending paid maternity leave to up to 20 weeks for birth mothers, the revamped policy adds six weeks of paid time-off for new parents – who have worked for the company for at least a year – regardless of gender, allowing new fathers paid time-off following the birth or adoption of a child for the first time in the e-commerce superpower’s 21-year-long history.

Following similar policy updates from Yahoo, Netflix, Microsoft, and Adobe, Amazon’s new plan brings the Seattle-based e-commerce giant up to speed with a growing group of tech companies that are working to improve family leave for their employees.

In reality, we have a very long way to go in securing the rights for working parents – the US is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave, with the UK guaranteeing 39 weeks paid maternal leave, Australia 18 weeks, and Mexico 12. Moreover, Amazon’s new plan is restricted to full-time employees and does not apply to contract or temporary workers, which are becoming far more prevalent in today’s on-demand economy. Additionally, one should keep in mind that just because a policy is adopted, that does not necessarily mean workers will have easy, unfettered, and encouraged access to it.

All of that said, the emerging trend is nonetheless an encouraging move toward workplace equality for both new mothers and fathers and is indicative of the longstanding demand for advancements in the rights of working families and ultimately a better work-life balance.

Calculated PR Move or Embarrassing Blunder?

Calculated PR Move or Embarrassing Blunder?

Last week, Tinder threw what is generally being described as a very public, cringe-inducing Twitter tantrum — deemed the Tinder Meltdown. Tinder’s rant, in the form of a series of “bizarre, defensive tweets,” was directed at Nancy Jo Sales, who wrote a recent Vanity Fair story detailing what she terms the “Dating Apocalypse” — that is, the hook-up culture centered around mobile dating apps like Tinder. Tinder apparently felt spurned by the piece and a resulting epic tweetstorm ensued. Tinder’s 30-tweet trainwreck garnered far more attention than the article that initially set it in motion, leading many to speculate that a trigger-happy social media intern would soon be taking the fall.

Interestingly enough — particularly to myself, having made a career out of managing crises and PR disasters — much of the conversation around the incident has circled around the PR implications of Tinder’s reaction. Some have called Tinder’s response a mindfully calculated and even successful PR stunt, while others describe the bizarre ramblings as a perfect example of “how not to PR.” The only real consensus seems to be that the tirade was both entertaining and captivating in its cringe-worthiness.

Unsurprisingly, it did eventually come to light that what initially appeared to be an emotionally driven, heat-of-the moment reaction of an individual Tinder employee on the warpath, was actually an intentionally planned-out PR move, albeit an incredibly misguided one. Yes, Tinder’s Twitter rant got a lot of people talking about Tinder — one need not be in PR or particularly astute to realize that the resulting press was essentially a free ad for the dating app — but in what manner and at what cost? It also had the effect of bringing a lot more attention to the original story that Tinder found so slighting in the first place. To be clear though, the actual harm goes far beyond airing their dirty laundry in public and thrusting one Vanity Fair writer’s criticism into the limelight.