This Week in PR: What Made Us Cheer, What Made Us Cringe
In the Trump era, it’s not about who plays by the rules, but who plays to win. Gone are the days where politicians and executives stick to their talking points and bore us with fake civility. If you’re going to get your message out there and actually get someone to listen to you, you need to cut through the bullshit and get directly to the point. No one is playing footsie with the truth anymore: you’re either lying, or standing up for your principles.
This has been a week of fumbles, saves, fouls, and Hail Marys: starting with the Philadelphia Eagles. The football team was uninvited from visiting the White House, with President Trump tweeting that this was a response to only a small number of players RSVPing and because players had stayed in the locker room during the National Anthem.
While Trump didn’t stick to the facts — the Eagles have never kneeled during the National Anthem in the 2017 season — the Philadelphia mayor, Jim Kenney didn’t let this mistruth fly. He fired back, “I’m proud of the Eagles on & off the field. Our players represent the diversity of our nation — a nation where we’re free to express our opinions. Disinviting them only proves the President is not a true patriot.” He later went on CNN and said, “I think the president is playing the NFL like a fiddle and the Eagles are caught in the middle… He’s making it up as he goes along in an effort to divide this country more than he has already.”
In more head shaking, cringe-worthy moments in crisis comms, yesterday, Russell Berger, Crossfit’s chief knowledge officer tweeted he, “Personally believes celebrating ‘pride’ is a sin,” and he supported the Indiana workers who quit to protest having a workout honoring Pride Month.
While Berger’s words are the stuff of PR nightmares, the Crossfit CEO, Greg Glassman, responded almost immediately to his comments and told Buzzfeed, “He needs to take a big dose of ‘shut the fuck up’ and hide out for awhile….The whole company is upset. This changes his standing with us. What that looks like, I don’t know. It’s so unfortunate.” There is a part of me that wishes I wrote this soundbite.
Today, Berger was fired. And while people think great messaging is all spin, I’ve always preferred going directly to the truth. The CEO’s proactive approach and decisive course of action showed Crossfit supporters that the company that has made a name for itself building hard bodies also has an equally sound soul.
And to cap off a wild week of PR twists we didn’t see coming: Kim Kardashian’s meeting with President Trump turned out…well? What started as a joke on twitter, became a national outrage over the fact that a celebrity with no policy experience was meeting with Trump about a subject as important as prison reform. However, after her meeting, President Trump announced he was granting the prisoner Alice Marie Johnson, clemency.
Another woman took a page from the Trump playbook: underestimate me at your own risk. To the question: why did Kim K go to the White House? The answer is: because she can. And she got results.
In this new media era, the old rules and “media friendly” soundbites don’t apply. Spin is dead, truth is subjective, and the artful dropping of an F-bomb is exactly what a company needs to blow up. You don’t win playing it safe, you win by saying it like it is, and playing for keeps.