Former Burris PR Guy Throws Fuel on Fire

Did Bud Jackson really need to issue this self-aggrandizing memo yesterday?

Concerning Senator Roland Burris

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Members of the Media:

As many of you may recall I actively helped my former client, Roland Burris, during his run-up to being successfully seated in the United States Senate.

Since that time, well … his team’s public relations efforts have been less than stellar. Turns out that, because my business is political communication, I need to let folks know that I have not been involved in the decisions that have led to the public relations fiasco over the past week. In fact, I actively counseled his team to take very different actions, to no avail.

I have not returned countless calls from my friends in the media, partly because my role no longer includes responding to media queries, now that the Senator has his own official staff. If you are a member of the media, please contact Jim O’Connor, the new communications director (being shot out of a cannon) for Senator Burris at his Washington, DC office (202) 224-2852.

I know based on my own private conversations and experience that Senator Roland Burris has been the victim of bad advice and, when set-up to fail, he certainly shall we say, has had less than adequate attempts to better and more clearly inform the public at a press conference, or two. It has been painful to watch. Regardless, the senator has more than 30 years of public service and his integrity has never been questioned. I know that he has done nothing inappropriate despite the impression that has been left.

Despite what may or may not happen as a result of the mess that has been made, I stand behind my former client. To quote the movie Oh, Brother Where Art Thou Senator Burris is “in a tight spot.” It’s an unfortunate distraction for Illinois people who are most concerned about their jobs and their homes. It’s not so bad if you’re a Republican, a Democrat gunning for his seat, or if you’re trying to sell newspapers — they all benefit by painting everything in its worst possible context.

So to sum it all up: it’s complicated.

Sincerely, Bud Jackson

PR/Media Week in Review 02-22-2009

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are a vexations to the spirit … Ben Franklin said. Fair bet that ol’ Lightnin’ Ben would not have sidled up to Mark Rose, Editor, PRBlogNews, PR/Media Week in ReviewRick Santelli, the over caffeinated CNBC financial pundit. Santelli’s rant on CNBC this week about the unconscionable stimulus for the loser homeowners who are dragging down capitalism with their wasteful ways, hit a nerve like dentist’s drill in a root canal. 

It is not that Santelli ranted, he does that often. It’s that the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded in a press conference very specifically, with calculated emotion and a touch of humor. This sent CNBC financial pundits into bloviating glee as they circled the wagons to protect their own.

What this is really about can be summed up in a single word: ratings. The Santelli rant was supposedly the most emailed video in the blogosphere for the week and Santelli landed on the morning talk shows. The greatest insult to a ranter is to be ignored.

Robert Gibbs, White House Press SecretaryThe Obama administration also boosted its ratings because of this episode. Gibbs did not respond to Santelli entirely off the cuff. He periodically peered down as if he was reading message points. His nearly five minute response to Santelli was clear, concise and specific. On a broader scale he was answering all critics of the homeowner mortgage stimulus. Despite a sudden rash of attention, Gibbs neutralized Santelli, who will sound like a hurt kid in the schoolyard desperately vying for attention if he continues this tack.

Cogent Santelli slapdowns have come from an unlikely source – SeekingAlpha, the most popular finance blog. See a couple of posts: CNBC’s Specious Reporting on the Housing Plan and Rick Santelli: Critic or P.R. Man?

Amanda Knox, University of Washington student accused of murder in Perugia, ItalyPR? It’s murder.Can U.S. public relations influence the outcome of a murder trial across the Atlantic? The battle over Amanda Knox, dubbed Italy’s ‘Trial of the Century,’ ramped into high gear last week in a courtroom in Perugia, Italy.  This story has it all  – a vivacious American coed from University of Washington in Seattle, an alleged drug-fueled orgy that led to a grisly murder, conflicting testimonies and relentless spinning of stories to paint the accused, accomplices, prosecutors and legal authorities in a bad light.

Driving the U.S. push for Amanda Knox is a group of students, family and friends from Seattle called Friends of Amanda.  They are offered as  ‘character witnesses’ to the media. They proclaim Amanda’s innocence, present ‘facts’ of the case colored through their prism, and solicit donations through the Amanda Knox Defense Fund. 

The PR battle over Amanda Knox has become so heated that Italian prosecutor in the case Giuliano Mignini is reportedly suing the West Seattle Herald, a small community newspaper, for defamation.

Will these maneuvers impact the trial, expected to last at least six months? Last week the trial began in earnest and the PR spin ramped up. The Beastblogger Barbie Latza Nadeau is covering the case – see Sex and Murder in Italy - and the TV news shows are presenting frequent updates.

“I was asked by ‘Friends of Amanda’ to help turn around this supertanker of bad press over in Italy and get the truth out about Amanda’s innocence,” said Seattle attorney, Anne Bremner. “The prosecution has no forensic evidence at all. Zero. None.” – West Seattle Herald

A-Rod Bunts in PR Press Conference

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankee 3rd baseman, from New York Daily News, Feb. 18, 2009In his anti-climactic press conference yesterday at Yankee spring training camp in Tampa, Florida, Alex Rodriguez released some new information and hedged and maneuvered to put this all behind him. He chose to bunt instead of swinging for the fences – another lost opportunity for a high profile athlete to come clean and set a real example for contrition and re-birth.

The New York tabs have not been kind. See He Must Think We’re All Fools and The Truth Be Told, A-Roid Just Can’t (NY Post – graphic below right) — Alex Rodriguez Needs Dose of Truth Serum and A-Rod’s presser a laugher that wasn’t funny (NY Daily News – graphic left)

The tone of the press conference was set by Yankee media relations director Jason Zillo who would not allow follow-up questions from reporters. The press conference lasted a little over a half hour, far less than the 55 minutes Andy Pettitte was grilled at last year’s Yankee steroid shame-fest.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankee 3rd baseman, from New York Post, Feb. 18, 2009According to Tyler Kepner, The New York Times:  “Ben Porritt, a former spokesman for John McCain’s presidential campaign and a partner in the crisis-management firm Outside Eyes, sat off camera as Rodriguez explained and apologized.”  Add one more to the A-Rod coterie of PR consultants/image makers/handlers and agents. You wonder if Alex Rodriguez is capable of an honest emotion or thought that is not filtered through consultants.

The press conference was streamed live from several sources such as ESPN, MLB, and YES. What was the point, then, of the live blogging from many news organizations that amounted to a blow-by-blow of what we saw live?  The best live blogging on the event came from Alan Schwarz at The New York Times Bats blog. Schwarz added bemused color commentary that portrayed the event as a highly manipulated media circus.

1:52 p.m.
Yankees PR chief Jason Zillo just announced, “There will not be any follow-up questions … to keep this as efficient as possible.” That does not bode well for any revelations, folks. A lot more Q than A.

2:13 p.m.
Freudian Slip of the Decade: “I’m here to take my medicine.” Alex Rodriguez, Feb. 17, 2009

2:19 p.m.
First really good question (and a form of follow-up) came from Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post, who asked Rodriguez why, if he didn’t think what he was taking was wrong, was he so secretive and so reluctant to ask about proper procedure during the 2001-3 seasons. Rodriguez paused for a while, clearly cornered, and said: “That’s a good question. I knew what we were taking weren’t Tic Tacs. I knew that it was, potentially could be something that perhaps was wrong.”

I guess it all depends on what your definition of “was” was. 

2:27 p.m.
Joel Sherman of The New York Post tried to tie Rodriguez down on the matter of how in the world a $252 million athlete who otherwise takes great care of his body could be, if Rodriguez’s account is accurate, so foolhardy as to not know what he was taking or how to take it. Rodriguez repeated his “young and stupid” defense.

And what is this ‘bole’ that A-Rod said he injected into his body? From Brian’s blog:  “Bole” is clearly the Dominican slang for Primobolan.” A-Rod repeatedly said that his cousin secured the drug and they were both young and foolish. I guarantee that several reporters are in the Dominican Republic right now hunting for that cousin who A-Rod would not name.

This story will go on and on, and the damage will continue. A-Rod stepped up to the plate yesterday and struck out. I have a horrible feeling that for all their talent and all their money the Yankees are in for a miserable season, to the delight of baseball fans outside of New York. 

A-Rod Show Continues Today

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankee 3rd baseman, on cover of New Yorker, Feb. 23, 2009The pumped up Alex Rodriguez show kicks into high gear at 1:30 PM today at the Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, Florida. A-Rod will face the media en masse after his one-on-one with ESPN’s Peter Gammons last week left a lot of questions. In that interview A-Rod falsely accused Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts of stalking him and breaking into his home. A-Rod subsequently apologized to Roberts.

Expect a lot of hardball questions – Exactly what drugs did he take? Where did he get them? What did they do for him? – and some serious deflection and containment by A-Rod.

It is hard to keep up with all of A-Rod’s handlers, managers and advisors (Scott Boras, Guy Oseary, William Morris Agency, Richard Rubenstein). Plus, he supposedly has two therapists to keep his head on straight. Initial reports are that he will not be as open and contrite as Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte was at last year’s Yankee steroid media confession. That would be a mistake.

What A-Rod and the Yankees want is for this to recede into the background as quickly as possible. Hundreds of baseball players took performance enhancing drugs. Because this is A-Rod – he has assiduously polished his squeaky clean image and he flat out denied taking PED’s before he was caught – he will be hounded and the Yankees will suffer if he does not get it all out at once.

As if A-Rod is not getting enough advice, here is some more: don’t say ‘to be perfectly honest’ and then say you can’t remember what drugs you took, as he did with Gammons. A-Rod is meticulous about his body, his image and his work out regimen. He can only get away with that once.

(top left, Barry Blitt, cover of The New Yorker, Feb. 23, 2009)

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PR/Media Week in Review 02-15-2009

Mark Rose, Editor, PRBlogNews, PR/Media Week in ReviewNews You Can Lose. Every industry deserves the trade press it gets but can’t even lowly PR do better than PRNews? I deleted at least 10 emails from PRNews last week imploring me to buy their books, go to their conferences, attend webinars on media relations, media training, digital whatever… and I am constantly telemarketed to buy the print publication.  This despite my blog post 2/5 titled PRNews Stuck in Abacus Land that should have elicited some PR maneuvers or at least notified someone that I am not a good prospect for their stuff .

PRNews obviously knows nothing about PR - anybody who buys their dreck is either naive or over stimulated with stimulus funds. Still, repackaging the same PR ‘intelligence’ in a variety of formats and pushing it out to a resistant audience is apparently paying someone’s bills so we officially launch into that business today with the First Annual Media Relations Guide for PRummies (PR Dummies). We employ our own time-tested, field proven three step approach:

#1: Know your client’s business
#2: Know the media you are pitching
#3: Marry #1 & #2

We will send this ‘intelligence’ out in mass emails, conduct webinars, print books, and hold conferences all around the country. Stay tuned.

A-Rod’s Ass. A-Rod was all over the news last week, including several posts here. This Tuesday he is expected to face the press in the Yankees spring training camp. That should spark another round of A-Rod fueled stories that will only feed his already bloated celebrity. Will Selena Roberts, the Sports Illustrated ‘stalker,’ be allowed to participate?

Shrinking Media. Bloomberg announced its first ever layoffs last week. Dozens of staffers are facing the axe. Bloomberg always seemed immune to the pressure of traditional media. Now, with financial services in turmoil and media shrinking rapidly, Bloomberg is joining the rest of the world. Fret not, Mike Bloomberg himself is not hurting. He is able to scrape together $80 million or so for his next campaign to stay Mayor of New York.

Eight is Enough. The Killeen Furtney Group, a west coast PR firm, probably thought it was a good idea to represent octuplets mother Nadya Suleman pro bono. Then they started getting death threats. “They’d put me in the wood chipper and throw me in the bottom of the ocean and hope I die,” Killeen said. The Group decided last week that they will consider other ways to spend their non-billable time.