Media Orchard, one of the nation's most-read public relations blogs, today unveils its first-annual list of the year's 10 Worst Spins. The list presents the most shameless, silly, ineffective and/or ill-advised attempts to influence public perceptions.
And the winners are:
1. Michael Brown: The Nero of New Orleans.
He waded through the worst natural disaster in U.S. history with a trail of sycophantic PR people telling him (a la Fernando Lamas) he "looked fabulous." (The flacks did offer some advice, too; press secretary Sharon Worthy told Brown to "roll up his sleeves" -- literally -- so he'd look better on TV.) Brown has rebounded by starting a consulting company to help others learn from his experiences. That's some wicked spin, boys and girls.
2. Ford to Gay Pubs: "I Wish I Knew How to Quit You."
Ford stumbled into a political mess when it appeared to cave to right-wing demands to remove its ads from gay-oriented publications. It said, "It is clear there is a misperception about our intent." Then it put ads back in the gay pubs to "remove any ambiguity." Ambiguity?
3. Savvis: Topless Dancers, Bottomless Expense Accounts.
Robert McCormick, CEO of St. Louis IT services provider Savvis, racked up a $241,000 tab in one night at a New York strip club (roughly enough to get lap-danced to the moon and back.) Inexplicably, neither McCormick nor Savvis took care of the AmEx bill, so AmEx sued -- creating a humiliating public scandal. Savvis responded with a letter of apology that didn't actually include an apology, so Media Orchard did them a favor and rewrote it for them. Then Savvis whipped out the PR 101 playbook (Chapter 47: When to Announce Bad News) and issued McCormick's resignation over Thanksgiving.
4. Matt Drudge and Michelle Malkin: Liberal-Media Bashers Gone Wild.
PR people take a lot of flack (as it were) for their spinning abilities -- but nobody spins better than media and blog pundits. Two of the worst offenders are right-wing BS artists Matt and Michelle -- whose disingenuous rabble-rousing borders on the pathological. Drudge in 2005 tied the inarticulate rantings of a CNN switchboard operator to the vast liberal media conspiracy; Malkin linked a subpar Photoshop effort at USA Today to the self-same plot.
5. Mr. Youth: Jargon-Loving Boom 1.0 Throwback.
Matt Britton, you should be ashamed of yourself. A managing partner of New York-based student-marketing company Mr. Youth, Matt actually said this to a reporter (italics ours):
There is a paradigm shift in the way that corporations are marketing to college students. The student ambassador tactic embraces all the elements that corporations find most effective: It's peer-to-peer, it's word of mouth, it's flexible and it breaks through the clutter.
But is it best of breed? Scalable? An enterprise solution? Hoo-boy.
6. Bill O'Reilly: Savior of Christmas and Low Gas Prices.
We guess that, technically, megalomania is a mental illness -- so, technically, we should be nice to Bill O'Reilly. But that would be getting too technical for us. So we'll just point out that Bill took credit both for saving our most sacred holiday (Christmas) and reducing the price of our most precious commodity (oil) in the same year. Well done, Bill. Now, please stop smirking and yelling at us ... or, at least, stop doing one or the other. We're willing to compromise.
7. The Fox News PR Department: No-Tact Zone.
Charlie Reina, an ex-Fox News producer, wrote a letter to Jim Romenesko criticizing his former employer's coverage of religious issues. Fox's media relations director, Paul Schur, issued this tactful response:
Charlie's rants about Fox News are both predictable and sad. For his sake, we hope he stops howling at the moon and moves on with his life. We wish him well in his current role making cabinets out of his garage.
Way to stay above the fray, Paul.
8. Hillary Clinton: Defender of Family Values.
Hillary is spinning herself silly to broaden her base in preparation for her 2008 presidential run. Most irritating is her campaign against the "silent epidemic" of media sex and violence. The "epidemic" isn't really silent, of course; it's blasting out of every radio speaker and cineplex. It's the politicians who are silent -- except when it suits their purposes to squawk.
9. Mena Trott and Her PR Pals: Defenders of F-Bombs.
Mena, president of Web 2.0 darling Six Apart, gave a speech in Paris earlier this month on the importance of "civility" in blogging. Then, oddly, she cursed out a questioner from the audience, using lots of uncivil words. Making the whole episode even more surreal (and embarrassing for us PR bloggers), at least one "new PR" pundit suggested Mena hadn't erred at all, and had merely been "real." Real dumb, anyway.
10. ASU to Recruits: "Pay No Attention to Our Playboy Hotties."
Playboy plans to publish a coed pictorial featuring the "Top 10 Party Schools" in the May 2006 issue. The list leaked, revealing Arizona State University among the winners. ASU President Michael Crow sniffed that the listing is "a gross simplification that doesn't have anything to do with who we are and what we are." Michael doth protest too much, wethinks (sorry -- do they teach Shakespeare at ASU?)