The best and worst PR of 2001

With tragic news dominating the final weeks of 2001, it would be

easy to forget the other PR stories. Unfortunately for Condit and Co.,

PRWeek readers have pretty good memories.


Broadway Performers Unite After five Broadway shows struck their sets in

the wake of 9/11, the League of American Theaters and Producers got its

act together, and its stars singing in the streets. Ticket sales rose


Beijing Olympic Win And the display of the spirit of competition goes

to ... the home of human rights abuse. If that doesn't prove the ability of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, what would?

Jack Welch appoints Jeff Immelt VP of corporate communications Beth

Comstock juggled six external agencies, 25 internal staffers, an EPA

battle, a failed Honeywell buyout, and oh, the succession of the world's

most powerful CEO. All in a day's work.

Boeing moves its HQ to Chicago

With less than a day's notice, Edelman and Boeing's in-house team

managed to spread the message of diversifying Boeing's business rather

than the image of Seattle's abandoners.

Segway Human Transporter Burson-Marsteller saw to it that you really

wanted to know what was behind that white wall. And plenty of normally

sane folk readied themselves to part with $8,000 for ... a


McDonald's contest crisis

Promotion agency Simon Worldwide called in the Masters of Disaster, Mark

Lehane and Chris Fabiani, after it was discovered that the chances of

winning weren't ridiculously unlikely, but nil. The Masters saw to it

that we were all soon back to munching our McNuggets as usual.

Human genome project Craig Venter, president of Celera Genomics,

explained that humans are made up of far fewer genes than previously

thought, and that gene therapy is a very realistic possibility as a

result. Who wants to be in science class?

Sen. Bob Kerry deflects allegations

The gentleman from Nebraska diffused a ticking time bomb by revealing

his squad's slaughter of Vietnamese civilians, proving that no matter

how ugly the truth, honesty is still the best policy.

Jacko opens the NASDAQ

There are no questions as to the efficiency of the Wacko PR machine - he

seemed omnipresent as he went about promoting his new album and comeback


One Book, One Chicago

Promoting literacy and bridging ethnic divides simultaneously is easy:

Have everyone read To Kill A Mockingbird. Even better, make it look like

your city is the first to try the initiative.


1. Harry Potter JK Rowling

Pottermania may be sweeping the nation and selling out movie theaters,

but it's worth noting that this book also grabbed the most votes in our

poll asking which books were a complete waste of time.

2. Good to Great Jim Collins In Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make

the Leap and Others Don't, Jim Collins, author of another business

bible, Built to Last, concludes that greatness doesn't necessarily come

from a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, or a fine-tuned

strategy. Rather, it's about companies finding and promoting people who

think and act in a disciplined manner, and are passionate about a good

product. Not a bad idea.

3. Straight From the Gut Jack Welch Newsday said that "anyone who really

cares about business" would read it. While Nobuyuki Idei, Sony CEO,

admitted he was grateful that Jack had finally unveiled the secrets of

his management technique, namely: sheer force of personality, a passion

for details, and encouraging candor.

4. Big Brands Big Trouble Jack Trout The author of such gems as 22

Immutable Laws of Marketing is at it again. Some criticized this book

for being rather similar to his others, but Trout's simplistic

principles bear repetition.

In Big Brands Big Trouble, you'll learn why Xerox missed the chance to

become laser printer king, how Crest lost out to Colgate, and why AT&T

should have stuck to telephones. It's a useful refresher in those basic


5. The Final Days Barbara Olson

The conservative commentator, killed on September 11 when the plane she

was on crashed into the Pentagon, had a special insight into the

workings of the White House, having been chief investigative counsel to

the House Committee on Government Reform during its probe into the

"Travelgate" scandal. In The Final Days, she applies this insight to

"excesses" of the Clintons' final days in office.


1. Rudy Giuliani Newsweek commented, "36 hours after he first rushed to

the World Trade Center, the mayor's neo-Churchillian reputation was

already secure." For a while, of course, it looked as if his posturing

to have the mayoral term limits changed might turn the media against

him, but the eulogistic column inches just kept on coming. Credit is

also due here to his comms and press teams, who worked almost as

tirelessly as did the great communicator himself.

2. George W. Bush One respondent to PRWeek's survey commented, "Bush

went from seeming an embarrassment to an asset in the space of a few

days." In an article entitled 'Echoes of Lincoln,' The Washington Post

remarked: "Bush was inaugurated eight months ago, but became President

on Thursday night." The skyrocketing polls told the same story, and his

television addresses were widely praised for being "plain speaking" and

"heartfelt." Karen Hughes and the speech-writers deserve a pat on the


3. JK Rowling Four-and-a-half years ago, Rowling was teaching French in

a Scottish high school, and being serenaded down the halls to the theme

from Rawhide ("Rolling, rolling, rolling, keep those wagons

rolling ...").

Now, having cast her spell on pretty much everyone, she's pictured

everywhere, written about by everyone, 18th highest-earning celebrity in

the world ... her wagon looks pretty much unstoppable.

4. Angelina Jolie

To see why Jolie garnered so many votes, just scan the clips. The Los

Angeles Daily News said, "Obviously more than a pretty face - an Oscar

to her credit - Jolie is one of the few actresses who command the screen

the way the stars of the '40s like Ingrid Bergman once did." Add a

$1 million donation to Afghan refugees, an appointment as a

goodwill ambassador for the UN, and those little leather shorts, and you

have the recipe for great publicity.

5. Dean Kamen Wired magazine summed IT up: "When news of a purportedly

revolutionary device called 'Ginger' first broke, Dean Kamen, the

thing's inventor, gained something engineers rarely get: fame." And that

was back in March. Since then, a cunning press campaign with tidbits

'leaking' out here and there, followed by a beautifully coordinated big

splash, has turned Kamen from a hero of the geeks into a household



1. Britney Spears Maybe respondents were taking the question a little

too literally, or perhaps this was the year the princess of pop's

publicity reached overkill. Virgin she might be, she certainly spread

her favors when it came to getting in bed with marketers - Skechers,

Polaroid, and Pepsi all signed her.The latter was reportedly annoyed by

her appearance holding a can of Coke in Sydney, a mistake she repeated

weeks later in California, prompting a rash of "Oops ... she did it

again" headlines.

2. Gary Condit If the cliche about any publicity being good publicity

were true, Condit will clean up in his bid to be re-elected as a

California representative.

But as we all know, it's nonsense - and Condit's case proves it. Since

Chandra Levy went missing, the media hounds have savaged the


His children all appeared on prime time TV, and then came that grueling

grilling by Connie Chung. And it's not over yet.

3. Tom & Nicole Actually, Thomas Cruise Mapother IV got slightly more

votes for being "over-exposed" than Kidman, but most respondents lumped

them together despite their divorce. The split had the media's eyes wide

open with acres of coverage. Kidman revealed a sense of humor, telling

David Letterman she'd be "able to wear heels now." Cruise, on the other

hand, took to suing a gay erotic wrestler who had allegedly claimed to

have a relationship with him.

4. Bill Gates David Banks' book Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled

The Future of Microsoft, led to surmise, "There's nothing wrong

with Microsoft Bill Gates can't fix. By leaving." But that didn't deter

the self-anointed chief software architect from proffering opinions on

everything from net advertising, XML,and the future of computing,

through to AIDS. And then there was the Gates-orchestrated launch of

Windows XP. It's no wonder the ennui has set in.

5. Lizzie Grubman Outside of New York's navel-gazing media scene, it's

questionable whether anyone really gives two hoots about this

publicist's antics. But it didn't seem that way in the summer, when the

tale of how she reversed her SUV into the crowd outside a Hamptons

nightclub vied with endless shark-attack reports for the title of most

endlessly rehashed story.


1. Apple Computer Faced with tougher times, niggling queries over

compatibility issues, and criticism that it has somewhat abandoned the

sub-$1,000 market, Apple has done what it does best: "Going back

to the arms of creative professionals," as the San Jose Mercury News put


PR pros might fit that bill, and clearly, they love Apple. Our guess is

the iPod mp3 player will top more than a few Christmas wish lists this


2. Palm Although not to the same degree as Palm, respondents also cited

Blackberry and Handspring as brands they'd grown closer to.

We could explain the greater interest in hand-held devices as a desire

on the behalf of PR professionals to become better organized and have

client information at the tips of their styluses, but it's just as

likely that they're primarily interested in breaking their colleagues'

records in DopeWars.

3. The Red Cross When it was revealed that the charity would only give

out half of the nearly $600 million it had collected for the

families of victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks,

Congressional and media outrage ensued. And even after the head of the

organization resigned and the Red Cross gave in to public pressure,

agreeing to direct all of the donated funds to the victims' families, it

didn't appear to cloud PR pros' views of the group's great work in the

wake of the tragedy.

4. United Airlines United flights 93 and 175 were at the center of the

tragic events of September 11. Since then, United has posted record

losses of $1.6 billion in the third quarter, and has had a change

of leadership following the resignation of CEO James Goodwin. But the

spirit encapsulated by those "We Are United" ads seems to have kept the

goodwill flying.

5. Nokia The Wall Street Journal quoted Per Lindberg analyst Dresdner

Kleinwort Wasserstein as saying, "There is little doubt that Nokia is

gradually losing its competitive edge." But consumers still love the

Finnish clobber, with Nokia overtaking Palm and Compaq in the European

hand-held market, and young US professionals snapping up Nokia phones. A

recent article in The New Yorker credited creative innovations in style

and utility as the reasons behind Nokia's domination of the mobile

communications market worldwide.


1. Microsoft Is it that annoying little humanized paperclip thingummy

that pops up in the corner of your screen to offer help at the least

appropriate moments? Or is it that you just can't stand a global giant

that has a bad attitude toward its competitors? Whatever the reason, you

sure don't like Microsoft.

2. Ford When Ford's most profitable line, the top-selling sports utility

vehicle the Explorer, earned itself the nickname 'the Exploder,' Ford

had to try and limit the damage to its reputation. But its battle of

blame with Firestone looked undignified to the public. Now, according to

The Detroit News, Ford is looking to close plants and slash employee

benefits. And the next major cut may have to be Ford's zero-percent


3. Firestone "Your tires come apart at the seams!" "Yeah? Well, your

SUVs have an under-steer issue." Clearly, PR pros weren't impressed by

the way the Firestone recall crisis was managed. Firestone didn't help

itself when it at first only offered a recall of tires belonging to

Explorer owners in Southern states, as the problems seemed more likely

to occur in warm-temperature climates. This left Explorer owners in

chillier states ice-cold, unsatisfied that they would be driving with

unsafe tires for a little longer than they expected.

4. Starbucks One respondent to the survey commented, "And to think,

there used to be a Blarney Stone on every corner." Whether it's the

genetically-engineered-foods critics, the green lobby protesting rain

forest clearances, or the activists who'd like to see coffee producers

get a bigger share of Starbucks' profits, the Seattle java giant is

being bad-mouthed with increasing regularity.

Of course, it didn't help when a Starbucks near the World Trade Center

charged emergency crews over $100 for bottled water. Starbucks

later reimbursed the emergency workers, but the damage was already


5. Philip Morris It can change its name to Altria Group, but can it

change its image? Critics now openly accuse the tobacco giant of using

some pretty devious means to get young smokers hooked in developing and

third-world countries, such as selling either single cigarettes or packs

of 10, thus making tobacco more affordable. With that kind of press,

it's no wonder Philip Morris earned a few votes in this category.


1. Rudy Giuliani

We were thinking about calling this category 'four best communicators

other than Rudy Giuliani,' but that might look biased. We needn't have

worried. Rudy garnered three times more votes than his nearest

competitor for his "calm," "commanding," and above all, "compassionate"

communication. Even with Giuliani's ringing endorsement, this will leave

some incredibly big shoes to fill for Mayor-elect Mike Bloomberg.

But he's learning from the master, having accompanied Giuliani on a

recent publicity trip to Israel.

2. Donald Rumsfeld Michael Getler of The Washington Post opined, "The

war effort has an authoritative spokesman in Donald Rumsfeld, who may

not reveal much, but who projects the sense of being in charge, and of

knowing what is going on, and who is adept at explaining this complex

battle." That competence obviously shone through to PR pros as well.

3. David Letterman Letterman joked that just before his heart bypass

surgery, "My career flashed before my eyes ... it was mostly awkward

silences." But the soaring ratings that followed his return to CBS' The

Late Show belied his modesty. And Letterman, a big fan of top ten lists,

will no doubt be delighted to make our top five.

4. Vicente Fox Truly, Fox has communicated his vision for Mexico, and he

seems to have the skills to make it a reality. Time reported, "Fox, 59,

with his farmer's dislike of being cooped up and his salesman's instinct

for staying mobile, exercises power on the move ... the former president

of Coca-Cola Mexico has made himself Mexico's


5. Tony Blair The British Prime Minister scored highly for his measured

speeches on the war. Fortune went so far as to suggest he had

"Churchillian eloquence." Perhaps even more importantly, Blair has

remained committed to communicating with his own people about UK

involvement in Afghanistan, as well as to the governments in the Middle

East, either sending himself or his ministers to meet with leaders in

both allied and historically hostile countries (such as Iran). Granted,

it's important to note that Blair enjoys much stronger popularity in the

US than he does at home in the UK.


1. Gary Condit Yep, you guessed it. The Congressman's initially evasive

approach to the media won him few fans in the PR business. And when he

did decide to speak, he hardly opened up, repeating over and over that

it wouldn't be fair to the Levy family for him to comment on the


He ran away with this dubious honor, and probably would have before his

infamous - and often tedious - sitdown with Connie Chung. But that

really sealed the deal.

2. Carly Fiorina It all looked so good at first: Here was a woman with

the vision and courage to reinvent HP - and most agreed that her brand

of change was just what the doctor ordered. But she has ruffled too many

feathers, and the tone of her self-promotion has prompted people like

Good to Great author Jim Collins to question her motives. Her proposed

purchase of Compaq has become a central rallying point for her opponents

- not least of all, the two sons of the corporation's founders.

3. George W. Bush Despite only just being edged out as fifth-best

communicator by his ally Tony Blair, the President's southern charms and

claims of a strengthened resolve clearly didn't win over all

respondents. Criticisms included his repeated use of the term "crusade,"

and the difficulty of differentiating between the words "terrorists" and

"tourists" in recent speeches.

4. Mark Green Michael Kramer of the New York Daily News wrote,

"Historians of this year's (NYC mayoral) race will conclude that Green

has run an essentially defensive and passionless campaign in which he

never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Harsh, perhaps, but

Bloomberg's victory might have proved the point. It also didn't help

that Green abandoned the traditionally Democratic minority vote in his

public attacks on primary opponent Fernando Ferrer, a popular and

powerful member of The Bronx's Hispanic community.

5. Jac Nasser The former Ford CEO, ousted on November 1 by chairman Bill

Ford, undoubtedly suffered from the Firestone tire crisis that Fortune

magazine called "a year of nightmarish PR." But his problems went deeper

than that: He was criticized for being too autocratic, and for letting

employee and dealer relations slide to an all-time low.



1. The increased use of technology, such as e-mail pitching

2. Measurement proving the value of PR

3. The "talent shakeout"

4. Focus on cause marketing and corporate philanthropy

5. Clients realizing the need for crisis preparedness

6. The elevation of women to the top positions This was the year Mary

Lee Sachs landed the top US job at H&K

7. Fewer 'Did you get my release?' calls

8. Honesty rather than spin

9. Measurement by behavior, not column inches

10. IR and PR drawing closer together


1. Layoffs

2. Consolidation of agencies

3. Budget cuts

4. Patriotism/use of September 11 in campaigns

5. Silly stunts So it seems some PR pros aren't so enamored of those

Duck tape sponsored prom nights for kids.

6. No raises/low raises

7. Confusion of PR with publicity

8. Reluctance of corporations to speak up

9. The proliferation of conferences

10. Lack of self-worth among young PR pros


Before you send in the letters, let us just explain: The 10 Great PR

Campaigns of 2001 were decided based on the views of our campaigns

editor and editor-in-chief, PRWeek makes no claim that these are

scientific - that's what the PRWeek Awards are for.

The other categories were based on 83 responses to questions sent out

via Profnet and Sourcenet. We also asked What Books Wasted Our Time, but

our lawyers thought Oprah might sue us if we printed that one.

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