In the latest edition of our weekly series with Bill McGowan, Clarity Media Group founder and executive media coach, Bill takes on three contentious image management issues.
- Vladimir Putin sees himself as James Bond
- The GOP sees Hillary Clinton as an old lady
- Bill Cosby sees himself as a beloved, scandal-free entertainer
The Name’s Putin… Vlad Putin
Ok, so what is it with Vladimir Putin’s James Bond delusion? I think we all accept that world leaders think of themselves in grandiose terms, but Putin’s vision of himself seems to have been violently shaken and blurred. First, there’s the shirtless obsession…
Then there’s his propensity for striking Daniel Craig-like poses:
But this week, it became clear that Putin does not possess a license to thrill the opposite sex, at least not the wife of Chinese Premiere Xi Jinping. At an outdoor fireworks display, the recently divorced Putin tried to replicate a suave 007 move by putting a shawl over the shoulders of a clearly chilled First Lady of China – a scene right out of a recent Bond movie, Quantum of Solace.
The move fell flat when Peng Liyuan exchanged the Kremlin cloak for a jacket her assistant handed her. Perhaps to avoid seeming like he’s putting the moves on other world leaders’ wives, Vlad should spend more time studying diplomatic protocol manuals instead of 007 flicks.
What’s Old is New Political Ammo
Now that the GOP has handed out its much-anticipated thumping to the Democrats in the midterms, the Republican message-making machinery can turn its full attention to the next big mission: trashing Hillary Clinton. In Washington, that blood sport is well underway. Regardless of where you lean politically, you have to admit that Karl Rove’s gang and their predecessors in the past have been skillful at crafting monikers for opponents that are simple, memorable, and oh so damaging. Need examples?
1. Barack Obama – “Socialist”
2. John Kerry – “Waffler/Flip-Flopper”
3. Howard Dean – “Crazy” (ok, his primal scream video didn’t help)
The cynical image makers (or image destroyers) will tell you that if you bang that talking-point drum long enough and loud enough it soon becomes fact in people’s minds. So what’s the GOP narrative for Hillary? You don’t even need to read between the lines of prominent republican sound bites this week to realize it’s “tired and old.”
Given that one person’s “old” can easily be another person’s “experienced,” I’m not sure the GOP wants to pull the pin on this grenade. It may just backfire the way Karl Rove’s insinuation that Hillary had brain damage did earlier this year.
Bill Cosby’s public image has been under siege for quite some time now, but this week it became about as shaky as a bowl of Jell-O on a 7 Flags ride. Cosby’s latest mind-bogglingly misguided move came when he invited the internet to meme him. Talk about leading with your chin! Countless people on social media used it as an opportunity to excoriate the show biz veteran for being an alleged rapist.
It’s hard to believe anyone on his PR team allowed him to go ahead with this stunt given that the accusations hit a tipping point recently when comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist on stage. The video from that went viral, making the “go ahead meme me” campaign a PR death wish.
This morning, it got worse: The Washington Post published an op-ed from a one-time associate of Cosby’s who now counts herself among his accusers. The headline?
“Bill Cosby Raped Me. Why Did It Take 30 Years for People to Believe My Story?”