When help is unwelcome

By Boris Sedacca

The image of US President Barack Obama being lifted off his feet in a bear hug by a pizza shop owner will have brought mirth to many over the weekend. However, judging by Obama’s reaction, it looks like the kind of sycophantic adulation he can well do without. 

The pair willingly hugged each other to begin with, but after having locked Obama’s arms to the sides of his chest, pizza shop owner Scott Van Duzer, the bigger of the two men, opened his arms again and clasped Obama around the chest under his arms and lifted him off the ground.

Obama threw his arms aside in a puzzled expression; an expression that soon turned to appalled embarrassment. One cannot doubt Van Duzer’s sincerity in his exuberance – I should imagine his pizza sales will not suffer after a presidential visit to his shop – and Obama had little difficulty in regaining his presidential composure. But I doubt he will want to repeat the experience.

Will it do Obama’s election campaign any good? I don’t think it will cause it much harm, particularly as Van Duzer is a lapsed Republican voter. The Obama re-election campaign machinery could have made much political capital from the notion of a misguided Republican finally seeing the light of day.

However, the footage as it stands is unusable as publicity material despite its having gone viral. To be sure, there is no such thing as bad publicity, but it is not the kind of publicity Obama’s public relations czars will relish or welcome.

American comedian, actor, juggler and writer WC Fields, once said, “Never work with children or animals.” Nevertheless, acting on this advice does not guarantee trouble-free publicity as Obama’s case has shown.

The moral of this story is that no matter how well honed your publicity machine may be, there is always opportunity for disaster. What matters is how quickly you can recover from it and move on. Having an ample store of new material helps people forget.

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Richard Stone - Stone Junction

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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