Perhaps that’s an exaggeration. It only feels like the last five weeks have spanned a year. For some PR professionals, the past five weeks have probably felt more like five years.
In honor of those particular PR pros, I present to you a few choices for 2016 Spokesperson of the Year, Premature Edition.
1. Chris Arnold, PR Director, Chipotle Mexican Grill
Think it’s easy leading communications for a company that’s literally making people ill? Just yesterday, on Feb. 8, 2016, Chipotle closed more than 2,000 restaurants for a few hours while it held what the New York Times called a virtual town hall meeting with its employees to let them know what it was doing to prevent future outbreaks of E. coli, nonovirus and salmonella. The company invited a couple reporters and tweeted some statements to give the meeting a sheen of transparency, but good PR can do only so much to make food safe and reverse a steep decline in sales. Through it all, Chris Arnold has been responsive and readily available to reporters covering this story, including PR News editor Seth Arenstein.
2. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
For the second year in a row, all the actors nominated for Oscars in the four acting categories are white. No women or African-Americans were nominated for best director. It was up to Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a longtime representative of the organization’s public relations branch, to cart out a pained statement, saying, “I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion…This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes…The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.” What else can she do but “conduct a review”? It’s not like she has the power to greenlight movies at a motion picture studio. She’s had to take the heat while the powers that be rally for Leo’s guaranteed Oscar.
3. Steven Drummond, Director of Communications, Carolina Panthers
Imagine this: The face of your organization barely answers reporters’ questions, sulks and walks out on a press conference. Wherever you stand on Cam Newton’s actions after his team’s loss in Super Bowl 50, it’s going to be a long hangover for Steven Drummond, who’s going to have to manage the hassles with the media from here to eternity—or at least until Super Bowl 51.
Who’s your pick?
—Steve Goldstein, Editorial Director, PR News @SGoldsteinAI