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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Martha's Less is More Strategy

The LA Times claims that the defense will call only one witness. As we assumed, it will not be Martha.

A quick trial is best for Martha Stewart. And if the defense can take this route, it also points to their confidence that Martha's innocence is already obvious and needs no further proving out for the jury to come to this conclusion.

I'm sure they have plans for legal recourse should a guilty verdict be handed down. It will be far from over should this occur.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Will Martha Stewart Take the Stand?

After a brief respite, I am back on the trial trail. Sad to note, I did not miss much while I was away.

As the prosecution rests and the defense responds, most notable is how testimony from Martha’s friends and colleagues is helping the prosecution and the defense. This rates as drama in a case that is comparing ink on documents to help support their claims.

This all puts even more focus on the big question: Will Martha Stewart take the stand in her own defense? To this question, I reply: Are you, insane?

No matter what Martha says on the stand, the prosecution gets to cross-examine. Barbara Walters won’t be conducting this interview folks. It is way too risky for the defense. And by not putting her on the stand, the defense keeps the trial low on the media radar. In fact, when this case is over and dissected ad nauseam, it will be held up as an excellent example of how to eliminate the media circus around celebrity court cases.

The media may not be happy about how little access they may have received in this trial, but it certainly made them more creative.

The perfect example is at Slate, where Martha’s chances of conviction have risen to 30 percent based on recent testimony. Then there is CNN/Money. This site tracks stock performance for MSLO against a Martha Stewart trial timeline. There is also an article noting that life will go on at MSLO should Martha be found guilty. To this article, I reply: DUH!

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Less Circus, More Trial

As the prosecution prepares to rest, it occurs to me this trial is moving along pretty smoothly without the usual overexposure of the media.

A few items make ironic news during the trial. Erbitux, the drug from Imclone that started the insider trading scandal, was approved by the FDA. K-Mart is suing Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, accusing the company of overcharging it for the rights to sell its products. These two news pieces just show that it's business as usual while the trial goes on. They have *nothing* to do with the trial. But it is interesting to note in the K-Mart article how they refer to MSLO as "Martha Stewart's company." Might as well cash in on her notoriety now I guess.

So what are trial media focused on now? The tug of war between the prosecution and the defense will shift in Martha's favor as the prosecution is expected to wrap up their case next week. The whole case should be done by the end of March...just in time for spring cleaning!

My biggest complaint is Blodget's Martha guilt meter. It has hardly moved throughout the trial. These gimmicks are created to actually measure something! But Martha has hovered between 18 and 22 percent chance of being convicted thus far. I assume this will drop during her defense.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Criminal or Role Model?

Martha's op/ed strategy makes for great editorial before the verdict comes in. The tricky part about op/eds is that both sides of a discussion will write them. Here we see someone disagreeing with a pro-Martha op/ed. Needless to say, there will not be a link to this from Martha Talks.

The public relations industry gives Martha Talks mixed reviews. Some herald it as a miracle while others note it is one of many Web sites that represent well. I agree, Martha has not created the Internet or blazed any new trails with this site. But Martha Stewart has elevated the Web page as spokesperson approach with this site. She reinforces her innocence on this site by offering timely updates from her legal team and pointing visitors to other "voices" speaking on Martha's behalf. The beauty of this strategy is it allows Martha to stay silent during the trial--something she should do--while also getting credible people to "endorse" her innocence.

What should we expect after the trial? It depends on the verdict of course. If she is found not guilty, you will see a full-frontal assault as Martha-palooza kicks into the highest of gears.

If she is found guilty, she should be consistent and maintain her innocence. She has spent the past two years maintaining her innocence. To suddenly agree with the prosecution and "confess" after all of this time would be a disaster. She will be far-removed from MSLO if this happens, but she will still have a career to consider...assuming she does not get any jail time. If Martha Stewart is found guilty, it will not be the end of her career. It will merely force her to regroup.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Martha Stewart Op/Eds

Public relations professionals often rely on customer testimonals and third party endorsements to fuel media relations efforts. Martha's Web site has a library of these endorsements. The site links to 17 different op/eds written on her behalf. Individually, each piece helps her cause, but seeing all of them in one spot is impressive. Too bad the jurors won't see the site until after the trial.

Martha Stewart should thank Janet Jackson

As Martha's trial finally picks up speed, the Stewart camp is breathing a sigh of relief as the media circus focuses on the Janet Jackson Super Bowl debacle—for now.

The media love a villain, and Janet is taking Martha's place handily. Just in time too as the prosecution's star witness, Douglas Faneuil, testified that he passed the tip along to Martha and then lied about doing so. This confession has barely made news in the din of the halftime show aftermath. The Stewart story is not among last week's top 10 news stories. Now, with Jackson getting more coverage than in her entire career, it will stay out of the spotlight for awhile.

It seems that many people stopping by here are looking for Martha Stewart courtroom sketches. Well, I aim to please so here you go:

In my opinion, the courtroom sketch artist is either a trainee or she has a less than favorable opinion of Martha. Or there is an unwritten rule that courtroom sketches have to be unflattering.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Martha Talks: Trial Update

As promised, Martha is keeping her Web site updated with trial proceedings. It is interesting to see her attorneys issue statements on her behalf. The fact sheet is also a clear sign that her public relations team are working closely with her legal team. Smart move.

Martha Stewart and the MSLO brand

Separating Martha Stewart's persona from MSLO is impossible after years of work joining them at the hip. You cannot tell where one starts and the other stops. But they are two very separate entities. Not that it matters much now. The negative impact on MSLO increases the longer the trial takes. The media has made it clear—the verdict doesn't matter. In lieu of substantive or controversial news in this trial, the media continue to track MSLO performance against Martha's legal problems.

Readers were shocked to see the stock up as the trial started. Now Ad Age compares MSLO's 2003 publishing performance to the trial. There is undeniably a strong connection between the two, more so than anyone at MSLO would like to admit. But there are many factors impacting such a large company. Whether MSLO stock is up or ad pages are down, there are several factors that are responsible.

But what else are the media to do? The trial is a yawner. You have to dig to find the latest headlines. Blodget's Martha Meter hovers at 20 percent. He feels she has an 80 percent chance of being found innocent.

The next story we'll see revolves around the big question, WILL MARTHA TAKE THE STAND?

The media are hoping so they can salvage a story out of this trial. And if Martha does take the stand, you can be sure she will not screw up. Her on-camera antics, focusing on her salad, took place well over a year ago. Since then she's had two major interviews and the media training to match. The defense has already decided if she will take the stand and, if she will, they have been training her for the interview of a career.