Stephane Bancel
Stéphane Bancel

It’s unfair to expect every CEO serving on the front lines of the global COVID-19 pandemic to be downright Churchhillian.

Moderna chief Stéphane Bancel, though, is the anti-Churchill, a person who fails to instill much confidence in the future.

Bancel peered into his crystal ball on Nov. 30 and predicted that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine may not be up to snuff when it comes to fending off the Omicron variant.

Where is the can-do leadership that America expects from its corporate leadership? It's certainly not in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of the heavily subsidized biotech.

On the effectiveness of Moderna’s vaccine against Omicron: Bancel told the Financial Times: “I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists that I’ve talked to… are like, 'This is not going to be good.'"

That indecisive word salad triggered a global market sell-off.

The point is that nobody, at this juncture, really knows much about Omicron. Reports say that it will take weeks of scientific study and testing to figure that out.

That’s why Bancel should not have speculated about the effectiveness of vaccines vis-a-vis Omicron.

The media already are in full fear-mongering mode about the new variant. He just added more fuel to that fire.

The Moderna chief should look for inspiration in America’s WWII propaganda.

The United States Office of War Information used the “Loose Lips Sink Ships” slogan on posters to warn the military and civilians to watch what they say because German spies circulated in the US and Nazi submarines patrolled the east coast.

Patriotic companies like Canada’s Seagram Distillers printed up a variant of the slogan (e.g., “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships”) signs and distributed them to bars.

Moderna’s crackerjack team should follow suit with its own updated propaganda variant. It should print a “Loose Lips Sink Markets" poster and hang it in Bancel’s office.

It might also limit rein in the chatty chief, who should focus more on Moderna’s lab work than on the media.

Churchill reincarnated. Following Bancel’s torpedoing of global stock markets, the co-founder of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, nailed Omicron PR.

“Our message is: Don’t freak out, the plan remains the same; Speed up the administration of a third booster shot,” Sahin told the Wall Street Journal. That’s a perfect response.

BioNTech, which co-developed a COVID vaccine with Pfizer, has already started testing to see whether Omicron can infect people who have been vaccinated. The testing will continue for at least two more weeks.

You can bet Sahin will deliver the results in a cool and dispassionate fashion, which is exactly what the worried world needs.

Hats off to Steve Bannon for copping the inaugural McCauley’s PR Genius of the Month Award.

The Justice Dept. is a tad upset with the Trump advisor’s effort to argue his criminal case in the media rather than in the court. That’s exactly what a PR mensch would do.

Bannon wants to share documents that he receives from the Justice Dept with the media circus, where he is the ringmaster, before the trial begins.

Prosecutors are miffed that Bannon talked publicly about the case outside the court after his initial court appearance and warned that his legal team would stir up “hell” for the Biden administration.

On Nov. 28, prosecutors charged Bannon’s defense with issuing “misleading claims” and making “extrajudicial statements” making it plain that its real purpose is “to abuse criminal discovery to try the case in the media rather than in court.”

A coalition of media groups, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, Dow Jones and CNN, filed a legal brief on Nov. 30 in support of Bannon.

They claimed that people have an overwhelming interest in the Jan. 6 riot and that Bannon has the right “to communicate with the press and public about the government’s case against him.”

Steve is just following that old "court of public opinion" chestnut that has been around since the glory days of Ed Bernays.

Our PR genius is charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for failing to testify and hand over documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 uprising.

He will be back in court Dec. 7, which will make him eligible for December’s award.

Big Business isn’t buying Bannon's and Team Trump’s argument that the January 6 mob that stormed the Capitol was nothing more than patriotic Americans exercising their First Amendment rights.

The riot, coupled with Trump’s double-impeachment, effort to overturn the election, vaccine disinformation wars and the social unrest triggered by the murder of George Floyd, has Corporate America closing its wallet to political contributions.

The Center for Political Accountability reports that a record 370 companies, up from 332 last year, have either banned political spending or have publicly disclosed the amount the amount of spending,

The organization, which conducts its annual survey with the Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the Wharton School, credits corporate boards for paying attention to political spending like never before.

It found more boards are involved with general oversight of company political spending or have committees reviewing outlays to trade and “dark money” groups.

The Center puts disclosing or banning political spending on the top of its list of good corporate governance.

It may have to tip its cap to Trump for his indirect role in getting Big Business to stop political contributions.