2016-10-21T08:05:13.726-04:00Here is an article calling for a name change of "psychiatry" to "mental health". The writer's argument is that too many negatives are associated with the traditional name while "mental health" carries no similar burden. He cites similar name changes throughout the world and positive outcomes for having done so. From a PR perspective, if a name change works, then one should do it but not place too heavy an emphasis on a new moniker. It is possible that the new title will become tarnished like the old. If negatives about a name come from the actions the name describes, there is a good chance a new name will eventually become debased. Or, to put it another way, calling a person a "waste manager" doesn't change the fact that he is still a garbageman. True PR works to change the underlying attitude.
2016-10-20T07:50:29.680-04:00Samsung has a distance to travel to be a PR-oriented company. According to this story, it tried to bribe a Chinese man to keep his video of a burning Galaxy Note 7 out of public view. The man understandably refused. The question that remains is how can a major, international company be so dumb? The burning phones have exposed a deep quality problem, which Samsung must address immediately if it is to remain a credible supplier. Rather than trying to suppress the news, the company should concentrate its efforts on solving the battery problem for the next generation of devices. Nothing can done for the Note 7. Samsung's behavior in this instance is a demonstration that proper PR is not a given no matter the size of a business. One must always be on guard for arrogance.
2016-10-18T07:53:53.223-04:00Hillary Clinton swiftly disavowed and condemned the bombing of a Republican campaign headquarters in North Carolina. This is exactly what she should have done. Even the slightest delay or hesitation would have been a PR disaster for her because it could be interpreted as sympathy for the miscreant. There is plenty of room for controversy and jawboning in races for political office, but violence is beyond the pale -- or should be. Other democracies have witnessed unjust use of power to influence the ballot box, but it is rare in the US. This campaign has descended to the lowest form of name calling and personal abuse. It is already one of the worst in memory. Wrongful acts would shred the last vestiges of civility.
2016-10-17T08:10:10.170-04:00Dairy farmers have disposed of 43 million gallons of milk in the first eight months of 2016. Dumped, flushed down drains, siphoned into sewers. They have done so because they can't get a decent price for their product. This kind of waste is a problem for the United States. Tens of millions of starving people around the globe would welcome the milk in some form -- as cheese, as cream, as butter, as powder -- but we have no way to get it to them. It is a world-wide PR problem -- over-production in one country and insufficient supplies in another. Rather than dumping milk, there should be a system to distribute it or its processed forms quickly to countries where it is needed. This could be done at cost and Federal and state governments should provide the shipping. Global food waste is a failure of major proportions for which food producers and countries should be held accountable. It has been said often enough that the world has the food it needs but not the distribution of it. Hence, there are countries where abundance is tossed and nations where people starve. It makes no sense.
2016-10-14T07:57:49.301-04:00This is a good example of defiant publicity. The New York Times lawyer is telling Donald Trump's attorney to go ahead and sue the newspaper for libel, but Trump won't win. The letter schools the attorney in libel law and in the crude vernacular says, "Screw you. We'll see you in court." The plain language is not that of a typical lawyer. One can detect the hand of the Time's editorial department in its argument and posture. The missive, in other words, is intended as much for the public as it is for Trump. The Times is daring Trump to sue. The result would be a "slam-dunk" win for the newspaper and a further revelation about Trump's predatory behavior towards women. Trump, in other words, would be left in a powerless, sputtering rage and the Times would come off as a champion of women everywhere.
2016-10-13T07:53:44.278-04:00McDonald's has announced that its clown, Ronald, is taking a vacation until the hysteria of evil clown sightings goes away. The panic this time seems to have started in South Carolina and spread through the country. It is not the first time this has happened. The question is why parents and children become so alarmed by clowns. What is it about pancake makeup, costume and oversized shoes that engender fear? Perhaps it is the anonymity of the person. Perhaps, ersatz clowns are trying to scare people. Whatever the reason, it is interesting and a PR case study of how quickly fear can sweep a nation. The panic will subside in time but in the meantime real clowns are hurting for business. They have been swept up in the uncontrollable emotions, and they can only wait until calm reason returns.
2016-10-12T08:37:27.723-04:00A house divided against itself cannot stand. This saying describes the PR disaster engulfing the Republican Party, which is repudiating its standard bearer for his comments on women. With less than a month to go, the party has fractured in the worst way and support for Trump is a litmus test for decency or lack of it. It is a sad situation for the party, but Democrats are thrilled. They have a chance of gaining both houses of Congress and the White House at the same time. If so, pent-up legislation will sweep through the Federal government quickly and the President will have a chance of appointing several Supreme Court justices over the next four to eight years. An era of divided government will come to an end. Republicans have little time left to consolidate their position without Trump, but they will have years to dig through the wreckage and ask themselves how to prevent such a disaster again. Meanwhile, Trump will return to his status as a businessman, perhaps no worse off than when he left it. His reputation will be in tatters, but that may not extend to his dealmaking.
2016-10-11T08:00:09.076-04:00Tiger Woods announced his re-emergence to professional golf then just as quickly withdrew from the first tournament he was to play in 14 months. He said he realized he was not ready, and he needed time to work on his game. Woods is 40 and doesn't have many more competitive years left. His skills fell apart when his body did. He has had both knee and back surgeries and it was painfully obvious before he left golf that his magic was gone. This created a PR problem for fans and the game. TV viewership declined and no one rose from the ranks to take his place. The sport has become ever more competitive with golfers trading places at the top, but no one staying for long. The dominance that Woods had over the golf is gone and might never return. The sport needs a Palmer, Nicholas or Woods to differentiate itself. It needs a personality that looms over all and creates excitement on the links. The game will idle until another one comes along. It might wait a long time.
2016-10-10T08:10:09.941-04:00Happy Columbus Day or happy Indigenous People's Day. This Italian-American holiday is being transformed. States and cities are voting to commemorate peoples living in the Americas before Columbus. The argument is that the lands were settled before Europeans arrived and Columbus launched the predatory behavior that decimated aboriginal populations, enslaved them and slaughtered their women and children. In a meeting between civilizations, there was no melding. It was conquering with the negatives that implies. Yet, one can argue that the countries that arose from the ashes of native tribes are greater than what the Incas, Aztecs and other indigenous nation states could have achieved on their own. The vast number of indians were engaged in subsistence living. They understood the land and largely lived in harmony with it. Europeans, on the other hand, brought the belief that man was to subjugate the earth, its living things and its minerals. Greed was at the core of their experience. So, whether you celebrate Columbus, native tribes or neither, recognize the points of view toward this controversial holiday. It is a complex communications mixture for which there is no middle ground.
2016-10-06T11:39:21.959-04:00I will be away tomorrow, Oct. 7 and will not post.
2016-10-06T08:05:09.837-04:00True PR is what a company does and not what it claims without backup. This then, is an example of true PR. Blue Origin demonstrated an emergency escape system for its New Shephard rocket and crew capsule, and as an added plus returned the reusable booster to a perfect touchdown. The company wasn't expecting the rocket to land safely as it did, and mission control was thrilled when it settled upright on the desert floor. The entire sequence was recorded and sent to the world for all to see that Blue Origin is a serious player in space flight. It let the successful test speak for itself. The rocket with capsule fired, climbed to tens of thousands of feet, the crew cabin separated and floated to earth on parachutes while the booster kept itself upright as it retreated back to land then fired its rockets to stop its descent. It couldn't have been better, and it is true PR.
2016-10-05T08:41:15.597-04:00The CEO of Boeing and the CEO of SpaceX have both claimed they will be the first to Mars. Such chest beating makes for good publicity but it ignores the reality of the situation. For humans to reach Mars and return safely requires much more than powerful rockets. The psychological and physical challenges are enormous. For example, how do you provide air, food and water for astronauts for a full year? How do you protect them from solar radiation? How do you select individuals who will live in claustrophobic isolation for a year? How do you repair machinery should something break? No one will win an award for getting an individual to Mars unless that individual returns safely to earth. Hype around a Mars mission has been growing in recent months, and NASA is part of it, but the budgets are not there. The reality is that a Mars mission is decades away, if ever. There is no particularly good reason for man to travel to Mars. Robotic missions have told us much of what we want to know about the barren and icy planet. There is a limit to going places because they are there. Outside of earth, there is no good place to live in the solar system.
2016-10-04T08:05:01.245-04:00A town facing the cost of a $10 million parking structure has decided to use the services of Uber. At a cost of $167,000 a year, it can pay for subsidized rides for 60 years. The town of Summit, NJ, has created a clever PR solution for its citizens. It helps them travel the last mile from home to station and is saving money at the same time. One wonders why other municipalities have not been as successful in finding creative solutions for transportation. Granted that this is a test and could fail in the execution, but it is has an undeniable flair.
2016-10-03T08:15:54.752-04:00This opinion piece discusses a "Lehman Moment" in relation to Deutsche Bank. A "Lehman Moment" is a time when the entire credit system seizes and participants stop making loans because of uncertain counterparty risks. It is what happened when Lehman failed in 2008. It switched the system from trust to panic and was a singular moment when the core principal of banking was exposed -- trust. One has to have a reputation of trustworthiness to participate in global banking. Lehman had it and lost it. Deutsche Bank is teetering and the banks of Europe are fragile. Trust and reputation are at the core of public relations. PR seeks to protect both by telling the positive story of institutions and individuals. It isn't "spin," although some would call it that. It seeks to marshal facts that support the claims one makes for oneself. The best PR is truth presented persuasively to build trust and reputation. There is fact-bending among unscrupulous PR practitioners, but the majority try to do an honest job. They are regularly challenged by the noise of the marketplace and a public that doesn't want to hear, but they keep at it because they know what can happen.
2016-09-30T08:08:00.304-04:00Elon Musk is a publicist's dream with bold announcements and big ideas. He must be a PR practitioner's nightmare with his auto company still not making money and with the pending merger with the solar panel company. Musk's galactic ambitions threaten to get in the way of his earth-bound duties. Yes, he has a successful rocket company, but one of his boosters blew up recently on the launching pad, and he is bogged down building a battery factory in Nevada. Yet, here he is speculating on the way to get to Mars and predicting a Martian population of one million in a hundred years. He would be far better off if he narrowed his vision and focused on businesses he has started. He wouldn't be as exciting, but he would prove to the business community that he is one of them and to the public that he can make and sell mass market products. Today, he is a juggler keeping multiple balls in the air. If he slips and lets any one of them fall, his act will be ruined. That's high risk, too high it would seem.
2016-09-29T07:58:14.195-04:00This is an example of the new publicity tools using Instagram. The New York restaurant posts images of its food on influencer sites and reaps the reward of traffic through its doors. The process is simple and clever, but it requires planning and segmenting the sites one uses. Note that the restaurant refuses to pay for postings. It depends on the image and offering free food to influential Instagrammers. One could say it isn't the best publicity to buy positive opinions through giving away strawberry rhubarb ice cream, but it works.The only constraint on this technique is that the product/service has to be visual, but most are, or can be made so through creative photography. Chalk this up to an ingenious use of social media.
2016-09-28T08:29:20.949-04:00Wells Fargo bank already lost its reputation over consumer fraud in its community banking division. Now it is looking ugly with the news that it punished whistleblowers who would not establish fake accounts. Clawbacks of unvested equity won't repair the bank's reputation, much less the CEO's. It is clear now that the bank was running an old-fashioned boiler room, flogging sales at the expense of consumers. Many years will pass before the bank lives this incident down, and it might never. The question remains of how the division got so far out of control. Clearly its managers were in on the scheme and executives above the division weren't asking questions. Pro forma attempts to stop manufacturing fraudulent accounts weren't followed up by discipline that made the bank's point clear and firm. High goals weren't relaxed to remove excessive pressure from employees. It was a text book management disaster for which Wells Fargo will be paying for years.
2016-09-27T08:18:37.044-04:00Google's engineers are readying YouTube to go after another billion viewers in Asia. That might not sound like much but from a marketing perspective, it is breathtaking. Companies that serve a billion or more people are but a handful, yet Silicon Valley thinks in these huge numbers regularly. It is no accident that media, such as YouTube and Facebook, are the vehicles reaching such large numbers. Communications are at the core of human experience. And, both media make room for individual contributions to the conversation whether it is cat videos or celebrations of someone's birthday. They encompass a universe of interests from which marketers and PR practitioners can segment those they want to reach. Social media have become the well from which the rest of the world draws.
2016-09-26T09:41:44.264-04:00The media are hyping tonight's debate between the two presidential candidates. It is unlikely to be the greatest political show on earth. Some media are predicting a viewership that will rival the Superbowl. Maybe so, but it is unlikely that most will last through to the end of the talk-fest. Both sides are going to spin victory out of the affair no matter who emerges as a front-runner. That is the nature of political debates. They are free publicity for the candidates whether or not they influence voting. That the media are flacking the debates is amusing. Usually that is a role left for the candidates' publicists. The real impact will be afterward in the polls, and we will have several days before those settle down. Meanwhile, get used to the heavy breathing from the pundits.
2016-09-23T07:41:01.243-04:00Yahoo has revealed that it was the subject of what is said to be the largest security breach ever -- loss of data on 500 million customers. Unfortunately for the teetering company, the break-in occurred in 2014, two years ago, and the public is learning about it now. Will that queer the deal of selling itself to Verizon? It is too early to say, but already, politicians are weighing in on the failure. Yahoo claims that the invader was "state sponsored", which means China or Russia. But that doesn't assuage the pain of the 500 million people who now must change passwords and hope their data is not used against them in some way. The incident raises a legitimate question about the quality of Yahoo's security and what Verizon is supposedly buying. The breach might be a death sentence to the deal and to Yahoo.
2016-09-22T11:16:08.392-04:00It is hard to prevent this when incidents like this occur. The narrative of blacks being shot by police officers is deep and bitter for the African-American community. Even when it is justified, the black community is suspicious and will rise in anger. Who knows the exact circumstances in Charlotte? Was the victim carrying a book or a gun? The police maintain it was a weapon. His family says it was a book that he was reading while waiting for a family member. A full-scale investigation by a neutral third-party is in order. Even then, it is unlikely to be accepted as the truth. What is obvious is that police are using their guns too quickly in these confrontations. The pistol should be the last resort and not the first. One can understand the fear that an officer feels when caught in a situation that could spin out of control, but they should be trained to control that emotion and to act more reasonably. In fact, they are but the schooling might not have taken as it should. Blue on black is a major PR crisis that needs swift resolution for the good of the country.
2016-09-21T08:29:17.565-04:00As this story discusses, algorithms are becoming a public relations issue. It seems Amazon is favoring products it distributes rather than giving customers the lowest possible price for products available through another store selling through Amazon. There is no good reason for the company to do that except revenue maximization at the expense of customers. The company ought to know better than to gouge, but it looks as if it is playing games with consumers over the hundreds of thousands of products it sells. The consumer, not knowing better, pays and moves on until an enterprising journalist reveals the duplicity. Amazon got its start as the lowest cost provider of books then other merchandise. If it has now changed its algorithms to favor itself at the expense of consumers, it should say so. The worst thing that can happen to the company is abandonment by consumers because they perceive the firm as dishonest.
2016-09-20T08:06:29.447-04:00The Federal government has announced guidelines for self-driving cars. The rules are voluntary but auto and tech companies are expected to follow them. This has created a balancing act -- how to spur development of safe self-driving cars while protecting passengers and others. There is no rulebook for doing this. Autonomous autos are a new phenomenon although they have been tested for years. The guidelines are an implicit recognition that the technology is here to stay and developers are near the final stages of building mass market offerings of vehicles that will steer, accelerate and brake themselves. This could be a public relations triumph or disaster depending on the quality of technology. We have seen already that Tesla's self-driving software is faulty. At the same time, Google's self-driving machines have traveled millions of miles with only a fender-bender or two when humans in other cars disobeyed rules and common sense. Self-driving autos not only have to look out for themselves but also for the other person be that individual a pedestrian or drunk driver. It is a huge technology challenge and a public relations question mark.
2016-09-19T11:09:45.127-04:00If there is one salient feature of Trump's campaign for president, it is his and his people's tendency to make up facts. We're used to politicians lying. It comes with the occupation, but Trump's claims are breathtaking. In the face of hundreds of reports, he will assert that he didn't do or believe something. That is the case with Obama's birth certificate, an issue he rode for five years up to and including the present presidential campaign. Kudos to the media for not letting him or his people to get away with it. This has been a rough time for the media because they are not trusted to report well, but they can and should state the facts. The facts are that Donald Trump gave interviews, press conferences and statements pushing the issue and now he denies that he ever did and he blames Clinton for the start of the questioning. Failure to own up to one's error is disgraceful, but nothing seems to bother Trump when it comes to truth.