Wednesday, August 27, 2014

He Said, He Said 

This is a good example of conflicting witness reports.  Who do you believe?  It's important because one view is that of homicide.  The second view is that of self-defense.  That eyewitness testimony is suspect is also a part of this case.  Maybe one or the other or both are stretching the truth or unclear in what they saw and are filling in mental lacunae.  That doesn't mean they are lying.  The brain does funny things when encountering sudden and threatening events.  It doesn't act as an impartial observer and it is hampered by the perspective the witness has -- whether close or further apart or at an angle.  The case will most likely be made for or against on the forensic evidence, which is extensive and alarming.  The officer hit the victim with six shots.  What is needed to bring a suspect down?   I feel sorry for the jurors who will take this case.  They will be under pressure of public expectations to convict the officer, and maybe they should -- or maybe not.  The courtroom is where this incident must be decided and not in the public arena language and agitation muddy opinion.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Making The Case 

Military and political experts are making a public case for the need to destroy the Islamic group ISIS.  It is similar to the public opinion effort President Bush made against Saddam Hussein and his control of Iraq.  Much the same circumstances apply.  ISIS has performed outrageous acts of brutality.  The group is steeped in blood and trumpets its cruelty.  Call it an anti-PR campaign.  That has made the Western Powers' work easier.  The more ISIS talks about blood, the faster the West will work to de-fang the group through bombing and perhaps, boots on the ground.  Meanwhile, the government of Iraq is a mess of conflicting loyalties that can barely manage to operate.  Whatever is done to ISIS will be in spite of Iraqis rather than with them.  The result is that the US remains stuck to the tar baby of the Middle East.  It is not a pleasant thought for Americans who want the US out.  Will public opinion in the US force disengagement?

Friday, August 22, 2014

No Win 

One position a company does not want to be in is a political pawn.  That is where McDonald's is in Russia.  There is nothing the company can do as long as Putin plays tit for tat with America.  There is no communication that can make the situation better.  The company has to wait until one side or the other blinks and backs off.  It is likely this gamesmanship will continue in countries with powerful political centers that don't respect the rule of law.  Companies have to be prepared to lose their businesses at a moment's notice.  It is a risky situation and corporations might choose not to invest in unstable nations.  Meanwhile, competitors can enter and solidify brand positioning.  Neither McDonald's nor any other corporation deserves this kind of treatment, but who said governments are fair?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

End Of The Road 

How do you communicate on behalf of a company that has reached the end of the road?   The marketplace has turned against it and efforts to find new products to merchandise have failed.  Its stock is pennies per share.  This is the unlucky position that Radio Shack finds itself in.  Consider what the company can say about itself publicly.  "We haven't gone bankrupt yet.  We're attempting yet another turnaround."  Hardly positive news to the public and to shareholders.  The communications practitioners at Radio Shack have little material to work with and less as the days go by.  Radio Shack needs a savior and the rescuer needs time -- just what the chain doesn't have.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Is it possible to outsmart a search engine and hijack a company's name?  Yes.  It has been done.  Consider this example. Activists faked-out Google and directed searches to a web page with an insult.  Google was apologetic, but there was little it could do except change its algorithm to block the page.  Gregg's was good about the situation and Google responded in kind.  But, the episode raises a question for PR practitioners -- how to protect web pages from re-direction.  The only way to know for sure whether one has been subverted is to check the web page daily and to respond quickly if something strange has happened.  For most practitioners, this is not a problem, because they are on the web page everyday.  For those who aren't, it should become a habit.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reputation And Business 

How much does a government sanction hurt a company's reputation and business?  PricewaterhouseCoopers is about to find out.   The auditing and consulting firm is barred for 24 months from doing any work that requires a sign-off from the New York Department of Financial Services, and it is paying a $25 million fine.  The government unit accused PwC of watering down a report on foreign transactions at the Bank of Tokyo.  News of the penalty and punishment has been broadcast widely.  PwC is in damage-control mode, but it might not be enough given that it cannot work for two years for the top banks in New York.  While it is too early to predict that the consulting unit will implode because of the punishment, it is almost a certainty it will suffer financially.  Then, once the two year sidelining is up, how will the unit win back business lost in the interim?  PwC is officially standing by its work in the case, but unofficially there must be terrible morale in the unit and a fear for jobs.  One of the first steps the company should take is to boost internal morale, then it needs to figure out what its consultants will do while sitting on the bench.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Yesterday's News 

One might have to think twice to remember who Julian Assange is and the role of Wikileaks in spilling government secrets.  But, that was only two years ago.  Since then, Edward Snowden has seized the headlines with his disclosure about NSA operations.  But, here again is Assange who might be reporting that he will leave the Ecuadorian embassy, but then again, he might not.  There is a good chance he will disappear from the headlines again and return to his room, forgotten.  The lesson here is that in the internet age, notoriety, both good and bad, comes and goes quickly.  Andy Warhol was more right than he knew when he said everyone will get 15 minutes of fame.  It requires unceasing work to maintain one's image in the media, whether social or traditional.  This is something publicists have always known, but have a hard time convincing clients about.  If recognition is what they want, they have to spend time each day in generating it.  To senior executives, publicity is often a "waste of time."  Then, they wonder why their messages aren't getting through to the world and more importantly, to employees. The frustration of the publicist is the constant repetition of the need to be out there.  When a publicist does get a hearing and more important, action, there is a good chance one can score media success regularly.

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